At 16, Sage Gracie Allard’s career trajectory was kick-started with a casual question from a girlfriend at West Torrance High: “Could you decorate my bathroom?” Allard was up for the assignment. “I painted it green with purple accents, styled it, put some shelves up, bought towels,” she says. “That’s when I said to myself, ‘I’m going to become an interior designer.’ ” It’s a moment Allard remembers with particular affection now, as that childhood friend and her husband eventually became her clients, tapping the now-established designer to renovate their new home in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood.
The couple, who’d searched for nearly a year before scooping up a 1977 Spanish-style residence, loved the location, expansive backyard, pool and spa. As the architecture of the house was good, the plan was to simply make a few cosmetic updates and avoid construction dust—the initial plan, that is. A simple phone call to Allard for some design advice set into motion what eventually evolved into a larger project.
From the beginning stages, the designer and the wife’s long friendship was key to the entire undertaking, as the strong foundation and easy rapport between them led to a surprisingly open brief for the interior decor and furnishings. “They said, ‘We want you to be creative and do anything you want to do, we fully trust you,’ ” Allard recalls. “No client had ever said to me, ‘Sage, what do you want to do?’ ” The homeowners did have some parameters, settling on a sophisticated yet approachable palette of black, white and forest green mixed with light-colored woods and natural stone. Allard then chose fabrics and paints in a graceful gradient of verdant hues and creamy whites, layering in a couple of wallcoverings as eye-catching touches. “I focused on bringing in more rounded edges—the sofas and teardrop end tables of the living room, for instance—to nod to the home’s Spanish vibes; I balanced those shapes visually with sharper angles, like the very straight stair railings,” she explains. “I would describe the overall aesthetic as ‘geometric indie minimalist.’ ”
Five months in, even though the interiors were nearly finished, there came an unexpected turning point. Allard casually mentioned to the homeowners that, if they were willing to consider a structural change, removing a wall of the room they were using as their home gym would allow for a walk-in wine storage space. Her clients paused, looked at each other, and immediately said, “Let’s do it.”
The ensuing renovation opened the second act of the project. Per Allard’s suggestion, the couple’s wine collection now resides within easy reach of their dining room table, where a custom wooden rack is revealed through a modern wall of glass. Part of their former gym (now relocated to the garage) also became an elegant prep kitchen complete with custom cabinetry and visually striking stone slabs.
Under the designer’s guidance, a larger wish list then unfurled. Allard’s clients opted to redo the kitchen floor with a textured, dark Moroccan-style tile and build in a curvaceous breakfast nook—one of the designer’s favorite moments. They decided to swap ornate Spanish-style stair rails for a more modern thin wrought-iron design and to overhaul their primary bathroom.
More renovations continued outside, too. Tactile green zellige tile now enhances the pool, a detail inspired by the couple’s love of Hotel San Cristóbal in Todo Santos, Mexico, while a new backyard deck and outdoor kitchen make al fresco dining a breeze. General contractor Reza Parnian stepped in to manage the slew of changes, adroitly taking care to avoid damaging the wallpaper, paint and other interior finishes that the designer had already put in place.
During the process, as her clients’ confidence and design repertoire grew, Allard snuck more color into the palette. Rose and amber hues add nuance to the primary bedroom and create a showstopping moment in a guest bathroom where the wallpaper features flourishes of pampas grass. “These are young, vibrant, intelligent people and I wanted these spaces to make them shine,” says Allard.
While the homeowners’ original intention of avoiding construction dust did grow into a project that included plenty of it, the result is the same: They love their home. “Sage has made it really hard to go on a luxury vacation, because when we come back, we rediscover that our own house is just so nice,” comments the wife, adding, “Our tastes and preferences changed.” And she’s happy to boast that she knew the designer back in the day. “Even in high school, I felt that Sage was going to do amazing things.”