7 Ways New Updates Add Character to a Historic LA Home


This Spanish Colonial home in the Los Angeles suburb of La Cañada was built in 1925 and is full of original features. The interiors, however, were set for a design refresh. Topping the list of history-loving homeowners’ demands for a 21st-century home makeover were lighter, brighter interiors, modern luxuries, and up-to-date home technology and audiovisual solutions.

They asked an interior designer to come up with ideas for lighting the space and incorporating the latest home technologies.

The redesigned spaces stay true to the unique features of the property and the new design elements really enhance its character and highlight what makes it so special. It really is one of the best houses in the world.

Exterior view of front door with tiled surround in traditional Spanish Colonial style home with white rendering and palm steps to front door

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

The redesigned space was the vision of Courtney Thomas, who runs Courtney Thomas Design.

She had previously worked with the clients on their Laguna beach house. “This house in La Cañada has started to look dark against the sunny walls of their beach house,” Courtney explains. “So they asked us to re-inspire it through brighter, lighter palettes and more inviting spaces.”

The starting point, Courtney explains, was the history of the house and the owners’ desire to preserve original features and materials wherever possible. She also carefully considered how the family used the rooms before making changes.

The solutions she came up with are an inspiration to anyone looking for living room ideas, especially those looking to change the way a room is used.

1. Reconfigure the living room to change its use

The designer quickly found that the living room was not getting the use it deserved. “A bit removed from other often-used spaces in the house, this room has seen only occasional activity,” Courtney explains. “We determined that the customer’s love for outdoor entertainment could best be served by an indoor space. The spacious living room, with several French doors to the patio, was perfect for working.’

Clients’ desire for improved audio-visual solutions without compromising the historic look of their home was also met by adding a television above the mantle, hidden by artwork that unfolds at the touch of a remote control. Adding a bespoke limestone fireplace adds more character to the room and anchors the seating area.

Courtney Thomas specified additional sconces, custom-made for the house in an antique style, for better nighttime lighting and purchased new sofas and chairs from Wesley Hall, with side tables from Butler and Chelsea House.

traditional sitting room with blue and white sofas dark beamed ceiling stone fireplace with gilt framed picture above and dark wood console table and cast iron details in the background

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

2. A custom bar

custom bar with ceiling beams above and three leather bar stools and light pictures behind and dark wood counter with drinks bottle and leaded windows behind and dark ceiling beams

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

At one end of the living room, in place of a piano that rarely played, Courtney suggested adding a home bar. Anyone looking for home bar ideas to fit into an existing room will find inspiration in Courtney’s design for their clients.

The addition of the custom bar underscores the lounge’s new function as the main space for entertaining and having fun with friends and family. “As the bar was set up during the Covid outbreak, I think we can all appreciate this particular choice,” Courtney says. The custom bar here may have sprung up in response to a very 2020 situation, but its traditional style is in keeping with the house’s original features and places it comfortably in the 1920s.

The console, used as a bar counter, is by Schwung Antiques and the traditional style bar stools are by Jonathan Charles.

veranda with slanted white wall and windows all around with white sofas and blue cushions and dark wood tables on oriental rug with terracotta floor tiles

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

Down a few steps from the living room is a more intimate veranda with views over the garden. Used next to the main space, it works well for group gatherings large and small.

This sunken area of ​​the living room is full of outdoor living room ideas worth copying, with its sloping walls and windows all around offering stunning views of the oak trees that surround the property. “We didn’t fully appreciate them until we took down the old curtains around the windows,” Courtney says.

With fresh linen-colored paint and brighter repainted terracotta floors, the light stays in this room long after the trees block out the sun. Wesley Hall’s new club chairs offer another reason to linger.

4. Make more than one entry

traditional curved stone staircase with iron handrail and antique style pendant lamp wood paneled ceiling and dark wood console table and oriental style rug

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

The reworked front entry hall sets the tone for the cool updates Courtney has done elsewhere in the house. White walls reflect light around the hallway and provide contrast against its beautifully detailed wood paneled ceiling. An antique carpet from Alcaraz in light tones welcomes visitors. While a carved Spanish Revival sideboard adds history and warmth to the cooler finishes of the stained concrete floor and grand staircase.

Some inspiring hallway ideas include using well-preserved antiques to complement and enhance the original features of the home and, in the case of this hallway, mirror the emphasis on the front door. and character input.

The sideboard and ceiling light are from Revival Antiques in Pasadena. The Alcaraz rug was a discovery from 1stDibs. The lamps are from Hollis Pasadena.

5. Family room with adjoining office

family living room with white and blue sectional sofas and white ottoman with wooden coffee table section oriental rug and striped roman blinds

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

The family wanted an informal space upstairs for lounging, movie nights and Laker games. Courtney showed them that this old bedroom with dressing room and bathroom could work perfectly. This is now where the family spends most of their time together. The old dressing room (pictured below) has become a home office allowing the mother to complete her tasks while still feeling part of the family conversations. Not everyone looking for home office ideas would want to work with a view of the rest of the family taking it easy, but it works well in this home!

The interior style here has a more contemporary edge than the rest of the house. However, subtle details — including the ottoman, rug, sconces, and dark-wood sideboard — hark back to traditional style and quirky features elsewhere.

The sofas are from Wesley Hall, in Schumacher fabric. The Roman shade fabric is Cowtan & Tout. The Waterfall table above the ottoman is from Global Views; the table lamps are from Currey & Company; and the sconces are from Revival Antiques.

living room with white walls and dark wood sideboard with double doors opening into the home office with cupboards and a desk chair

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

6. A touch of Jazz Age luxury for the powder room

traditional style bathroom with black and white marble tiling and monochrome striped wallpaper and marble console

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

This downstairs room had some great powder room ideas and strong existing features that Courtney and the clients were keen to preserve. “We wanted to highlight the padded marble floors, vanity backsplash and milk glass pendants,” she says.

To stay true to the traditional glamor of the existing piece, Courtney made a few changes to freshen up the look. A striking new addition is the Schumacher wallpaper above the chair rail, which has replaced the original marbled paint. Shortening the height of the original seven-foot pony wall to its existing four opened up the room and gave the illusion of more space. The new marble bowl is from Stone Forest and the wall sconces are from Hans Duus

7. Find Key Unique Pieces for a Unique Home

Carved sideboard on a white wall with gold framed flowers and a traditional table lamp and dark wood flooring

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

Designer Courtney Thomas took the time to research and find the perfect pieces for this unusual home. Knowing that her clients were fascinated by the house’s history and enjoyed being surrounded by original furnishings, she knew they would be willing to wait for good things to come along.

The carved living room sideboard (above) and armoire (below), both by Revival Antiques, are prime examples of how Courtney’s choices and updates have actually brought the home closer to its origins and enhanced its period features, while introducing a fresher, more contemporary look.

It’s exactly what clients asked for in their original brief and for anyone considering a renovation, it’s a great lesson in how to update an old home without compromising its historic integrity.

Dark wood cabinet with ornate carvings next to white wall with blue sofa edge in front

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)


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