This house is like a Fabergé egg,” says designer Dana Battista. “The layers and details—it’s all just really special.” Making it even more precious is the fact that it’s home to Battista’s sister and brother-in-law, an entertainment-industry couple who recently returned to Los Angeles after a stint in London. “This wasn’t a full-on, ‘here’s the concept, let’s go’ kind of project. It takes patience to create an ‘over-time’ look, and they were willing to wait,” she shares. “It’s a great old Mediterranean house that most would have torn down or just left as-is, but we wanted to make it exciting.”
The couple’s time abroad laid the foundation for many of their decisions, beginning with the house they chose. “We knew we didn’t want a home pretending to be old,” the husband says. So, when a realtor friend tipped them off to a 1930 gem, their response was immediate. The residence had been lovingly maintained by all of its former owners. The surfaces required only minor changes and a few clever structural tweaks to make it feel larger, all without increasing the footprint. (Although behind-the-scenes updates happened to the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems.) “I’ve watched some incredible homes get knocked down in our area,” adds the wife. “We wanted to keep the integrity of the house and just make it look its best.”
General contractor Kevin Mulderrig, a veteran of historic house renovations, took a studied approach to the makeover. “I find these projects particularly gratifying because of my appreciation for their character,” he says. “Here, we made changes to the layout that opened up the space and gave it a good flow.” He opened the entryway to the center hall and crowned the resulting space with a barrel ceiling. The main bedroom boasts a newly raised ceiling, too—its design inspired by a coved example in a Sicilian hotel room. (The couple called on architect Leslie Lippich to help with some of the structural changes.) Mulderrig also updated the windows and doors with larger steel-frame models to increase natural light—a welcome adjustment in a move from London to Los Angeles.
Inside this newly bright envelope is a mix of the couple’s existing furnishings along with finds specific to the new digs. The goal was “a little Robert Evans,” says Battista, “soft, sexy and glamorous but also comfortable and livable.” The living room centers on a 1950s Edward Wormley sofa paired with pale pink Art Deco chairs found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market and a resin cocktail table inlaid with brass stars. The room is also home to the family’s century-old baby grand, its bench reupholstered with an animal print. “It’s a musical house,” says the husband. “People come over, open up the piano, and we all sing—even if we can’t—and someone is always hijacking my Sonos system,” he jokes. “Unlike many Hollywood homes that were built for show, we renovated this house to support our lifestyle.”
The adjacent library holds many of the pieces brought from London, including the sofa, chairs, rug and draperies, now set off by lacquered aubergine paneling. “There was a slight gasp when I suggested the color,” admits the designer, but everyone got on board. “When we were little, Dana would always pick the most unusual color crayons,” says the wife. “She’s been unique from a very young age, and color is one of her strengths. I even defer to her for nail polish!” Battista also subtly wove her sister’s favorite color, green, through almost every room: the kitchen’s floor tile, the dining room’s vintage furnishings, the main bedroom’s leather armchairs. “My sister and brother-in-law have beautiful things, and it all works together,” the designer says.
Stylish touches continue outside with Fornasetti-inspired mosaics for the pool by third-generation L.A. firm Joseph & Sons Mosaics and a marble-paved dining patio outside the library that reminds the couple of vacations in Italy. It’s a holiday feel enhanced by Jessica Viola’s landscape design. “They wanted a Mediterranean aesthetic, robust with flowers for butterflies and bees, and we strove to integrate as much food as we could, using fruit trees, perennial herbs and annual vegetables,” says the landscape designer, noting the wife’s love of cooking and canning. “The old-world charm that this family embodies inspired me. This garden is so personal—even each rose has special meaning.”
And it’s undoubtedly why the couple says they forget they live in a metropolis. “There are birds, deer, rabbits. It’s almost hard to believe. And in five minutes, we’re back on Sunset Boulevard,” says the husband. “This house has fabulous views, and at least three times a week, one of us will call the other to come out and see the sunset,” he adds. “It’s a little jewel box, our sanctuary,” says the wife. And her sister couldn’t be happier with the final result, saying simply, “We made it come to life.”
The entry to this 1930 Beverly Hills home with interiors by designer Dana Battista remained largely untouched after a refresh—simply updated with a powder-coated steel-and-glass front door and sidelights. The globe-trotting owners discovered the pair of dogs at Tallulah Fox in Petworth, England. Just inside, Battista placed a Williams-Sonoma Home bar cart topped with a Fornasetti lamp. The sunburst mirror is from Valerie Wade in London.