An interior stained glass window casts an amber glow over this LA home


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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 is still there. Interior designer Sarah Zachary-Jones only built on her vision, hanging matching marigold yellow draperies across the way. “When the current owners close them, the whole room has this amber glow,” says Zachary-Jones. “It’s kind of a cutscene.”

His clients, a young couple who both work in comedy, had commissioned the designer to spice up their entryway, dining room and two living rooms without losing the mid-century soul of the Silver Lake home. Luckily, the couple have an extensive collection of postcards (look at them in the corner of the dining room) that put them on the right track: one of the memories showed a field of poppies in Yosemite, and the visions of flowers red-orange and rolling emerald hills captured the imagination of Zachary-Jones. Ahead, the designer reveals how she introduced nods to the past and touches of the present into the four pieces.

If it ain’t broke, paint it

The dining room, before.
wooden dining table on striped carpet

Zachary-Jones loved how the dining room’s fluted plaster wall, a quirky detail, gave the space dimension, so she kept it. A few coats of Farrow & Ball’s Ash Gray made it feel like a fresh addition. “It’s a classic color that looks different in every light,” says the designer.

Invest in approved reproductions

Zachary-Jones only found one vintage piece (the dining room cabinet), but it looks like she’s been to all the latest estate sales 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 which are a reimagined version of George Nakashima’s 1946 straight back chair.

Align and conquer

Moving the table and light fixture a few feet away from the glass barrier, everything instantly felt “not so crushed”. Opting for a larger rug also helped make the room feel less busy (and makes it easy for guests to get in and out of their seats). “It’s so much nicer to have all the chairs fully on the carpet,” says Zachary-Jones.

fill in the holes

funky modern staircase

Entrance, front.

Although the entrance wasn’t a lavish lobby, there were plenty of empty corners waiting to be filled with life, literally. At the top of the mini-balcony stairs, there is now a large freestanding planter filled with greenery. On the ledge above the door, Zachary-Jones has supported large works of art. “We decided to do bigger pieces that were a bit more graphic from a distance,” she shares.

Take a ride in the time machine

empty living room with tree wallpaper

The living room, before.

Leong’s other signature, metallic wallpaper, can be found in the living room. (When purchasing the home, customers received a few extra panels, along with the initial hanging instructions.) custom cabinet where they originally built the home,” she says. The designer created a new one to replace it, this time an 11-foot-long walnut storage bench with grasscloth doors.

Play musical chairs

Being located so close to the kitchen, a sectional sofa suited the living room best; the ottoman at the end of the section can be pushed aside when homeowners are entertaining and need to create a wider walkway for guests. “It’s in a funky place, so we had to have different options,” says the designer. Additional beanbags give two- and four-legged (!) friends a place to relax.

Turn awkward moments into good memories

normal living room

The TV room, before.

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 these plans was the big question. “Sometimes it can be a bit too much in a big room,” she says, so she decided to leave it white for a lighter feel.

Come on Wavy, baby

In the spirit of retaining the home’s 1950s roots, Zachary-Jones mounted the TV room and dining room window treatments to the ceiling. “I’m sure it was done, but an iron bar didn’t seem very appropriate to me at the time,” she says. The advantage of using a chenille system is that it allows for a wave pleat (one continuous panel produced with snaps sewn into the top hem). “It’s very clean and it looks cool when the curtains aren’t lined. It’s basically a wall of yellow,” she adds. Even at night you are guaranteed a ray of sunshine.


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