Pre­serv­ing Style

Atomic Ranch - - Contents Winter 2017 - By Sarah Jane Stone Pho­tog­ra­phy by Steven De­wall Styling by Clau­dia An­drade-des­bi­ens

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.


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.


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.


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