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Shift to Neutral: LA Jewelry Designer Kathleen Whitaker’s Radical Transformation

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Shift to Neutral: LA Jewelry Designer Kathleen Whitaker’s Radical Transformation

November 26, 2018

When we interviewed Kathleen Whitaker, the notable LA jewelry designer, four years ago about her turn-of-the-century home in LA’s Echo Park, she summed up her DIY remodel this way: “I suppose my jewelry designs are the antithesis of the expression displayed here at home.” Indeed. Back then, while her pieces were minimalist and understated, her home was expressive and vibrant with saturated colors.

Today? “It’s flip-flopped. I started a sister collection that explores texture and color, and that created an inverse effect of really committing to reduction and minimalism in our home environment,” she says. “My work and my home, they influence each other.”

This second makeover was far less labor-intensive. The first one involved restoring the building to its former glory, including converting the three-apartment structure back to a single-family residence, a laborious project that she and her husband, cinematographer Bradford Whitaker, undertook themselves. This time around, the rehab was mostly superficial—a fresh coat of white paint on every wall, the addition of a few new pieces of furniture, and the removal of others—but the results have been profound. “You can radically transform a space by doing very little to it,” says Kathleen.

Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Laure Joliet.

Long rustic benches once flanked this farmhouse dining table. No more. In their stead: four Arketipo chairs, vintage from Bonita Interiors, reupholstered in waxed canvas on recommendation from her color consultant Teresa Grow. Kathleen upgraded the Noguchi pendant light with a cloth-covered cord and a brass ceiling plate by Ramsey Conder.
Above: Long rustic benches once flanked this farmhouse dining table. No more. In their stead: four Arketipo chairs, vintage from Bonita Interiors, reupholstered in waxed canvas on recommendation from her color consultant Teresa Grow. Kathleen upgraded the Noguchi pendant light with a cloth-covered cord and a brass ceiling plate by Ramsey Conder.
One room that didn&#8
Above: One room that didn’t change much—the kitchen. “The only vestige of saturated paint color left in the house!” she says. “It stayed because it still works.”
The view from the sunroom into the dining/kitchen space. The built-in shelves display works by some of her favorite ceramicists, including David Korty, Victoria Morris, Morgan Peck, and Kelly Lamb. The collection of canes is a gift from Kathleen&#8
Above: The view from the sunroom into the dining/kitchen space. The built-in shelves display works by some of her favorite ceramicists, including David Korty, Victoria MorrisMorgan Peck, and Kelly Lamb. The collection of canes is a gift from Kathleen’s mother.
June and Fitz enjoying the daybed in the sunroom. All the leaded windows are original to the home. The ceramic pendant light is by Heather Levine.
Above: June and Fitz enjoying the daybed in the sunroom. All the leaded windows are original to the home. The ceramic pendant light is by Heather Levine.
A Lindsey Adelman lamp rests under a painting by Jay Stuckey.
Above: A Lindsey Adelman lamp rests under a painting by Jay Stuckey.
A peek from the dining area into the living room, at left; on the right is the sunroom. The couple&#8
Above: A peek from the dining area into the living room, at left; on the right is the sunroom. The couple’s Room&Board sofa, scored on Craig’s List, was once dark gray; now, it’s upholstered in camel hair fabric by Loro Piana.
 &#8
Above: “Neutrals are hard. And white is the color you can go wrong with,” says Kathleen, explaining why she hired a color consultant to help pick the right neutral rug, the right lampshade, the right fabrics. For the light-filled interiors, they decided on Martha Stewart paint colors, now discontinued: Lamb for the walls and Popcorn for the trim. The painting is by Hadley Holiday.
The room that kicked off the neutral phase of the couple&#8
Above: The room that kicked off the neutral phase of the couple’s home. After renovating this tiny powder room, they felt compelled to change the wall color of the adjoining room, which was at that point painted an avocado hue. “I felt like we needed a clean sweep of all the saturated rooms,” says Kathleen. “This is a really old house, a series of small rooms. An all-white palette makes them more cohesive.” Reflected in the mirror is a print from Iko Iko.
The only major changes occurred in Kathleen&#8
Above: The only major changes occurred in Kathleen’s downstairs work studio, where they added new floors and changed some walls. Sturdy benches, formerly in the dining area, were moved here to provide seating at the Parsons table. “Originally the table was a stained purple. We had it painted in high-gloss Popcorn, the same color as the trim,” she says.
Kathleen found the Thonet chair in an antiques shop near Santa Barbara.
Above: Kathleen found the Thonet chair in an antiques shop near Santa Barbara.
Kathleen&#8
Above: Kathleen’s husband made two simple six-foot-long desks out of plywood that he cut to size and mounted on folding catering table legs.
One of the main reasons that Kathleen opted for all-white walls is that &#8
Above: One of the main reasons that Kathleen opted for all-white walls is that “they allow your eye to exit the house and head outdoors,” she says. Their home has lovely views from every room, and that was something she wanted to highlight.

For more bewitching LA home tours, see:

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