In October 2015, interior designer Elspeth Benoit left the Bay Area for Los Angeles in search of the perfect home for her and her family. She wanted a space with unique architectural character, good bones, and most importantly, the potential to transform to meet her growing family’s needs.
She came across this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom in the Silverlake neighborhood of L.A. perched on a hillside. At first, the photos and view from the street looked completely unassuming. The house’s unconventional layout also threw Benoit off; the primary bedroom was upstairs, while the two bedrooms were on the main level separated by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom—an inconvenient setup for her two-year-old and baby on the way.
“Our relator pushed us to see it because she’d seen it the previous time it had sold and it had left an impression on her,” she explains. It wasn’t until the designer visited the house in person that she realized just how special this home was.
“The second you step in, the house opens up to you. The ceilings are really high, you have exposed beams, and there are incredible views out over Los Angeles in the rear. You feel like you’re up in the trees—it’s just amazing,” she says.
The 2,162-square-foot home was built in 1975 and features the original tongue and groove paneling. Benoit initially painted everything white―even the floors―which were different species of wood with unattractive orange undertones. Over the next two years, she made mental checklists of everything she wanted to change, including things that would increase the functionality for her family.
“A lot of it is the power of paints and wall surfaces, like texture,” she says of the renovation. She used Roman Clay in the kitchen and primary bathroom for a rustic, textured look. Aside from mainly cosmetic changes, it was important for Benoit that the renovation was respectful of the existing house.
“You still wanted to feel like you stepped into that house the first day that we stepped into it. I didn’t want it to be unrecognizable.”
Benoit set out to preserve the architectural charm of the house while making functional yet impactful adjustments, like replacing the windows in the living room with french doors, and installing bifold doors to connect the living room and front yard for her kids. The furnishings and staging of the home was designed by Kirsten Blazek of a1000xbetter when Benoit put the house for sale in 2020.
Benoit expanded the narrow galley kitchen by knocking down the adjacent pantry/laundry room and adding in a powder room. She installed dramatic skylights to bring the lush outdoor greenery indoors. For the cabinetry, she opted for the warmth of oak antique wood veneer that nicely complimented the home’s tongue and groove paneling. The countertops are Quartzite with shimmers of green and pink, while the modern appliances are from Blue Starand Liebherr.
“I feel like the kids drove a lot of the design,” she says. “The floors are Carrera marble slabs that we cut down into different sized floor tiles. And that was in response to the crazy mess the other floors showed―these hide everything.”
The original asymmetrical floor-to-ceiling bookshelves couldn’t withstand the weight of the family’s extensive book and record collection, so Benoit came up with a new design that includes a clever new addition. She installed closed storage beneath the bookcase for her kids to store books, toys, and other knickknacks.
For the walls, Benoit initially painted the room white, but later felt like she needed to introduce more color into the space. The French doors had already been painted a lovely bright yellow, but the room was missing some “oomph,” she says.
“There’s a really big painting that’s in the living room near the fireplace and that painting was kind of the jumping off point,” she adds. “That really pale pink just complemented that painting so beautifully, and it ended up looking really nice in the rest of the room. It gave it a little but of a twist, and it wasn’t as expected.”
The only room where the walls stayed white throughout the entire process was in the main bedroom. “We ended up keeping it white because it felt nice, calm, and neutral when we had so much playful color to the rest of the house,” she says.
In the bedroom, designer Kirsten’s unique touch shines through the vintage pieces infused with modern details. The bed, art, and floor lamps were hand-picked at local thrift stores and flea markets. The rug is from BlueParakeet Rugs and the credenza is from Article.
In the main bathroom, Benoit used dark clay tile to create a dark, moody moment that contrasts the bright neutral palette of the bedroom. She balanced the darkness with natural light coming from the skylights.
“We put that really big picture window in and then we also added three skylights in the ceilings. Because of all that extra light, having the darker color in there, it feels very cozy and not gloomy. You see the trees outside and it feels really lovely,” she says.
In keeping with the dark blue-grey color scheme, she selected a Calacatta Viola marble slab for the shower and the vanity. Benoit altered the design of the slab to include push-to-open drawers for extra storage, which seamlessly blends in with the vanity design.
The outdoors proved to be challenging because of the home’s location on a steep hill. Benoit took advantage of the front yard’s extra space, which “saved them” during the beginning of the pandemic, she says. The quaint outdoor porch and deck in the rear are ideal for entertaining and alfresco dining.
“Our landscape designer was able to carve out a space at the far end, so we used to have a little climbing bubble and trampoline there,” she explains. “We planted guava trees, and it was really amazing for the kids to be able to pick the fruit and be excited about ever year. We also did a little planter garden. We really used up every space that we had out there.”