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Inside a Netflix Star’s LA Bungalow, Budget Rental Secrets Included

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Inside a Netflix Star’s LA Bungalow, Budget Rental Secrets Included

November 28, 2018

If you’re renting, it can be hard to make someone else’s house feel like your own, but for actress Jodi Balfour (you might recognize her as Jackie Kennedy from Netflix’s The Crown) and her partner Alex Ashbaugh, the challenge was a rewarding design exercise. After an abrupt move from a spacious apartment in Santa Monica, the couple now rents from a friend a 500-square-foot 1914 bungalow in Silverlake while they build a new house of their own in Highland Park. Though they’ve been in this transitional home for less than a year, they’ve created an inviting space that has the feel of a well-established weekend retreat.

Jodi credits her mother’s influence as the foundation for her design sensibilities. “My mum’s always been brilliant at making the inside of a house feel truly like a home,” says the South African native. “She often experimented with how moving a couch—or painting a wall—could totally transform the experience of a room. She would encourage me and my sister to rearrange the furniture in our bedrooms whenever we wanted, changing the feel of the space each time.”

Come see how Jodi and Alex were able to personalize their rental and open up the small space.

Photography by Julie Pointer Adams and Jodi Balfour.

1. Establish your priorities.

Jodi and Alex frequently host friends and family, so they needed to figure out how to comfortably fit a sizable group in their small living room. “We wanted to create space for people to sit, even if it was on the floor,” says Jodi.
Above: Jodi and Alex frequently host friends and family, so they needed to figure out how to comfortably fit a sizable group in their small living room. “We wanted to create space for people to sit, even if it was on the floor,” says Jodi.

Their solution was to have an L-shaped couch custom-made by Heurta Furniture, measured precisely to follow the line of the windows and allow unobstructed views outside. “We pushed the size of the sectional to its limits—it was a fine line between maximizing space on the couch, without letting the couch overly dominate the room,” explains Jodi. They opted to forgo arms on the sofa, which helps the piece flow into the rest of the space. They also made sure the rug and the surrounding areas were inviting places to sit.

2. Edit, edit, edit.

Alex and Jodi pared down their belongings when they moved from their over
Above: Alex and Jodi pared down their belongings when they moved from their over 2,000-square-foot apartment. They subscribed to the KonMari philosophy: they got rid of any furniture and decor they weren’t totally in love with. Every piece they brought to this house was carefully chosen for its practicality or because it “sparked joy,” like this collection of ceramics on the mantle.

3. Hide the TV.

“I hate it when living rooms are centered around a television screen, though I know it’s sometimes unavoidable. But especially in a small space like ours, I was adamant that we find a way to make the television a subtle part of the room,” says Jodi. She had it mounted to the wall around the corner from the entrance, so it’s not visible when you walk into the house.
Above: “I hate it when living rooms are centered around a television screen, though I know it’s sometimes unavoidable. But especially in a small space like ours, I was adamant that we find a way to make the television a subtle part of the room,” says Jodi. She had it mounted to the wall around the corner from the entrance, so it’s not visible when you walk into the house.

4. Use plants as sculptural elements.

Every plant is unique, which makes them great for customizing a rental. Jodi and Alex placed plants of varying sizes and textures in ceramics pots throughout the house.
Above: Every plant is unique, which makes them great for customizing a rental. Jodi and Alex placed plants of varying sizes and textures in ceramics pots throughout the house.

In the living room is a Song of India tree from Jodi’s favorite plant shop in LA, Sanso. “It’s big and sprawling,” Jodi says of the tree, “but there is a delicacy and subtlety about it that stops it from dominating the space.” The leather sling chair—a birthday present from Jodi to Alex—is by Xander & Grace via LA store Lawson-Fenning. The rattan ottomans are from Ikea.

5. Choose a neutral palette.

The couple inherited the bright blue trim color, which the owner-friend was inspired to incorporate into her house after a trip to Greece. “I wanted to work with the blue in a way that would feel cohesive,&#8
Above: The couple inherited the bright blue trim color, which the owner-friend was inspired to incorporate into her house after a trip to Greece. “I wanted to work with the blue in a way that would feel cohesive,” Jodi says. She opted for a neutral palette, with a few accent colors—rust, mustard, and green.

6. Add a bench to create a multipurpose nook.

In the entryway, Jodi sits on a maple bench by Joinery. The space already had a shelf installed. Now, with the bench, the area can be used as a workspace, a place for putting on shoes, or extra seating for guests.
Above: In the entryway, Jodi sits on a maple bench by Joinery. The space already had a shelf installed. Now, with the bench, the area can be used as a workspace, a place for putting on shoes, or extra seating for guests.

7. Decorate with (beautiful) books.

Jodi keeps a few books out on her coffee table and sideboard that reflect her interests and style. In the kitchen, all of the cookbooks are stashed on top of the refrigerator for easy reach.
Above: Jodi keeps a few books out on her coffee table and sideboard that reflect her interests and style. In the kitchen, all of the cookbooks are stashed on top of the refrigerator for easy reach.

8. Lean—don’t hang—original artwork.

For renters, leaning artwork against the wall means no holes to patch later, and makes it easy to switch out pieces anytime.
Above: For renters, leaning artwork against the wall means no holes to patch later, and makes it easy to switch out pieces anytime.

Jodi began collecting art after her first big acting job. Her first purchase was this quirky portrait of a person wearing yellow rubber gloves and an apron by South African artist Christiaan Conradie. She found most of the other pieces on display around the house via the Tappan Collective.

9. Mix off-the-shelf with custom pieces.

The couple&#8
Above: The couple’s efficient galley kitchen.

Simple custom pieces—whether DIY or built by a carpenter—can be surprisingly affordable and make a space feel bespoke. Case in point: the wood side table in the kitchen (as well as the coffee table in the living room) was built by Alex and his friend Max to maximize the space between the fridge and stove. A shelf creates storage and trash cans fit discreetly underneath. The DIY pieces are two of Jodi’s favorites: “Knowing that they made them by hand one Saturday afternoon just makes me so happy,” she says.

A close-up of the DIY table in the kitchen that Jodi and Alex use as a prep station and for storage.
Above: A close-up of the DIY table in the kitchen that Jodi and Alex use as a prep station and for storage.

10. Designate a place for everything.

The couple makes good use of the cabinets the rental came with: they&#8
Above: The couple makes good use of the cabinets the rental came with: they’ve quickly learned that keeping the house uncluttered makes a huge difference in how spacious it feels.

“On days where life feels chaotic and I leave clothes lying around and bags at the front door, and we haven’t taken the recycling out, and there are too many magazines and books lying everywhere, and the dishes haven’t been done yet and the laundry pile is heaping—the house can feel insane and suffocating,” Jodi says. They make a concerted effort to stay on top of the clutter. Most things go into cupboards and drawers, with a few exceptions of course. Their dishes are by Humble Ceramics and Hasami via Tortoise General Store.

11. Embrace hardware store basics.

Basic nails and screw hooks above the kitchen sink hold potholders, scrub brushes, and utensils (and won&#8
Above: Basic nails and screw hooks above the kitchen sink hold potholders, scrub brushes, and utensils (and won’t leave much of a mark).

12. Keep passageways open.

There are only two interior doors in the house and they lead into the bathroom. Throughout the rest of the house, one room leads directly into another: including into the bedroom.
Above: There are only two interior doors in the house and they lead into the bathroom. Throughout the rest of the house, one room leads directly into another: including into the bedroom.

“We thought about putting up a curtain or a door between the kitchen and the bedroom, but after living in the house for a month or so, we decided against it,” Jodi says. “There is something about the circular design of the rooms and the flow between them all that helps make the house feel more spacious than it physically is.”

13. Use a folding screen to create privacy.

When guests are over, Jodi and Alex close off the bedroom with a freestanding folding screen. The midcentury sideboards in the house are from Atomic Threshold.
Above: When guests are over, Jodi and Alex close off the bedroom with a freestanding folding screen. The midcentury sideboards in the house are from Atomic Threshold.

14. Install a small shelf for a nightstand.

To save space, Alex and Jodi used small shelves in place of nightstands. The bed frame is from Ikea.
Above: To save space, Alex and Jodi used small shelves in place of nightstands. The bed frame is from Ikea.

15. Treat yourself to great linens.

Jodi found her linen bedding at In Bed Store. Her throw pillows and bath towels are from Gjusta Goods and General Store Venice.
Above: Jodi found her linen bedding at In Bed Store. Her throw pillows and bath towels are from Gjusta Goods and General Store Venice.

16. Bring the outside in and inside out.

Alex and Jodi feel grateful to have outdoor spaces they can use as an extension of their living space. &#8
Above: Alex and Jodi feel grateful to have outdoor spaces they can use as an extension of their living space. “I love to open all the doors and windows that lead to our outdoor space,” Jodi says. “It creates a sense of spaciousness and flow that makes the house feel bigger than it is. It feels like a little treehouse retreat from the madness of the city.”
Another view of the secluded patio. Most of the outdoor furniture is from Ikea.
Above: Another view of the secluded patio. Most of the outdoor furniture is from Ikea.

For more ideas on how to personalize your rental on a budget, see:

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