Floral velvet has never crossed the threshold of any architect I know. Ditto leafy Victorian wallpaper. I’ve visited a lot of architects at home, and most are highly allergic to color and pattern. Sherry McKuin says she herself was a committed member of that cohort. That was until her family moved from a mid-century house in the Hollywood Hills to a 1926 Mediterranean-style manse in tree-lined Little Holmby next to Holmby Hills and Bel Air.
They had only a week between residences and McKuin strategically took the opportunity to strip the walnut stain from the oak floors, whitewash all the walls, and remove the window gewgaws . There was much more she wanted to do—including starting from scratch in the kitchen—but first she and her husband, an entertainment lawyer, and their two young kids lived in their gracious quarters for three years.
During that time, McKuin says she realized that if she orchestrated the remodel herself, her kids and clients—she runs her own architecture firm, McKuin Design—would take precedence and “our project would keep falling on the back burner.” Also, as a longstanding modernist, she “didn’t feel entirely comfortable detailing a traditional house.” And so McKuin hired interior designer Frances Merrill of Reath Design, whose work she had admired for its nuance and beauty: “Frances keeps things unpredictable—in a good way. Her rooms are both composed and casual, and she’s a genius with colors and textiles.”
“Our goal was to honor the simplicity the family were used to while also celebrating this elegant, warm house,” says Merrill, who got the job done in nine months—and along the way led McKuin into a new realm of pleated curtains and jewel tones. Join us for tour of the eye-opening results.
The white paint throughout is Benjamin Moore White PM-2.
Note the baseboards. Merrill comments that beginning with all white walls and refinished floors—”a blank slate”—was her idea of a dream project. “We started by painting all the doors and windows—plus the powder room baseboards—in Benjamin Moore Yorktowne Green, a color that shifts from blue to green depending on the light.”
The French door are original; the curtains—unlined to allow in the light and let the fabric gently fade—are Newport 127 from Fabricut.
Merrill composes her designs using large mood boards covered with images and fabric samples that she and her team reference throughout. She says a starting point is often an inspired color combination or material juxtaposition that she spots in an art book or a fashion spread.
All of the window treatments are the custom work of Valley Drapery—”we spent hours making drawings and measuring and re-measuring,” says Merrill, who comments that it often takes more than one fitting, in situ, to get the proportions just right. Among the trickiest to finesse were the simple matchstick blinds that hang here. Merrill had them painted the same color as the window trim and hung on brass nails from grommets. The walls are painted Farrow & Ball’s Setting Plaster, a hugely popular pale pink (see it used in a grand English kitchen here).
McKuin says that starting afresh was made easier by the fact that at the time of the remodel, she needed to fully furnish their former house, now a rental property they own. “So it all moved there. Had we not had that, we would have kept more. But we had lived with it all for so many years, it was nice to begin again.”
The custom cabinetry is painted Benjamin Moore Laurel Canyon Beige. “The island,” notes Merrill, “is double sided and has glass-fronted, more formal storage facing the table.”
The counter is Namibia White, a milky marble sourced from a stone yard in the San Fernando Valley. The Antiqued Brass Gilby Drawer Pulls are from Jim Lawrence of Suffolk, England.
The painting is by Mexico City artist Chuco Reyes and dates from the 1960s; McKuin bought it at an LA estate sale.
All of the kids’ dishes are kept under the sink making it easy for them to set the table—and so far McKuin reports no problems with the curtains getting stained. The shelves are supported by Futagami Brass Brackets and coffee mugs hang from Futagami Brass S Hooks on Futagami Brass Towel Bars, all from Dar Gitane—Merrill found the line on Remodelista.
Above: The curtains are made of a discontinued paisley linen. The hanging light is the Easy Roof Meringa 60 Pendant by Servomuto of Italy.
It’s the other space that involved construction: on seeing the house, McKuin knew she wanted to flip the locations of the bathroom and closet: “The bath was small and poorly laid out, and the closet was huge.” “Now you can see the bathtub from the bedroom through a pair of new French doors,” says Merrill.
We’re longstanding fans of Reath Design. Here are two more projects by Merrill:
- Kitchen of the Week: Epoch Films’ Industrial Loft Kitchen
- Steal This Look: Bohemian Mix in an LA Bedroom
Also take a look at this house in the neighborhood: