First-time house hun­ters Tom Bala­maci and Pa­trick Wild­nauer looked at more than 100 houses on­line and vis­ited 30 in per­son dur­ing a seven-month search. ¶ They fi­nally set­tled on a 1927 English-in­spired cot­tage in the Wil­shire Vista neigh­bor­hood. A great lay­out for en­ter­tain­ing and prox­im­ity to work and friends sealed the deal. ¶ “We knew this was the one,” Bala­maci said of the three-bed­room, two-bath charmer. “It had tra­di­tional style but the kind of open­ness you want in Cal­i­for­nia.” ¶ Be­fore set­tling hap­pily ever af­ter into the 1,661-square-foot, sto­ry­book-style home, how­ever, there was work to be done. ¶ And that’s where Los An­ge­les-based in­te­rior de­signer Amalia Gal came in. Bud­get-friendly The mis­sion: re­fresh the home’s dated de­sign de­tails while cap­i­tal­iz­ing on orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments and show­cas­ing the cou­ple’s per­son­al­ity. And do it all on a bud­get.

Al­though a hard-and-fast num­ber wasn’t as­signed to ex­pen­di­tures, Gal said smart fi­nan­cial choices and cre­ative sourc­ing were im­por­tant.

“The ap­proach was, let’s do this with qual­ity prod­ucts but not go over­board,” Gal said. High-end fin­ishes and fix­tures were bal­anced with an­tique and vin­tage re­sources found on EBay and One Kings Lane. An un­ex­pected bonus: a stylish 1920s black pi­ano scored for free-to-a-good-home.

DIY saves dough

In ad­di­tion, Wild­nauer, a se­nior project man­ager at Va­le­rio Ar­chi­tects, was able to cut costs by do­ing some trim and fin­ish­ing work him­self.

“The bones of the house were in good shape; we didn’t need to update the elec­tri­cal … and the roof was rel­a­tively new,” said Bala­maci, who works as gen­eral man­ager for the Zoe Re­port at Rachel Zoe Inc., “so all that stuff we didn’t re­ally want to spend money on had al­ready been done and we were able to come in and fo­cus on the fun stuff, the dec­o­rat­ing.”

Gal said the color pal­ette of the home was de­signed to tran­si­tion from dark to light as one moves through the space. “The idea was go­ing from dark to medium to lighter and brighter.”

Wel­come home

The small, coved en­try­way was wall­pa­pered with a darkly pat­terned Mor­ris & Co. de­sign pur­chased from Egg & Dart in Los An­ge­les and ap­pointed with an an­tique ta­ble and mir­ror. Wild­nauer in­stalled crown mold­ing, and the ceil­ing was painted in flat, Dunn Ed­wards Red Craft to match the walls.

Mold­ing magic

In the liv­ing room, a river rock fire­place an­chors a gen­er­ous space lined with paned, cot­tage win­dows and capped with a vaulted, bar­rel ceil­ing.

“There wasn’t any de­lin­eation be­tween the walls and the ceil­ing,” said Gal, “and Pa­trick wanted the room to be a dark color … so I came up with the idea of in­stalling mold­ing so we could stop the paint [at the trim line] and keep it from feel­ing too heavy.” The walls were painted Union Springs in vel­vet by Dunn Ed­wards and the ceil­ing was brushed with flat, Dunn Ed­wards paint in His­toric White.

On dis­play

A gallery wall was also on the wish list. “Most of their pieces were flat and two-di­men­sional,” said Gal of a col­lec­tion that in­cluded prints from a trip to Is­tan­bul, Turkey, a map of Los An­ge­les and an etch­ing from Wild­nauer’s an­ces­tral home in France. “We needed to add some tex­tu­ral pieces to cre­ate in­ter­est, so they got the mir­rors, the antlers and the Hel­lenic bust.”

Gal de­signed the gallery lay­out, and she and Wild­nauer ex­e­cuted the in­stall­ment and added mold­ing.

The wall pro­vides a fo­cal point in the room and adds to the mas­culin­ity and char­ac­ter of the space. Orange vin­tage arm­chairs were re­uphol­stered in deep blue vel­vet to co­or­di­nate with a Per­sian area rug and face a long leather sofa from Restora­tion Hard­ware.

“They wanted to have a gi­gan­tic sofa,” said Gal, “when they have par­ties, six peo­ple can sit on it.”

Guess what’s miss­ing?

A paint­ing of Bala­maci’s grand­mother holds pride of place on the man­tel, ob­scur­ing an awk­ward niche and lend­ing an aura of fam­ily his­tory.

What’s not in the liv­ing room? A tele­vi­sion. “We like to watch TV,” said Bala­maci, “but we didn’t want one in the liv­ing room, it’s just too much of a dis­trac­tion. We wanted this to be a room for con­ver­sa­tion when friends are over or for read­ing or the pi­ano when it’s just us.”

Bar­gain hunting

The pre­vi­ously pur­ple din­ing room was re­painted in Sil­ver Lake from Dunn Ed­wards and fea­tures a set of French doors that lead to a pri­vate, per­gola-cov­ered pa­tio.

“I think my fa­vorite thing about the house is the lay­out, par­tic­u­larly the din­ing room,” said Wild­nauer.

“For our first Thanks­giv­ing here we had 12 peo­ple,” said Bala­maci, “and seat­ing ex­tended onto the pa­tio with­out mak­ing it feel like the kids’ ta­ble.”

The ta­ble’s an­tique, 1940s Hitchcock chairs were found on EBay. “Hon­estly, it was a great deal,” said Bala­maci, “and we got them for less than the price of go­ing to Pot­tery Barn.”

The tra­di­tional, Fed­eral-style chairs co­ex­ist hap­pily with a new, con­tem­po­rary paint­ing by Lukasz Rata­jczyk found on “It’s a great re­source,” said Bala­maci, “be­cause it has all me­dia at a va­ri­ety of price points. It’s a nice way to get a piece of art with­out break­ing the bank.”

Draw­ing the eye

In the hall­way lead­ing from the din­ing room, Gal said Bala­maci en­vi­sioned a dark, glossy pas­sage­way, but Wild­nauer feared high-gloss paint would ex­pose im­per­fec­tions on the vin­tage plas­ter walls. As a com­pro­mise, Gal used a sat­u­rated, New­bury Port paint by Dunn Ed­wards with a semigloss fin­ish and added sueded wall pan­els with an art rail and mold­ing for tex­ture. “As they col­lect more art we plan to layer it on the pan­els,” said Gal. “It’s a nar­row space, but it makes it in­ter­est­ing.”

At rest

Since the closet in the mas­ter bed­room and the closet in the guest room shared a wall, Gal and the home­own­ers com­bined the two to cre­ate roomier stor­age and more or­ga­ni­za­tion for the mas­ter. “We stole the closet from the guest room,” said Bala­maci. “They didn’t have the same amount of clothes in the 1920s that we have now.”

In ad­di­tion to the re-imag­ined closet, the mas­ter bed­room makeover in­cluded new wall cov­er­ings by Bri­tish de­signer David Hicks, a painted ceil­ing and a re­uphol­stered win­dow seat. (Their King Charles Spaniel, named Buckie — named af­ter the pi­o­neer of the ge­o­desic dome, ar­chi­tect Buck­min­ster Fuller — thinks it’s just for her.)

The cozy-meets-glam guest room re­ceived a pal­ette in­spired by a spe­cial piece of art.

“It was a house­warm­ing gift from a good friend,” said Bala­maci of an el­e­gantly framed paint­ing that hangs on the wall. “Her fa­ther, who was [jew­eler] Claude Ar­pels of Van Cleef & Ar­pels, painted it for her mother.” Gal painted the room Sil­ver Lake as well to match the paint­ing and added an an­tique fam­ily dresser, crys­tal chan­de­lier and cur­tains.

No f in­ish line

In the main bath­room, a dated vanity, mir­ror and fix­tures in­clud­ing the tub filler and shower fit­tings were re­placed with pe­riod-ap­pro­pri­ate pieces from Restora­tion Hard­ware. The white mar­ble coun­ter­top and mar­ble tile floor­ing were co­or­di­nated with light col­ored walls (again, Sil­ver Lake, in a semi-gloss), frame­less twin medicine cab­i­nets and a vin­tage sail­ing pen­nant.

“We ba­si­cally touched the en­tire house in some way,” said Gal, “and there will be a phase three, but we’re not there yet.”

Fu­ture plans in­clude up­dat­ing the kitchen and den area, and en­larg­ing the half-bath­room into a full bath with a new hall­way en­trance.

Let the ad­ven­tures of home­own­er­ship be­gin.

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

TOM BALA­MACI, left, and Pa­trick Wild­nauer bal­anced qual­ity with savvy spend­ing as they reen­vi­sioned their 1927 cot­tage in Wil­shire Vista. They worked with in­te­rior de­signer Amalia Gal.

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

THE HALL­WAY for­merly fea­tured canned light­ing and lit­tle else. Gal de­signed sueded wall pan­els with pic­ture rails. Now it’s a space where the own­ers can show­case their art col­lec­tion.

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

THE DIN­ING ROOM is lighter and brighter af­ter re­paint­ing. Vin­tage Hitchcock chairs were scored on EBay. Orig­i­nal art by Lukasz Rata­jczyk was pur­chased from

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

FOR THE MAS­TER BED­ROOM Bala­maci se­lected a wall cov­er­ing from one of the cou­ple’s fa­vorite de­sign­ers, David Hicks. Ac­cent pieces, new linens and up­hol­stery fur­ther the update.

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

THE COVED EN­TRY picked up some drama from a Mor­ris & Co. wall­pa­per de­sign. Be­yond, an open liv­ing space now fea­tures a gallery wall de­signed by Gal and in­stalled by Wild­nauer.

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

THE MAIN BATH­ROOM was given a dec­o­ra­tive, pe­riod-ap­pro­pri­ate tile f loor, and a dated vanity and fix­tures were re­placed with new medicine cab­i­nets and light fix­tures.

Amalia Gal

Amalia Gal

Amalia Gal

Amalia Gal

Amalia Gal

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