This home's time capsule-quality furnishings and accessories are fit for 21st century living.
This home's time capsule quality furnishings and accessories are also fit for 21st century living.
“To get to our home, we have to go up this bucolic hill or drive through a small web of winding and hilly country roads,” Claudia Andrade-desbiens, the homeowner and designer, says. “It is a very pretty ride that helps us unwind, and a great escape from the fast-paced and high-stress urban environment of LA.”
Along with her husband Michale Desbiens, whom she describes as “partnerin-crime, business partner and marketing manager,” the couple owns a stunning 1959 ranch in the Friendly Hills neighborhood of Whittier, California.
DREAM HOME 101
The custom home was the work of Titan Construction Co., a local builder that was responsible several of the homes in the neighborhood, while the architect and engineer were from Durand Designs. Set on a half acre of land, the sprawling 2,892 square foot home consists of four bedrooms, three baths, a large circular driveway and an attached three car garage. In 1961 a pool was added, but other than that, not too much of the home ever changed.
“We love going for walks with our rescue Doberman, Bella Zulu Mecca, in the evening and discovering other homes in the surrounding area that exhibit the same traits and midcentury elements as ours does,” Clauidia says.
RENOVATING & PRESERVING
Claudia and Michale purchased the home on July 1, 2015, and began their restoration process that fall, finishing in the spring of 2016. “The restoration was very intense and took us longer than we predicted. We moved in the house one year to the date that we purchased it, on July 1, 2016,” she says. “Instead of barbecuing and enjoying the fireworks, we spent the 4th of July weekend of last year carrying heavy boxes and moving into the house!”
During that nearly year-long restoration process, the couple transformed the home. “When we first saw and decided to purchase the house, it was a complete mess and in a sad state of disrepair,” Claudia says. “An older couple had lived and raised their children here, but the children grew up and moved out, and [the couple] were left alone to take care of this big house and huge lot.”
Wanting to be sensitive to the structure they were working within, Claudia and Michale decided to keep the original footprint and update only the necessities—like the bathroom fixtures, plumbing, electrical and roof.
Asbestos was discovered in the popcorn ceilings and bathroom tiles, so the couple had them removed. In the kitchen, the original cabinetry was rotting away and unsalvageable. “The house was very dark, but I knew exactly what we needed to do to remedy that. We painted most of the walls a bright white,
The home boasts two fireplaces— a black Malm fireplace in the family room and a stone clad focal point in the sunken living room.
took down all the crumby funkiness, layers of dust and old chandeliers, took out the dirty carpet and did a deep cleaning,” she says.
With the house starting to gleam once more, Claudia turned her attention to the flooring. “I needed to find and match the original slate to replace some damaged slate in the family room. It was very difficult, almost impossible, but I persisted and found the perfect match,” she says. The couple had the slate installed in the family room, kitchen, laundry and small bathroom—creating a cohesive flow.
Claudia describes the couple’s style as “unfussy,” and sought to strike a balance of modern elements with authentic, vintage midcentury furnishings and décor.
“Although we wanted to be respectful of the midcentury architecture, we wanted to avoid the time capsule look and feel with throwback wallpaper, etc.— because to be honest, it’s just not who we are,” Claudia says. “We wanted to surround ourselves with pieces that made us happy.”
In designing such a personalized and fuss-free home, Claudia opted for a consistent palette of period-appropriate colors—narrowing the selection down to just two or three colors for each room and peppering them evenly throughout the spaces. Hues of orange and yellow won for the kitchen and the family room, while blues, greens and grays make up the sunken living room.
Having amassed a collection of midcentury furnishings over the years, Claudia and Michale already had a great selection of pieces to work with. “My day job with Modern Mecca is to source and purchase furniture and objects for my clients’ homes—sometimes unique, vintage items and sometimes new, so this comes easily to me,” she says.
Location has proven to be more than just a selling point. Not only is the home set just 12 miles southeast of Los Angeles, but the couple has easy access to conveniences and comforts while feeling a world away from the bustle. The town itself has also come to mean a lot to Claudia and Michale. Named after John Greenleaf Whittier, an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery, the town’s history carries deep meaning to the couple. It also has a track record for preservation, with multiple historical home districts. “Unfortunately, they haven’t worked on preserving any midcentury buildings yet, but since we moved here, that is about to change,” she says.
PERIOD-APPROPRIATE MOSAIC TILES were a priority for the bathrooms, so Claudia tracked down tiny tiles in shades of white, cream and bronze to create a truly retro look.
CLAD WITH ROCK, A FLOATING SLATE HEARTH AND PATINAED COPPER, THE SUNKEN LIVING ROOM’S FLOOR-TO-CEILING FIREPLACE STEALS THE SHOW—AND RIGHTFULLY SO. IT ACTUALLY HELPED CLAUDIA AND MICHALE FIND THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR TO WORK WITH, AS THEY FILTERED OUT ANYONE WHO SUGGESTED PAINTING IT OVER.