A native Angeleno with a knack for real estate had plenty of choices when he went looking for a new family home in the city. He could have gone for something modern or even quite palatial, instead, he fell for a 1950s house on a kid-friendly street and decided to renovate. “He said, ‘I have this house in the Palisades and I’m not tearing it down,’” recalls designer Parrish Cameron Robe Chilcoat of her first client meeting. “He wanted to save its charm.” He also wanted to create a comfortable landing pad for his children, something the designer well understood. “I’m a single mom with two kids. I like being in a house where I can hear and feel my family around me,” she says. “He didn’t want a big, rambling house. He wanted to feel enveloped.”
To rework the interior layout to better suit his family’s needs, the homeowner brought on residential designer and family friend Courtenay Choate Moritz—who also handled the landscape design—and general contractor Greg Shain. “It’s a jewel box,” says Choate Moritz of the home. “We wanted an open flow but a traditional vernacular, all without changing the footprint of the original house,” she continues, explaining that they added a small bonus room, bringing the house up to just over 3,000 square feet.
“The client gave us free reign, but we met all the time,” adds the residential designer, who worked on the project with her partner, architect Doug Lindfors. She proposed lifting the great room master bedroom’s ceiling for an airy feel and in concert with the team, conceived alcove beds for the children that, with the curtains drawn, will create a perfect “teenage lair,” she says. “He wanted something different for his kids, something he knew they could grow with.”
Those considerations—the needs of his children—were paramount to the redesign but it was also a chance for the homeowner to explore his creative side and to develop his art collection, which now includes works by Edgar O. Kiechle and Kort Havens. “He wanted a warm, manageable home for when the kids are with him but also sophisticated interiors for when he’s solo,” says Chilcoat, who was happy to incorporate many of her client’s family heirlooms. “I grew up with antiques, too, and I understand how important sentimentality is.” (Chilcoat, it’s worth noting, is the step-great-granddaughter of Eleanor Brown, founder of the legendary New York design firm McMillen.) And while recent design trends have veered away from “brown furniture,” as it’s disdainfully called, Chilcoat is eager for its return. “There’s always a home for antiques as far as I’m concerned. There’s nothing more exciting than a modern backdrop with antique pieces,” she says. “Families who have antiques are lucky! It’s important to honor your history.” Of the pieces she chose from her client’s family collection, “all were restrained and had a beautiful patina.”
The result is “quiet, restful and classy,” she says of pairing the pieces with a masculine palette of blues and grays. To create a sense of unity throughout the house, Chilcoat “treated it as one space,” she explains. “The colors needed to flow into each other, from one room to the next.” Blues and grays start in the entry and run through all the main living areas. “Originally, we chose a light color for the kitchen but it was the owner’s idea to try a darker gray. It totally made a difference.” For the master bedroom, Chilcoat shifted to softer neutral tones. A touch of green—a lichen-hued velvet armchair—was inspired by the garden views.
Outdoor spaces received attention too. Before Choate Moritz’s interventions, the backyard was “like a jungle,” recalls the residential designer, who tidied up the space with a stone patio, a lawn and a pool. She kept the focus on plantings that require little effort and sourced 50-year-old olive trees from a decommissioned orchard in Visalia. “In Los Angeles, gardens are an extension of your living areas, so we were always mindful of cohesion, that the garden and house relate to each other stylistically,” she says. They also carved out additional play space by enclosing the front courtyard and choosing a Dutch door to make kid supervision a snap.
“A new stage of life is what this home is all about,” Chilcoat observes. “We didn’t want to take it too seriously, and we wanted everyone to be happy.” The result is a house that surely would make the original owners proud, and it keeps the integrity of the neighborhood. “We brought the old house up to contemporary use and respected the architecture. You don’t have to make something enormous,” says Choate Moritz. Adds Chilcoat: “Our client respected the land, the home and the town. He’s just made it a better place.