An Interior Designer’s Los Angeles Home Is Also Her Laboratory

BEFORE THE INTERIOR designer and self-proclaimed home curator Sally Breer and her husband, a general contractor named Dan Medina, moved into their current Los Angeles house, they rented a 1970s-inspired loft in a commercial complex in the city’s industrial Frogtown neighborhood for many years. An exercise in louche minimalism, it was perfect for a couple — with a leather pad for seating on the cement floor and rigid, Donald Judd-esque plywood dining chairs — but hardly right for a family. Once they had a child, they moved into a post-and-beam midcentury “tree fort,” as the pair called it, with a hollow barn door that separated the living space from their baby’s room, preventing them from ever throwing dinner parties. So in 2019, when they purchased a 1950s ranch-style property in the Eastside neighborhood of Eagle Rock, the “first goal,” says Breer, who was pregnant with her second child during the renovation, “was to get our kids’ bedrooms as far away as possible so that we can live our lives at night.”

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Breer, 34, has the frenetic, frank, almost childlike energy of a creative woman who spends her days selling her occasionally wacky ideas to clients, whether she’s personalizing homes for the actor Chelsea Peretti and the director Jordan Peele or conceptualizing local hotels and restaurants. As half of Los Angeles’s Etc.etera design firm, she and her then-professional partner, Jake Rodehuth-Harrison, were at the vanguard of many of the past decade’s predominant American decorating trends, from sourcing heavily veined marbles in surprising patterns and tones to incorporating low-to-the-ground, undulating vintage sofas and chairs. According to the designer, who earlier this year established her own practice, Sally Breer World, her new place would be the “kind of modern mom-and-dad house where everything is kid-friendly, more or less.”

In the living room, a 1970s leather Milo Baughman love seat, a pair of cedar side tables by Dan John Anderson, 1950s blackened Bentwood chairs with shearling upholstered seat cushions and a copper Tangle by Richard X Zawitz.Credit…Joyce Kim
Breer made most of the items in her daughter, Hazel’s, room, including a mirror of plaster and abalone, a cotton gingham tent and a sunflower mural inspired by Hazel’s favorite “Frog and Toad” books. The Italian lounge chair is from the 1940s and is covered in a deadstock quilt fabric.Credit…Joyce Kim
In the primary bedroom, a pair of marble and steel night stands Breer designed and fabricated in collaboration with Simon St. James LeComte, with a peach BZippy vase on the left.Credit…Joyce Kim

But pulling that off wasn’t without its challenges. The 2,300-square-foot home that Breer and Medina, 45, found hadn’t been updated since it was constructed 70 years earlier. It had just two big bedrooms, an outdated bathroom and small living and dining rooms; although it also had picturesque front and backyards planted with decades-old palm, pine and oak trees and original, black-bordered casement windows that spanned nearly the entirety of some walls.

The couple spent the next few months puzzling out different floor plans. Ultimately, they moved nearly every wall to create rooms for their two children (Hazel, 4; Ozzy, 2); a substantial living room with a chef’s kitchen and dining area beside it; and a light-filled primary suite at the end of a long, snaking hallway.

In the living room, a 1960s Jumbo marble coffee table by Gae Aulenti for Knoll International and a custom sofa designed by Breer and fabricated by SBW. An oil painting by Breer’s father, Robert Breer, and metal wall sconces by Giuseppe Cormio for Guzzini hang on the walls.Credit…Joyce Kim
The walls and floor of the primary bathroom are a mauve tadelakt. On the floor, a Moroccan wool rug from the 1970s.Credit…Joyce Kim

WHILE THOSE EARLY decisions were driven by practicality, the first years of the pandemic — when the two of them worked mostly from home in a garage off the backyard that they converted into a shared office — offered endless days and nights to tinker, as they, for instance, repainted the kitchen cabinets twice (they settled on a glossy khaki taupe) and took on countless craft and construction projects. In Hazel’s room, Breer painted several giant yellow daisies freehand on one wall, inspired by Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” book series (1970-79), and later surrounded them in a pistachio green hue. She built an open-sided, four-poster, jungle-gym-like bed, covered in soft pink cotton velvet. Recently, Breer says, she made a “way better, cleaner” version of it for another residential commission; her husband, she says, has taken to calling their home the Lab.

In the office space, a custom-designed whitewashed birch table and a Formica Russian birch plywood desk with linen curtains. Above the table, a perforated green pendant light created with LeComte.Credit…Joyce Kim
The floors and walls of the children’s bathroom are tiled with Golden Henna zellige from Clé.Credit…Joyce Kim
In the office space, a Danish midcentury love seat and a gray-and-white checkered Moroccan wool rug.Credit…Joyce Kim

For what is a house if not a place to constantly experiment? Breer, who grew up in New York City as the daughter of the avant-garde animation artist Robert Breer, considers herself an avid crafter; she relishes homemade patina and imperfections, often relying upon her cadre of downtown upholsterers, fabricators, furniture makers, deadstock-fabric dealers and other partners to prototype whatever visions spring to mind. Bespoke seating is a particular obsession: In the living room, there’s a custom love seat and a massive U-shaped sectional, upholstered in a beige indoor-outdoor textile with thin black pinstripes, upon which she often naps. As with the rest of the house, Breer says, “I like beauty, but I’m also a functional person, and there are specific proportions and depths and fabrics I like.” She makes her own (deeply comfortable) sofas for many of her clients and hopes to sell them as part of a future line.

In the backyard, Richard Schultz’s 1966 Dining Table for Knoll with powder-coated perforated dining chairs by RAD.Credit…Joyce Kim
For her son, Ozzy’s, room, Breer made a papier-mâché oven with silk gingham curtains and a papier-mâché, wire and disco mirror mobile that spells out his name. The brass and linen ceiling fixture is another collaboration with LeComte.Credit…Joyce Kim
Breer in the primary bedroom.Credit…Joyce Kim

Like every good experimenter, she doesn’t always love the results of her explorations. Sometimes, in fact, she’s not even sure she wants to stay in this house, which is the first one she and her husband bought together and fully collaborated on. “The minute we’re done” — which may be never — “I’m going to be like, ‘Great, now we’re ready to go,’” she says. On to another place on another street that they can tear down to its studs — and see what comes of it.

Photo assistant: Aliana Turkel

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