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Colorful Traditional Home in Los Angeles

It’s a tale of two coasts for one family and their new pacific palisades home

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Lu Tapp

    In 2010, Matt and Sue O’Connor faced a sudden move from Boston to Los Angeles, two coastal cities that couldn’t be more different. One coast welcomes the bright start of every day, and one ushers it into the dark each night. One boasts densely populated urban areas with soaring skyscrapers, and one dazzles with sunshine and movie stars. When it came to design, the O’Connors assumed their rooted-in-history antiques wouldn’t fall into place within the funky vernacular of California style. Or would they?

    Vintage wicker chairs shine in a new blue finish. Vibrant pillows extend the orange accent that weaves through the house.  

    Photography: Lu Tapp  
    Produced by Laura Hull

    Interior designer: Lara Fishman, Storm Interiors, Los Angeles; 310/820-5958;

    Fabric for seat cushion “New Batik” on Tint: Quadrille;
    Area rug: Rugs USA;
    Table “Mosaic Tiled Coffee Table”: West Elm;
    Hanging lantern “Charleston”: Shades of Light;
    Wall sconce “Filament Clear Glass Sconce”: Restoration Hardware;

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    New House

    “Moving to Los Angeles was not in our plan,” Sue says. “We had both lived on the East Coast our entire lives and had just completed our dream home—a 1740s farmhouse that we renovated and added onto to accommodate our growing family. When Matt was presented with a job opportunity in Los Angeles, we decided to take the risk, but weren’t ready to leave the Boston area behind. So we brought a lot of it with us.”

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    Pop of Pattern

    The move took the soon-to-be family of six (Sue was pregnant with Evie, now 6) and their truckload of furniture—chosen for its suitability to the 18th-century abode they were leaving—to a Pacific Palisades, California, spec property full of generic appointments that didn’t display a speck of the family’s personality. 

    Patterned pillows on the entryway bench add a dose of color to the white space.

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    Mirror, Mirror

    Unexpectedly, the O’Connors found their design solution on the sidelines of a soccer field. That’s where they met Lara Fishman, the mother of one of their daughter’s teammates and, more important for the look of their home, an interior designer.  

    “Sue knew exactly what she wanted,” Fishman says. “She has traditional taste but likes a little bit of edge and a lot of color. Making the house comfortable and livable for the kids—using materials that weren’t too precious—was a top priority. It was a great collaboration.”

    The mirrored panels of a white console reflect the colors of the family room.

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    Family Room

    The traditional part was easy. The furniture that trekked across the country was traditional indeed. The edge Sue wanted was missing, but Fishman knew she could modify the existing pieces into new forms that were imaginative and appropriate for the light and modernized vibe of California design.

    Throughout the house, spaces convey the playful attitude that Sue and Matt wanted for their children. In the family room, the clan piles on the sectional, covered in a forgiving blue velvet, to watch movies.

    Yellow snakeskin-look vinyl and silver nailheads blast high-wattage energy onto the ottoman, one of the family’s repurposed pieces. 

    Wall paint “Decorators White”: Benjamin Moore;
    Sectional sofa: Storm Interiors;
    Sofa fabric “Inspiration” in Denim, fabric for window shades #1672, faux leather for ottoman “Tannery” in Citron: Pindler;
    Framed photograph by Christopher Wilcox: Natural Curiosities;
    Pillow with yellow pattern on chair “Trellis” in Happy Yellow by Adam and Viktoria: Lisa Fontanarosa Collection;
    Throw on chair “Herringbone in Autumn”: Brahm’s Mount;
    Moroccan-style table “Imia Polished Metal”: Four Hands;
    Rug SOH424B in Blue and Green: Modern Rugs;
    Blue-and-white pillow at corner of sectional “Artichoke” in Prussian Blue, red-and-purple patterned pillow “Chinoiserie” in Prune Red and Violet, green patterned pillow “Ombré Tribe” in Blue and Frost Green, all by Adam and Viktoria: Lisa Fontanarosa Collection;
    Trays on ottoman: Accessory Preview;

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    Lovely Living Room

    A brave move paid off on the living room armchairs. In their former life, they wore burgundy velvet and dark nailheads. Fishman’s fanciful vision saw them mixing leather, a light blue plaid, and shiny silver nailheads that hint at the glamour of Los Angeles. “The pairing of fabric and leather creates great tension,” Fishman says. “It’s sharp but doesn’t try too hard.”

    The pale blue-and-white living room finds spirited contrast in its orange accessories that include artwork, pillow fabric, and a piece of pottery. 

    Wall paint “Lookout Point”: Benjamin Moore;
    Fabric for drapery and window shades “Eternity,” fabric on X bench “Fayola Marina”: Pindler;
    Iron rods and rings for drapery: Diversified Window Coverings;
    Sconces flanking mantel: Restoration Hardware;
    Glass containers on mantel, turquoise vase and blue urn on side table, orange pottery crock on table: Mortise & Tenon;
    Settee and chair re-laquering, cocktail table: Storm Interiors;
    Settee fabric “Tashkent” in Windsor Blue on Linen, seat cushion fabric “Sorrento” in Vanilla: Quadrille;
    Blue-and-white pillows on settee “Atti” in Indigo: John Robshaw;
    Blue, tan, and white pillows on settee “Sultan’s Garden” in Indigo and Saffron: Martyn Lawrence Bullard;
    Side tables “Costello Iron Side Tables” in Antique Brass: Arteriors;
    Glass cube sculpture: Accessory Preview;
    Orange-and-cream pillows on chairs “Medallion” in Melon and Camel on Cream Linen: Home Couture;
    Blue pillows on chairs: West Elm;

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    Pretty Pillows

    Arranged with the matching chairs, a settee is covered in an oversize chevron pattern, a white cocktail table features a smoky mirror top, and a seagrass rug can manage the traffic of four kids.  

    Designer Lara Fishman refuses to design by rote. “I want to give my client that moment of ‘Had I never hired a designer, I wouldn’t have done that,’ ” she says. “It’s my job to offer something more.”

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    Vibrant Dining Room

    One example of an A-plus transformation: the French farmhouse dining table that was adorned with intricate embellishments. Fishman removed the trimmings, stripped its distressed finish, painted its base black, and shellacked the top in a durable high-gloss white finish. Teamed with Louis chairs manufactured in contrasting materials—four are acrylic, and two are covered in striking white lacquer and orange geometric fabric—the look is cool, current, and California.

    In the dining room, a turquoise, blue, and gold rug delivers intense color. Enhancing the room’s drama, five single pendants hang at varying heights.

    Wallcovering “Rajapur” in Onyx on Onyx, similar colors available: Cole & Son;
    Window shade fabric “Tyrone Marine”: Pindler;
    Area rug “Bombay”: Surya;
    Hanging lights “Antique Osgood Gold Leaf Pendants”: Arteriors;
    Dining table re-laquering, server, mirror above server: Storm Interiors;
    Host chairs “Stella”: Four Hands;
    Fabric for host chairs “Wavelength” in Orange and Shrimp by Alan Campbell: Quadrille;
    Side chairs “Ghost Chair” by Kartell: Lumens;
    White pitcher with flowers: Accessory Preview;
    Hurricane lamps: West Elm;

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    Light-Filled Kitchen

    In the kitchen, Sue and Matt trusted Fishman to nudge them out of their comfort zone. First, a bold turquoise beaded chandelier adds a colorful jolt above the banquette. There, a zinc-top table with overscale rivets is the foundation for new spindle chairs that were yanked out of their traditional origins and cushioned in shiny yellow patent vinyl. “I like how the zinc patinas and does its own thing,” Fishman says. “I would never present this material to clients who want everything perfect. It’s not what zinc is about.” 

    Natural light filters through the kitchen’s bamboo shades, the converse of the dark and weighty fabrics that dressed the windows in the O’Connors’ Boston home.

    Hanging lanterns at island, chairs at table by Noir Furniture: Candelabra;
    Window shades: WDS Designer Natural Shades;
    Chandelier “Catalonia in Turquoise”: Shine by S.H.O.;
    Built-in banquettes, table: Storm Interiors;
    Banquette cushion fabric, chair cushion vinyl: F&S Fabrics;

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    Gallery Wall

    Mirrors and framed artwork guide the eyes along the peach-colored wall.

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    Bunk Room

    Ten-year-old Matthew’s planet-theme bedroom features a geometric-covered ceiling that lets him imagine the stars.

    Wall paint “Classic Gray”: Benjamin Moore;
    Ceiling paper “Hicks Hexagon” in Blue and Gray: Cole & Son;
    Bed cover and sham “All Solar Systems Go,” orange pillow “Blast Off Throw Pillow,” planet Pluto pillow “Pluto Pillow,” star-patterned pillow sham: Land of Nod;

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    Daughter's Room

    Daughter Abbie’s chic bedroom mingles a tufted headboard, groovy rattan chairs, and a wire table. 

    Wall paint “Glass Slipper”: Benjamin Moore;
    Drapery fabric “Tyrone” in Seafoam: Pindler;
    Iron rods and rings for drapery: Diversified Window Coverings;
    Area rug: Rugs USA;
    Headboard “Adler Shelter Diamond-Tufted Fabric Headboard,” fabric for headboard and bed “White Belgian Linen”: Restoration Hardware;
    Blanket at end of bed, long rectangular pillow “Primrose Bolster,” pillows in chairs “Poppy” in Lotus— John Robshaw;
    Chairs “Comet Basket Chair”: Roost;
    White table “White Wire Drum Table”: Bend Goods;

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    Outdoor Living

    Outside, seating by the fireplace and pool pops with colorful accessories.

    After Sue and Matt bought their new Pacific Palisades, California, home, they added a pool and sleek lounge chairs topped with tangerine-trimmed pillows. 

    Chaise longues: AllModern;
    White side tables “Twist White Garden Stool,” turquoise side table “Chalice Garden Stool”: Emissary;
    Planters: Rolling Greens;
    Footed lanterns: West Elm;
    Hanging lights: Pottery Barn;

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    Easy Living

    A clutch of wicker orb pendants, found by Sue, dangles with textural charm above a chair swing on the porch. A mix of colorful cushions lifts the spirits of a chair swing while durable turquoise fabric peps up a cube-style table. 

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    Officially settled into their home, the O’Connors have proved that you never have to completely leave your beginnings behind. 

    “This house is cheerful, bright, different, and makes us proud,” Sue says. “Not only did we switch locations, we switched cultures, too. Part of our former life happily joined us here—the things we chose, the things we hunted for. Now, they have a California eye.”

    Electric-orange tables contrast the neutral wicker seating of the patio, where Sue and Matt O’Connor enjoy time with their children: Abbie, Evie, Caroline, and Matthew. 

    Sofas “Biscayne” in Gray: Restoration Hardware;
    Fabric for zigzag pillows: Pindler;
    Vinyl for blue cube seat: F&S Fabrics;
    White jars on outdoor mantel: Crate & Barrel;

  • Victoria Pearson