Frankie Shaw, the writer, actor and director behind darkly hilarious US series SMILF, is used to shocking people and making them smile – often at the same time. It’s no surprise, then, that when she and her husband, fellow screenwriter Zach Strauss, first discovered this Monterey colonial-style home in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, they decided its bland, white interior had to go.
Intent on turning a blank canvas into a bright family home, the couple contacted Frances Merrill, founder of interior design studio Reath Design. The firm has earned a reputation for being brave when it comes to colour, so when Frankie and Zach proposed the striking terracotta that now decorates the walls and ceiling in the entrance hall, Frances was excited. ‘I love working with writers, especially ones in television and film, because they understand visual storytelling,’ she explains. ‘I always need there to be a story.’
Describing herself as ‘pro personality rather than pro maximalism’, Frances took inspiration from Frankie’s wardrobe – specifically what she describes as her ‘technicolour dream coat’ – to create an interior that combines audaciously vivid terracotta with an egg-yolk yellow kitchen, calming pink living room and a wealth of eye-catching wallpapers and fabrics. For Frances, the secret to making an adventurous palette work is flow, balance and fearlessness. ‘It’s a matter of trying it out and, ultimately, not being afraid,’ she explains. ‘We’re using vibrant colours but they don’t, I hope, feel like they are yelling at you.’
There may be much about this home that is daring, but care has also been taken to preserve traditional details where they exist, and to reinstate them where they have been lost. White paint has been stripped from the window frames to reveal the original steel beneath and the wooden kitchen cabinets, although new, are more in keeping with the building’s architectural heritage than the white laminate units that they replaced. Similarly, adjustments to the layout have been subtle. A small section of dividing wall between the kitchen and dining area, completely removed by the previous owners, has been rebuilt to create a cosy, cocooning feel that’s heightened by a bold pattern.
‘There has to be some chance-taking in design,’ says Frances. One positive outcome of the return of maximalist interiors, she believes, is that it will free people to make decisions based on what they like, not what they think will look good in 10 years’ time. Frankie agrees. ‘It’s like a cartoon I saw in The New Yorker recently: “I know the schools are good, but is this really the house we want to ride out the apocalypse in?” Now, my answer is yes!’ reathdesign.com
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration April 2020
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