When Brad Zeff and Allison Ballick were searching for a Los Angeles home, they had a specific look in mind.
“We wanted a Spanish house, but so many older Spanish houses have undergone piecemeal updates over the years, resulting in a mishmash of old and new that guts the house’s soul,” Zeff says.
The couple found their perfect match in a three-bedroom property located in the Los Feliz hills, nestled beside Griffith Park. It was built in 1931, and since then, it had received minimal modernizations. “While light-touch updates had been made, they hadn’t altered the house’s identity. They’d made it more functional without compromising its character,” Zeff remembers. “Basically, the house was a gem that hadn’t been fiddled with over the decades.”
Because of the home’s ideal state, Zeff and Ballick opted to redecorate and not renovate. “The house has such a tangible history that we were cautious to not disrupt that with renovations,” Zeff explains. To bring out the best in its features, they enlisted Jesse DeSanti, creative director and owner of Jette Creative, for the job.
When DeSanti asked the couple about their goals for the project, they put it simply. “Not too old and not too modern,” Zeff says. “It was about balance. We didn’t want the interior to be a non-sequitur to the house’s structure.” This vision aligned well with DeSanti’s style, but it was unusual for her to accept this type of work. “We don’t normally take on projects where we’re not going to be doing the renovation as well, because it is oftentimes really hard to combine what we want to do with what’s existing,” she says. But DeSanti made an exception because the home’s bones were so exquisite.
“The house was very well put together originally,” DeSanti says. “Whoever did it just really enjoyed the little details throughout the house.”
In addition to thoughtful spatial planning connected by honey-colored hardwood floors, the home boasts distinct, historic characteristics. For starters, it’s full of intricate plaster details. “We love the stenciling on all the walls,” Zeff says. “You see this in some houses from this period in L.A., but we had never seen so much of it and with such unique detail. It makes the rooms feel like works of art.”
The home’s oversized windows also make an impact. “It has beautiful wood windows, and that is probably one of the biggest things people ask about: Where the windows are from. They’re original, and they’re gorgeous,” DeSanti says. One such window is a living room centerpiece, and it’s complemented by vaulted ceilings and elaborate corbels. DeSanti created a custom sofa in a striking, mustard-colored velvet and installed a contemporary lodge chandelier from Workstead to play off that fanciful backdrop. “We often like to put modern, clean light fixtures in our Spanish-style houses, but finding the right one in the right size is hard,” she notes.
The walls in the living room, as in the rest of the house, are painted in Benjamin Moore White Opulence. “It’s the white I use everywhere, all the time,” DeSanti says. “It has a slight pink tint to it, and although it looks white when it’s up on the wall, you’d never see the pink. Whites can often look very cold, and that’s why people are scared of using white. But this white allows you to add a little bit of warmth to the space.”
In the adjacent dining room, DeSanti worked with Zeff and Ballick to design a custom table made of Carrara marble and brass. “We picked out the marble slab ourselves at a big warehouse,” Zeff says. “It has the right amount of marbling, and a light-honed finish that we prefer to the glazed shine of some polished finishings.” The original built-in in the breakfast nook deserved to be the star of that space, so they kept the furnishings there minimal.
The trio took that same thoughtful approach to the bedrooms, which started in the master with a call to Portland-based company Marrow. “We fell in love with the bed first,” DeSanti says. “We found one similar to this one, and we reached out to the designer who was able to customize it to what we were really hoping for. The bed was probably the catalyst to the rest of the pieces.” They paired the bed with a neutral rug from TRNK and West Elm bedding.
DeSanti envisioned an armoire in the room, and made a custom one to sit beside the bed. “Spanish-style homes just don’t have a lot of storage, so the master closet is rather small,” she explains. “Zeff and Ballick asked for something that would look nice, but would still be really functional. That was quite hard to find, so we ended up having to make it ourselves.”
The other two bedrooms also remained as is—just like much of the home—because Zeff and Ballick wanted them to be available to visiting family and friends. In one bedroom, as a finishing touch, they had DeSanti frame the original blueprints. “They’re almost like the house’s birth certificate,” Zeff says. It’s a reminder that their property was always beautiful, and DeSanti designed this modern incarnation to last.