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In 1951, Chinese American architect Gilbert Leong left his mark on this Los Angeles home by installing an ornate stained-glass window in the middle of it. Seventy years later, it’s still there. Interior designer Sarah Zachary-Jones has only built upon his vision, hanging coordinating marigold yellow drapery across the way. “When the current homeowners close them, the entire room has this amber glow to it,” says Zachary-Jones. “It’s kind of cinematic.”
Her clients, a young couple who both work in comedy, had tasked the designer with spicing up their entry, dining space, and two living rooms without losing the Silver Lake home’s mid-century soul. Fortunately, the pair has an extensive collection of postcards (peep them in the corner of the dining area) that set them off on the right path: One of the mementos showed a poppy field in Yosemite, and the visions of red-orange flowers and rolling emerald hills captured Zachary-Jones’s imagination. Ahead, the designer reveals how she introduced nods to the past and touches of the present to all four rooms.
If It’s Not Broken, Do Paint It
Zachary-Jones loved how the fluted plaster wall in the dining room, an original detail, brought dimension to the space, so she kept it around. A few coats of Ash Grey by Farrow & Ball made it seem like a fresh addition. “It’s a classic color that looks different in every light,” says the designer.
Invest in Vetted Reproductions
Zachary-Jones only sourced one vintage piece (the cabinet in the dining room), but it appears as though she visited every last estate sale in the greater Los Angeles area. Because the hunt can take so long, she instead scoured places like Lawson-Fenning and Design Within Reach for finds that were designed mid-century, such as the DWR dining chairs that are a reimagined version of George Nakashima’s Straight-Backed Chair from 1946.
Align and Conquer
Shifting the table and light fixture a few feet away from the glass barrier made everything instantly feel “not so squashed.” Opting for a larger rug also helped make the room seem less busy (and allows guests to easily scoot in and out of their seats). “It’s so much nicer to have all the chairs fully on the rug,” says Zachary-Jones.
Fill in the Blank
While the entry is no palatial foyer, it had plenty of empty corners waiting to be filled with life—literally. At the top of the stairs on the mini balcony there’s now a tall, freestanding planter stocked with greenery. On the ledge above the door, Zachary-Jones propped up large works of art. “We decided to do bigger pieces that were a bit more graphic from far away,” she shares.
Take a Spin in the Time Machine
Leong’s other signature—metallic wallpaper—can be found in the living room. (Upon purchasing the house, the clients were given a few extra panels, along with the initial hanging instructions.) When she noticed how the tree’s trunk faded at the bottom, Zachary-Jones had an aha moment: “I think there was probably a custom cabinet there when they originally built the house,” she says. The designer created a new one to take its place, this time an 11-foot-long walnut storage bench with grasscloth doors.
Play Musical Chairs
Being situated so close to the kitchen, a modular sofa suited the living room best; the ottoman at the end of the sectional can be pushed out of the way when the owners are entertaining and need to create a wider walkway for guests. “It’s in a funky spot, so we had to have different options,” explains the designer. Additional poufs offer two- and four-legged (!) friends a spot to lounge on.
Turn Awkward Moments Into Good Memories
It was easy for the group to land on the leafy wallpaper print for the casual TV room–slash–office. Zachary-Jones knew she wanted to wrap all four walls, including the side of the drop ceiling; whether or not to include the ceiling in those plans was the big question. “Sometimes it can be a little too much in a big room,” she says, so she decided to leave it white for an easy-breezy feel.
Go Wavy, Baby
In the spirit of keeping with the home’s 1950s roots, Zachary-Jones mounted the window treatments in both the TV and dining rooms on the ceiling. “I’m sure it’s been done, but an iron rod didn’t feel very appropriate for the period,” she says. The perk of going with a track system is that it allows for a ripple fold (a single continuous panel produced with snaps sewed into the top hem). “It is very clean and has a cool effect when the curtains aren’t lined. It’s basically a wall of yellow,” she adds. Even at night, you’re guaranteed a ray of sunshine.