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before and afterInteriors

Before & After: The Budget-Conscious Restoration of A Mid-Century Marvel

by Sofia Tuovinen

Before and After: The Budget-Conscious Restoration of A Mid-Century Marvel | Design*Droits-Humains

When artist and designer  () and her husband, TV executive Geoff Katz, began house hunting in Los Angeles, they had a few must-haves on their real estate wish list. They wanted a home with privacy, views, open ceilings, great light and a location close to Geoff’s work. After a year of patiently visiting open houses, they fell head over heels for a mid-century modern home in Bel Air. Located next to beautiful open parkland that will never be developed, the property had them hooked at first sight. The catch? The house had been neglected for over 40 years and was in desperate need of repair. Despite multiple offers on this fixer-upper dream, Christa and Geoff managed to win it by being persistent. “We were the back-up offer — the first offer fell through! It was meant to be,” Christa reveals.

The couple had 12 weeks from getting the keys to their move-in date, which meant no second guesses during the design stage. Christa began designing the kitchen and bathrooms during escrow and ordered everything from cabinets, faucets, and bath fixtures to tile and lighting as soon as the house was officially theirs. After that, she moved on to rework the floor plan and finally, select materials, finishes, and colors for the remaining parts of the house. The main goal was to accentuate the indoor-outdoor appeal and bring more sunlight to the darker corners of the house. “I started with a palette. I had images of natural wood, clean white paint, and ocean blue doors. Nothing too precious, everything sort of lived-in and casual,” Christa describes the design process. “My mantra was to ‘do the simple thing’ — if I thought of a solution that was quick and affordable, we did it and moved on.” After three months of large-scale renovations, big decisions, and finishing touches, Christa and Geoff finally have a home that they love inside and out. Their spare time has now shifted from reno mode to blissful relaxation — if anyone asks, you’ll find the couple piled up in bed with their pets, admiring the view over the Santa Monica mountains. —

Photography by  /

Image above: Christa originally wanted to paint the ceilings and trims white as they were in bad shape, but it would have been too costly and time-consuming. She and Geoff decided they liked the stripped wood well enough and opted to seal it. As the wood ceiling remained, the plan to install wide plank floors was dropped — instead, the couple had the existing concrete slabs polished. “The result is a much more raw and patinated look that gives the house more character,” Christa says. 

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The original light fixtures were installed on the beams, which left limited room underneath. Christa had the new light fixtures attached to the ceilings instead for a more spacious look and better flow. The mahogany paneling was sanded and continues the tone of the ceiling for added warmth. It also serves as the perfect backdrop for Christa’s cloud paintings.

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The light-filled living room needed the least work. “We removed the carpet, polished the floors and stripped the old stain color off the trim and ceilings. I love the windows and the door to our courtyard,” Christa explains. 

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The couple’s old Restoration Hardware Fulham sofa fits perfectly in front of the entry atrium’s ribbed glass wall. “I’ve learned that my favorite pieces of furniture will always find a spot,” Christa shares. She also mentions a curious detail, “The previous owner played piano and set up this room as a sort of piano bar complete with barber pole!”

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This big sunny corner in the living room looks out on an enclosed courtyard where I plan to replace the fence and plant fruit trees,” Christa shares. 

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The fireplace, centered between the living and dining areas, is a true highlight of the home. The original fireplace featured a long brick hearth and exterior stucco on the wall, a head-scratcher for Christa. “I think the intention was to carry the indoor-outdoor theme through, but it looked weird and was really dirty,” she says. “I removed the hearth and went with a smaller shelf, which we covered in . We plastered over the wall in a soft warm gray Venetian plaster, which highlights the simple curved opening of the fireplace. […] Now it’s a perfect spot to cuddle dogs and read books.”

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Christa opted for traditional globe lights throughout the house to allow the spaces to flow together and look bigger. The hallway between the kitchen and the entry foyer now hides a stacked washer and dryer behind flush walnut panels. 

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We love our rubber tree that grows from a spot next the front door and creeps all the way to the front of the house,” Christa says. “Originally the front door opened to a masonry wall. We removed the stone [and] then painted the wall Simply White. What a difference.” The front doors are painted in . 

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For the last three years, has worked exclusively as an interior designer, renovator, and artist.

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The original kitchen was blocked by a big lightbox that hung low. As the kitchen was in overall poor condition, Christa started the design from scratch. “Although the kitchen is new, the flush doors and clean lines work nicely with the mid-century architecture of the house,” she says.

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“I knew from the start how I would lay out this kitchen with a big island. I like one big, deep sink that hides the dishes until I’m ready to do them.” The butcher block that originally stood in the heart of the kitchen found a new spot on the patio.

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I cook a lot and the offset positions of the sink and range work very well for me. When standing at the sink I can look out at the pool and the hillside park,” Christa shares. 

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The IKEA kitchen cabinets were wrapped in walnut plywood. The countertops are Caesarstone Raw Concrete and were chosen to match the concrete floors. “I’ve been doing a lot of figure sculpture lately and the spot over the fridge is a good place to store the work,” Christa notes.

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This is a working kitchen. We cook, eat, do work, sketch, fold laundry, tend plants — everything happens on the island.”

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Christa likes to change the decorative objects on the kitchen shelves from time to time. The orange painting is a study that she did for her cloud art series. The backsplash is dual glaze tile from  overstock.

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The bedroom has doors and windows facing the patio. The back wall is lined with IKEA Pax wardrobes. “We kept the same color palette throughout the house, which lends a calming sense of wholeness,” Christa notes.

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The Mañana leaning lamp is an old favorite and serves as a reading light in the bedroom. The blanket adds bright color to the neutral space. 

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There used to be a big closet separating the main bathroom from the bedroom. Christa and Geoff removed the closet and put in a wall. Christa also designed windows at the top of the wall to allow for natural light to carry from the bathroom to the bedroom.

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Although the old sinks had some charm to them, the new bathroom layout required a new vanity. The couple chose to repurpose a sideboard from Crate & Barrel and added sinks on top. Wall mounted taps and socket lights are the finishing touch.

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The main bathroom is a proud moment for Christa. She opened up the layout of the space and added sliding doors that open to the pool. “Now when in the tub or shower, we can look out at the views, it’s easy to rinse off after a swim,” she says. The Heath tile wouldn’t normally have been in the budget, but when Christa saw a lot of the 2×4 Blue Heron tile in the overstock section she didn’t hesitate to snag it at the discounted price.

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As the main bathroom is a fairly small space, Christa decided not to install a shower door. “Everyone asks whether water gets everywhere, and the answer is no. Rain shower style tends to direct water down, not at an angle, so it stays contained,” she explains. Not shown is the sliding door leading to the backyard. “We can look out at views but the glass is treated so no one can see in.”

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The backyard, complete with a pool, offers stunning views over the Santa Monica mountains. Photo by .

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The spare room is long and narrow, and serves as the couple’s multipurpose space, guest room and art studio. “I need to install more built-in shelving to get it to work more efficiently and I would love to add a skylight,” Christa says. 

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The couple expanded the guest bathroom into a utility closet, which allowed for a new 3’x3′ shower stall. “For tile we used a simple subway and penny tile combination, which is not exactly mid-century authentic but I feel like it works here,” Christa adds.

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Floor plan of Christa and Geoff’s Bel Air home, designed by architect Bill Mack.

SOURCE LIST

Exterior and Outdoor Spaces
All interior/exterior walls – Benjamin Moore Simply White
Rubio Monocoat Natural wood sealant on ceilings and trim
Doors – Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue
Doorknobs – Baldwin Tubular handles in Satin Nickel finish. Globe lights from Wayfair

Entryway
Clothespin cedar bench – “Molletta” by Riva 1920

Living Room
Sofa – Restoration Hardware Fulham (discontinued)
Blanket – Garza Marfa
Pillows – Etsy and CB2
Custom reclaimed wood and carjack coffee table
Lounge chair and ottoman – Eames from DWR.com
Eames rocker, LCW chair and console – Modernica
Tolomeo mega floor lamp – DWR
Venetian plaster fireplace wall – Heath tile in Heron Blue for fireplace shelf
Moroccan rug and pillows – HD Buttercup
Dog Agnes – Oakland Animal Shelter
Wood “Peace” sculpture – made by Christa’s dad, artist

Dining Area
Air force academy chairs – vintage
Oak table with safety glass top – custom
Painting –
Credenza – BluDot

Kitchen
Cabinets – IKEA Voxtorp
Walnut shelves, side panels and toe kicks – custom
Raw Concrete Caesarstone counters
Heath dual glaze backsplash tile
Range and dishwasher – Bosch
Refrigerator – Fisher & Paykel
Microwave – IKEA
Faucet – Grohe
Sink – Kraus
Dishes – Heath
Whale butter dish – Jonathan Adler
Flow rug, paintings and sculptures –

Bathrooms
Both baths:

Floors – SomerTile penny tile in Silk
Shower walls – DalTile Restore 3×12 white subway tile
Faucets/shower hardware – Grohe
Toilets – Toto
Socket lights with chrome tipped bulbs – Commune
Wall hook – BluDot Wook

Main bath:
Soaking tub – Perlato
2×4 tile – Heath in Heron Blue
Big Sur sideboard – Crate&Barrel converted to a vanity
Sinks – Vigo
Mirrors – Target Project 62, painted to match lights

Guest bath:
Vanity – reclaimed Russian Oak from Restoration Hardware
Mirror – WestElm.

Bedrooms
Blanket – Garza Marfa
Headboard – Target Beekman 1802
Pillows – Etsy
Lamp – Mañana
Custom reclaimed wood bench
Infinity mirror – Target Beekman 1802
Closets – IKEA with Fardal doors and Schoolhouse pulls (in guest room)
Leather daybed – CB2 Lawndale
Rug – West Elm (main bedroom)
Rug – Serena and Lily (guest bedroom)
Side table – Eames vintage light bulb lamp (on floor)

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Comments

  • What an incredibly stunning remodel. I particularly love your kitchen and bathroom ideas. Using walnut plywood to wrap the IKEA cabinets is genius and turned out great. Thank you for sharing your home!

  • I love how they kept so much of the original character of the home in the remodel. The upgrades blend seamlessly, and to my untrained eye, look more in keeping with MCM than the original! Nice job. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thanks to Sofia, Kelli, Grace and everyone at Design*Droits-Humains for putting together this story. Thanks to you readers for your kind comments. Note, the house is safe from the recent fires.

  • Design note. Maybe don’t put a huge black arrow circle over a light fitting that you are referring to in the description. I’m sure it looks great as the rest of the house does too, but as someone hunting for light fittings it’d be nice to see them.

  • Great house, and lovely remodel. However, budget and Bel Air don’t usually go hand in hand. I’d be curious how much the house sold for.

    • Hi Bob! The neighborhood is more ‘Bel Air adjacent’ but that’s the best I could do as far as describing location within the vast borders of Los Angeles. For the area, this modest 1400 sf. house was considered a tear down. The “budget” part refers to the remodel. I utilized common materials – tile, cement, plywood, standard consumer appliances, Ikea cabinets and stocked fixtures I could buy online. Having everything delivered quickly meant we could get the house finished in 12 weeks which was a real budget saver.

  • Christa, you nailed it! Your home looks amazing – so bright, clean and cohesive. You made so many thoughtful, powerful choices – that kitchen layout, opening up certain doorways to the ceiling…and that master bath! It must feel so fulfilling to inhabit a space on which you’ve had such a thorough positive impact. Thank you for sharing. (Also, soooo jealous of your access to Heath’s bargain bin! No dice here on the east coast.)

  • Tastefully done and framed intuitively by Sofia! One of the better “Before & Afters” I’ve read! Photos actually were of the the same reference point so I could compare the before and after spaces, imagine that!

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