From efficient ADUs to spa-like bathrooms, home interior design in Los Angeles points to simplicity, utility, and going traditional
Above) Sweeten renovators and actor Jaime Ray Newman and Guy Nattiv’s LA renovation
Changes and challenges: Home interior design in Los Angeles
Diversity is king when it comes to home interior design in Los Angeles. The city has a sense of history, with styles spanning Spanish Colonial to Mission Revival, Beaux-Arts to Art Deco, Hollywood Regency to streamline 1930s modern. The desire to preserve those design styles is strong, as is the need to make homes liveable for today. Nationwide, COVID-19 inspired a shift in homeowner priorities, what rooms and features are important. Fortunately, for LA contractors and designers, remodeling has not missed a beat.
“We didn’t really see much of a change,” said Sweeten general contractor Trevor, who is based in LA. “It’s just a redirect.”
The challenge is more about materials shortages, delays, and rising costs “The cost of lumber is affecting building,” said Trevor. Sheet plywood, for example, has jumped from $18 to around $50, he said. “People are asking for alternatives to lumber, like tin framing used in commercial.”
Here, we review the rising trends in home design and remodeling in Los Angeles (plus a few design favorites that are here to stay.)
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renewed focus on outdoor living
“A lot more people are fixing their exterior,” said Trevor. “People want to spend money on outdoor hardscapes, swimming pools. In LA, that’s where you spend 60 percent of your time.”
LA-based designer Jeanne Chung agreed. “It’s all about indoor-outdoor living,” she said. NanaWalls, which fold in and extend the indoor space out to patios, are very popular. “They double the square footage of eating and entertaining areas,” said Jeanne.
The bonus of adding windows, especially large ones to foster the indoor/outdoor connection is gaining more natural light.
Homeowners are also investing in outdoor rooms. Pools, water features, outdoor kitchens, firepits, and extensive seating and dining areas are high on wish lists. Materials are more organic, “definitely going back to nature.” Trevor is using a lot of textured cement, stamped, and honed finishes. “A salt finish really is big. With mid-century, there’s a lot of tile work. We do ipe wood outdoors and a type of red hardwood that is slightly less hard than ipe, but about half the price.”
DUs and additions for more square footage
One rising trend for home interior design in Los Angeles is remodeling ADUs (accessory dwelling units). “It’s generating the biggest buzz,” said Trevor. These detached structures, often garages, are repurposed as guest houses, rentals, or home offices.
Many of her clients are adding to the existing footprint. “They’re knocking out walls to create a little extra space, as in bathrooms, for example.”
Above) Sweeten renovators Kirsty and David’s Mid-City/Miracle Mile home in LA
“You can build a second story,” said Sweeten contractor Trevor. “It’s contingent on the footprint of the existing structure. A lot are pushed outside of the setback, so they go high vertically. People are going for the max. It’s getting a lot of value on the price for square foot.”
Keeping kitchens fresh and updated
“It’s where you get the most bang for the buck,” said Trevor. The remodel here may happen more frequently than in other parts of the country. Apparently, design fatigue sets in earlier. He has returned to kitchens remodeled just two years before for a refresh. “It’s like changing wardrobes.”
LA kitchens tend to be large, mostly open plan, and gourmet with top-of-the-line professional appliances. But there’s not as much carving, ornate moldings, over-the-top use of stones. Instead, there’s more of a creative mix of materials. At the same time, the goal is more making it your own with custom looks—tile backsplashes, bold color ranges, and stove hoods.
Above) A verde stone blend backsplash in a LA renovation by designer Jeanne Chung. Photos by Peter Chistiansen Valli.
Cabinets. Simple clean-lined styles are flat-panel and frameless. Hardware is modern, sculptural, or jewelry-like. Otherwise, there are hidden touch latches. Wood is finding competition in painted finishes, mostly in soothing livable shades.Color is taking a turn. Moody, dark colors—black, deep blues, and bottle greens—are ramping up, said Sweeten contractor Trevor. They pair well with burnished or brushed gold. “I do a lot of antiqued blue—like a muted denim—with brass pulls,” he said.Lighter woods seem to suit the lighter mood of interiors. That goes for cabinets as well as flooring. Wide plank wood floors are on trend—with an average of 7″—and in French oak whitewashed finishes, cappuccino, some with a hint of gray.Porcelain and quartz are gaining in popularity because of the similar looks to stone without the maintenance. Large slabs and large format tiles offer a seamless installation with no grout lines to break up the design. Matte finishes have overtaken shiny ones.“Here in LA, my clients don’t want polished,” said Jeanne. “I am using concrete-looking porcelain slabs and cement tiles.” Jeanne seals her concrete to guard against staining because it’s pretty porous.
Island culture. Some islands are getting bigger, some are multi-level for different functions. Waterfall sides on islands are popular.Appliances. Pro-style ranges favor stylish brands like Wolf, Monogram, LaCornue, and Lacanche. The desire to cook healthy promotes features like special burners for woks, steam cooking. Some ranges even have an integrated sous vide. The slow cooking in a vacuum-sealed bag retains more nutrients, uses less oil, fat, and salt.Gold touch. LA homeowners are opting more for burnished and brushed gold finishes in cabinet hardware, faucets, and lighting. Some appliance manufacturers now include brass pulls as options. But mixing gold, especially with black matte, is very chic. Mixing metals adds interest to the design, especially in kitchens, where there is a lot of cabinetry.
The spa bath is redefined
Freestanding tubs provide a visual tour de force. Most often they are made of stone, porcelain, quartz, or resin, so the shape lends a sculptural note. Large curbless walk-in showers are distinguished with surface materials. Linear drains are trending because they are more aesthetically pleasing. Rain showers are favored, but you won’t find multiple showerheads due to water restrictions. Floors often are radiant heated.
Above) Variations of brass finishes in this LA renovation by designer Jeanne Chung. Photos by Peter Christiansen Valli.
The divide—choosing between tub and shower—is more about personal preferences. Many see the sculptural artistry of the tub as adding to the return-on-investment. Radiant heated is also a value-added. An alternative to slab stone walls is large format porcelain tile. These tiles, with a range in looks that mimic various stones, come in similar slab formats.
More than ever, the bath is considered an oasis. The overall style may be elegant, but again, the overall look is simplified, with cleaner, more modern lines.
Ensuite bedrooms are preferred to mega-size closets
Jeanne said her clients would rather have larger bedrooms with sitting areas than supersized closets. Still, walk-in closets are on remodeling wish lists.
Storage is key
Unseen compartments in drawers or cubbies in cabinetry and built-in benches corral stuff to keep spaces visually clean.
Above) Sweeten renovators Amy and Kevin’s Westchester home in LA
Mudrooms are still going strong
Although some trend forecasters suggest the demise of these transitional spaces for hanging coats and dropping gear, Jeanne said not so in LA. “Especially with the pandemic,” she said, “There’s a desire for bigger mudrooms. It’s a like a decontamination area—coming into the home, taking off all your grimy stuff.” Typical layouts include hanging storage behind doors, cubbies, benches for putting on shoes or boots. Some incorporate pet stations.
There’s an uptick in requests for libraries
“It’s a very popular room right now,” said Sweeten contractor Trevor. “It’s only going to get more popular. I’ve had three customers recently tell me they want libraries—real traditional, with everything built in.”
Home offices are making a comeback
The Zoom fatigue is real, but so is the realization that the backdrop for those visual calls needs to step up. Jeanne recently had a request from a wife to make her husband’s office more fashionable—because of his frequent video calls.
Ongoing remodeling trends consistent in LA
Going green and sustainability is much more in demand with a more conscious effort to utilize eco-friendly materials as well as those that save energy.Smart home. Automation adjusts to temperature, controls lighting, and security. Smart devices even monitor cooking.A few things to consider when remodeling in LA: seismic codes that require tall stem walls, slab on grade with thick foundations in order to guard against earthquake damage. Also, water restriction dictates the kinds of showers allowed.
Classic and traditional design emerges
When it comes to home interior design in Los Angeles, Trevor also said that there appears to be a return to more traditional design.
“Mid-century modern has always been huge like ranch home designs,” he said. “But traditional design is coming back—I would call it a mix between mid-century, Dutch, and American traditional. Recently I’ve been seeing yellow and some of the 70s colors coming back.”Statement decorating is hot. It’s part of the remodel plan. It could be a feature wall, a painted mural, or wallcovering. It could be a pop of color in a professional range or a graphic patterned tile on a backsplash. Outdoors, it might be a pergola, water, or fire feature.There’s an appreciation for artisanal looks. Handmade tiles, handcrafted hardware lend personality to interiors. Some renovation inspiration comes from restaurant and hotel design.“Simplicity—we’re definitely going in that direction,” said Sweeten contractor Trevor. “Not so much baroque-style with lots of moldings. People are going functional. They want hip and stylish.” There’s a minimalist sensibility, but not in the spare extreme.California style—with a modern or rustic refined look—still is strong, with lighter bleached look woods and ceiling beams.
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