Ruthie Sommers, Ruthie Sommers Interior Design, email@example.com.
Photographs by Grey Crawford
Text by Candace Ord Manroe
Produced by Laura Hull
Some clients keep their designers on a short leash to avoid surprises. Then there's Lisa and Brad Weinstock. These Los Angeles homeowners confidently snipped the tethers restraining interior designer Ruthie Sommers and sent her racing into the realm of the unexpected. Their only mandate was a mild, "Surprise us, please."
Built in 1933, the Weinstocks' Spanish Colonial-style home in Hancock Park had had only one owner--remarkable, given Southern California's propensity for change. "It had never been altered," says Lisa, a stay-at-home mom with a background in interior design. "It was terrific because the house was in its original state, but we wanted to bring it up to the present. We wanted to respect the character and age, but we also wanted a surprise here and there. Some unpredictability."
Not too much to ask of Sommers, who's known for her youthful palette, fresh touch with texture, and knack for the uniquely eclectic. "Trust was a big factor," notes the designer, who insists that the remodel and decoration were a team effort with both Lisa and Brad, a real estate and Internet executive, actively engaged. "When you have a real collaboration, the results are better," Sommers muses. "Things I might have resisted as a designer--like the two big swivel club chairs and piano that Brad wanted for the living room--end up making a more livable home, which means a better design."
Livability, in fact, was not negotiable. The Weinstocks have three small children and one big dog. Every room had to be approachable: family-friendly any time, all the time. Add to that Lisa's fondness for French design and the standards of elegance implied by that, and the playing field became oppositional. But Sommers turned that tension to the design's advantage, elevating family function a notch on the fineness chart, while tamping down French style's fussy self-importance.
Mainly, she had fun. No room attests to this more than the breakfast area. Because Lisa wanted this to be a family hub, Sommers hit on a sweet conceit, designing a space that suggests an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. She convinced Lisa that the walls should be slathered with thick mocha-and-white stripes, while the ceiling and lower wall beneath the chair rail would be painted pastel pink. Into this lively backdrop, she centered a simple Saarinen table and surrounded it with a rainbow of chairs, each upholstered in a different cupcake-frosting color. Sommers found the vintage chairs in Palm Beach, then painted them crisp cottage white.
To give Lisa the elegance she appreciates and at the same time deliver a design durable for children and pets, the designer headed to a clothing fabric store. She purchased 11/2 yards of linen for each chair, with each fabric from a different, intensely saturated dye lot. Then she treated the fabrics with a matte laminate to give them the function of vinyl sans the stigma of plastic. Finally, she tufted the tops for a hint of grown-up glam. "I love this room," praises Lisa. "With three small children, spills happen. These chairs can be wiped clean, but they still have nice linen beneath the laminate."
Trying to maintain the original footprint as much as possible while still meeting their family's needs, the Weinstocks gently enlarged the kitchen by extending it to replace a patio. Then they followed the same lines upstairs, capturing new square footage from an old sleeping porch.
"The original kitchen was quite small," reflects Lisa, "and we needed a space that would allow us to see the children when they play outside." They achieved that goal and also improved the kitchen's architecture with a coffered ceiling and symmetrical arches. "To the right of the fridge, we tore out what had been a little phone-booth alcove, arched the opening, and added bookshelves," she explains. The new arch mirrors the original one on the refrigerator's other side, which leads to the original butler's pantry and on to the dining room.
An insouciant attitude is announced upon entering the home. An old bergère (Sommers calls it a "granny chair") morphed from fusty to saucy when re-covered in a bright pink flame stitch and trimmed out in pink welting with nailheads. "The inspiration actually came from a chair Lisa had admired in Traditional Home," Sommers acknowledges.
With a predominantly cool and understated palette, formal symmetrical balance, and a smattering of antiques, the living room has the feel of a traditional tearoom, which was Lisa's desire. But like the other rooms, it packs a surprise. A collection of funky busts and child-art on the mantel, plus warm, rhythmic animal prints on the chairs make it snap. "It also has a big, comfortable sofa covered in an approachable [linen] fabric, and a fairly informal coffee table," points out Sommers.
In the dining room, orange Fortuny fabric on the repro Chippendale chairs and a scenic de Gournay wallpaper above the wainscoting honor Lisa's old-world sensibility, but in a youthful, kicky palette of orange and pink. An undressed window outlined with orange tape (an easy DIY-er) and a sisal rug underfoot complete the casual balance needed for a room used every Friday night for family dinner and throughout the week as the gathering place where the children work on their arts and crafts.
The family room features a design that gets up close and personal with the homeowners, particularly the children. "We had each of the three children's initials embroidered on the three back cushions of the big, bright red sofa," reflects Sommers. White welting and polka-dot trim on the dust ruffle spell nothing if not playfulness.
In contrast to the bold, primary colors of the family room, Lisa's home office is soft and pretty, indulging the Francophile with a beautiful green-and-pink toile that covers the furniture and dresses the windows. "The room has its original paneling and stenciled ceiling, but the toile really brings it to life," Lisa says. "It also was my chance to have a more feminine space." (Lisa was less insistent this go-round that every room be infused with French design, having exhausted the style in their last home.)
"Lisa and Brad are very cool, down-to-earth yet sophisticated people who wanted a fresh eye and innovation in their home without seeming too trendy," Sommers summarizes. She gave them what they wanted. Surprise!
Small 18th-century Italian busts, kid art, a mid-century French mirror, and an Oberto Gili photograph add zest on the living room mantel. Livable linens in cool hues mix with an animal print to balance quiet comfort with youthful energy.
Area rugs: Lawrence of La Brea, 323/935-1100.
Upholstered ottomans (custom): Hollyhock, 310/777-0100.
Sofa (custom); end tables (custom): Ruthie Sommers Interior Design, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pillows (glazed silk, by Suzanne Rheinstein): Hollyhock, 310/777-0100.
Pair of chairs: owner's collection.
Chair fabric (discontinued): Zimmer +Rohde, 866/627-6899, trade only.
Coffee table: Brenda Antin Inc., 310/393-0042.
Chair by fireplace: antique.
Desk; sconces: owner's collection.
Mirror: Ruthie Sommers Interior Design, email@example.com.
Photograph (by Johnny Nicoloro): Nicoloro Photography, 310/657-3529, nicolorophotography.com.
Lamp; vases: Hollyhock, 310/777-0100.
Blinds: Smith + Noble, 800/248-8888, smithandnoble.com.
Drapery (custom): Diamond Foam & Fabric, 323/931-8148.
Paint ("Pale Powder'' #204): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121.
In the entry, Ruthie Sommers upholstered what she calls "a granny chair" in a bright pink flame stitch. The leopard print carpet camouflages the heavy traffic of three kids and a dog.
Chair (custom): Ruthie Sommers Interior Design, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chair fabric: Schumacher.
Table (vintage, Paris flea market): owner's collection.
Mirror (Collection La Cienega): The Collection Los Angeles, 310/855-0111.
Sconces (vintage): 1st Dibs, 1stdibs.com.
Rug: Melrose Discount Carpets Inc., 310/275-3601.
A chair rail and wainscoting increased architectural interest in the dining room and carved out a canvas for an elegant mural-style wallpaper. A more youthful note is struck with the sisal rug and curtain-free windows outlined in orange tape to accentuate the Fortuny upholstery on the dining chairs.
Table: Pierre Deux, 888/743-7732, pierredeux.com.
Chairs: owner's collection.
Chair fabric: Fortuny Fabrics, 212/753-7153, trade only. Through Keith McCoy & Assoc., 310/657-7150, trade only.
Wallpaper: De Gournay, 212/564-9750, degournay.com, trade only.
Side table (vintage): Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles, bonhams.com.
Rug: Melrose Discount Carpets Inc., 310/275-3601, melrosecarpet.com.
The renovated kitchen, enlarged to take in a former patio, displays the attention to detail that characterizes the home's original architecture. A new arch to the right of the refrigerator was created for symmetry.
Tall chairs: Pottery Barn, 800/922-5507, potterybarn.com.
Rug: Lawrence of La Brea, 323/935-1100.
Lights: Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323, circalighting.com.
Cabinetry: Dig It Furniture, 310/392-4583, digitfurniture.com.
Faucet: Kohler, 800/456-4537, kohler.com.
Refrigerator: Sub-Zero Inc., 800/222-7820, subzero.com.
Paint ("Linen White''): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
The ice-cream-parlor-style breakfast room is a favorite of Georgie's and her siblings. The children's portraits decorate the walls.
Table (Saarinen): Knoll, 877/615-6655, knoll.com.
Chairs (vintage); chandelier (antique): Sabina Danenburg Antiques, 305/562-2290.
Chair fabric (linen, laminated): International Silks & Woolens, 323/653-6453, internationalsilks.com.
Portraits: owner's collection.
Wall paint ("Mink'' #2112-10, and "Linen White''): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
The built-in cabinets are original to the breakfast room, but the backs are painted pink to match the ceiling.
"I love the toile fabric in my office," says Lisa. "It really connects with the outdoors and brings the greenery inside." Yet even this most feminine of spaces isn't too fragile for the kids, as 3-year-old daughter Eden demonstrates. The antique desk was found at an estate sale.
Sofa, chair, and shade fabric (by Manuel Canovas): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, trade only.
Rug: Melrose Discount Carpets Inc., 310/275-3601, melrosecarpet.com.
Desk; desk chair: owner's collection.
Lamps: James &Jeffrey Antiques, 561/832-7987.
The master suite is feminine without being frilly. The headboard is custom made, modeled after one seen in a magazine.
Bed (custom); headboard fabric: Ruthie Sommers Interior Design, email@example.com.
Night stand (custom): Dragonette Decorative Arts, 310/855-9091.
Lamp: Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323, circalighting.com.
Fabric for blinds: Clarence House, 800/803-2850, clarencehouse.com, trade only.
Bedding; decorative pillow on bed: owner's collection.
Paint ("Lamp Room Gray'' #88): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, farrow-ball.com.
The Spanish Colonial-style architecture had remained untouched since the home was built in 1933.
Fountain; bench; large pots: owner's collection.
The backyard patio, with an outdoor fireplace. Designer Sommers suggested a diamond-patterned patio with grass in between the pavers to add to the elegance of the fireplace.
The Weinstocks, from left, Julian, Brad, Georgie, Lisa, and Eden.
Sofa; chair: Wertz Brothers, 310/477-4251, wertzbrothers.com.
Sofa fabric: Fabricut, 800/999-8200, trade only.
Monogram: Monogrammit, 310/652-6001, monogrammit.com.
Chair fabric: Diamond Foam & Fabric, 323/931-8148.
Trim: Houles through Brunschwig & Fils, 800/538-1880, trade only.
Coffee table; art: owner's collection.
Drapery: Schumacher, fschumacher.com, trade only.
Wall paint ("Ivory White'' #925): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
Trim paint ("Club Navy'' #TH67): Ralph Lauren Paint, 800/379-7656, ralphlaurenhome.com.
A year in Paris and an open attitude meant L.A. designer Ruthie Sommers, above, clicked with the Francophile-friendly Weinstocks, who had some ideas of their own. Example: "Lisa found a chair trimmed with pink welting and nailheads that she loved in an old Traditional Home," says Sommers. "We copied it on the granny chair in the entry hall (see slide 3). But instead of using burlap like the chair in the magazine, we used a softer flame stitch updated in a pink colorway."