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Exploring Nostalgia In An Airy LA Craftsman Bungalow

by Sabrina Smelko

Perhaps the greatest witness to a person’s evolution is their home. It sees us through good times and bad as we navigate life, our careers, and our relationships. For many, home is nothing if not sentimental.

For lifestyle blogger, author, and stylist Anne Sage and her fiancee Ivan Juarez-Mrazek, this statement could not ring truer. Built in 1924, the Craftsman-style bungalow they call home has not only seen a lot of history due to its age, but it has witnessed the evolution of Anne and Ivan’s relationship as well. For a time, this 600-square-foot bungalow in Los Angeles, CA was Ivan’s bachelor pad. Located in the bustling neighborhood of Highland Park, Ivan chose this home for its walkability and welcoming curb appeal, explaining that it was, “interesting without being overly trendy.” The home also became a crash-pad for various friends and work colleagues when they were in town for projects — among them, was Anne.

During the sporadic work-related sleepovers, Ivan and Anne became good friends, and in time, they treaded the waters from being work acquaintances, to friends, to a couple. Just two years ago, they took the next step: Anne moved in and they got engaged.

Their story continues to be a fairytale marked with some hiccups and absurdities, the first of which became obvious soon after Anne unpacked. While the home was the perfect unassuming size for Ivan and Rambo’s bachelor needs, it quickly became clear that with the addition of another human and three pets (Anne’s chiweenie Sadie, and two long haired domestic cats, Sophie and James Bond), the home was beyond maximum capacity. “The limited size of the house — combined with our mutual dislike of clutter — definitely impacted our decorating goals,” Anne says. “Visually we wanted the effect to be as airy and bright as possible to create the illusion of more space.” This meant opting for many multipurpose pieces with a streamlined aesthetic that also provided storage.

With a pretty clear design vision, Anne was conscious to not swoop in and use a heavy hand when it came to transforming the space from bachelor pad to family home. She worked her magic carefully to create a space that suited them both, pulling out all the stops with some decorating tricks to make the house feel bigger — such as defining spaces with furniture.

In its current state, the home decor has been two years in the making. Pieces have come and gone as they’ve experimented with different layouts, palettes, and storage strategies — the most triumphant of these makeovers having occurred in their kitchen. As Anne explains, “In its ‘before’ state, it was a monstrosity of floor-to-ceiling honey pine cabinets. Cooking in there was like being trapped in the gift shop of a 1980s country music theme park.” Because they rent their space, the couple didn’t want to pour a ton of resources into a renovation. But knowing they want to stay in this house for the next while, the kitchen deserved an upgrade in order to feel livable for them. They removed all of the upper cabinets and painted the remaining cupboards in Sherwin Williams Classic French Grey, “a shade that feels at once timeless yet clean and modern, too.” They also swapped out the lighting, the hardware, and added two open shelves for displaying their dish wares.

While living quarters have gotten a little tight, Anne and Ivan continue to call this space home because they love the laid-back feel of the neighborhood, the affordable rent they have for the area, and the big backyard for the dogs to enjoy. As Anne puts it best, “We’re thankful that this home is such a huge part of our story! It brought us together, and it’s watched our relationship evolve from friendship to budding romance to our recent engagement.” Thinking back on how it’s evolved over the last few years, Anne explains that it’s like watching a filmstrip of their time together: learning each other’s likes and dislikes, exploring what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately finding a formula that is the perfect reflection of them both. –Sabrina

Photography by Carley Rudd

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Anne isn’t a fan of big TVs in general, but Ivan is a huge sports fanatic, so she knew the TV wasn’t going anywhere. Incorporating it into a collection of art and photography -- all of which has deeply personal meaning -- helps it recede into the decor in a smooth and tasteful way. "The gallery wall in the living room is also pretty special to us."
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Prior to moving in with Ivan, Anne had been using these mid-century leather and teak office chairs in her old apartment that she found at the Rose Bowl Flea for just $140 for the pair. They didn’t immediately fit into the decorating scheme when they joined households, but Anne couldn’t bear to part with them because they’re so classic. The couple put them into storage and finally, two years later, their floor plan had evolved to include them. "They’re like the sexy librarian of chairs: totally unassuming and functional on first glance, but a second look reveals great curves and knockout silhouette!" Anne says.
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Anne works as a props stylist, so small decor accents come and go with great frequency in this house. "The ones we choose to [keep] are the ones that have a great story. This black rotary dial telephone was found on a curb in San Francisco and still has its original 415 telephone number in the center of the dial!" The bud vase was a gift from Anne’s mom, carried back to the US after her recent trip to Japan, and the lamp is from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
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Their West Elm coffee table is an ever-changing playground for Anne’s favorite palette du jour. The clean marble surface and steel box frame make it the perfect blank canvas for exploring new display combinations of colors, materials, and shapes. The tray and inserts are from Consort Design.
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A single large room comprises the main living area of the space, and under Ivan’s watch, that area was devoted entirely to a sofa, chairs, and a large TV. Upon Anne’s arrival, the couple explored alternate furniture layouts that allowed them to carve out living, dining, and entry areas. As she explains, "Even though each functional zone is relatively small, the fact that there’s three different zones makes for a more expansive experience in the space." The sofa is from Cisco Home, the buffalo plaid pillows are from Consort Design.
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The table and chairs in the dining area are a mix of finds from the Rose Bowl Flea Market and a neighborhood vintage store called Sunbeam Vintage. Ivan didn’t have a dining table in the house when Anne moved in, and while it’s a tight squeeze to fit this arrangement, Anne says, "there’s no way we were giving these pieces up! They’ve already become a treasured heirloom!" The swing-arm sconce is from CB2, the linen curtains are from Pottery Barn, and the rug is from Layla Grace.
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The 1924 Craftsman-style bungalow's layout.
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The transformation of their kitchen cost less than $2,000, including labor. "And most importantly," Anne says, "we now love to spend time in the kitchen. The morning light bounces off the soft grey of the cabinets and the whole room simply glows. There are before and after photos on my blog that have to be seen to be believed!" Although, remnants of the kitchen’s former existence are still visible here, such as the orange laminate flooring and the kitschy molding on the cabinet. The runner is from One Kings Lane.
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"Storing our tableware on the small open shelves means we only keep what we actually use on a regular basis; because it’s just the two of us we’re able to get away with having only four place settings!" Anne says. The wall paint is Sherwin Williams Extra White, the cabinet hardware, shelves and brackets are from IKEA.
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"We’re awfully fond of our vintage gas range!" Anne explains, "From our understanding she’s original to the home, and while she doesn’t always function smoothly, she’s a grand old girl who brings a lot of character and history when so many houses in LA are sadly lacking those qualities." To further showcase the stove, they installed this stainless steel hood for just $100. "It was one of the smallest yet most impactful updates we made to the kitchen... making for a cleaner and more modern appearance in lieu of entirely new appliances," Anne explains.
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The CB2 concrete bench is actually intended as outdoor furniture, but Anne and Ivan wanted some contrast against all the wood in the room. "It’s so chunky and unexpected; we love it!"
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Because the door opens directly into the main room of the house, it was important to the couple to carve out an entryway — both to act as a mental transition from outside to inside, and to serve as a dumping station for shoes and bags. "The petite bench and oversized art define the area while still leaving room for traffic flow." The artwork is from Ashley Woodson Bailey for Citizen Atelier. The couple got it framed with FrameBridge. The tall vase is from Crate and Barrel.
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Unique lighting is definitely one of Anne’s soft spots. "This brass floor lamp is so unusual — weighty enough to hold its own against the concrete bench but also curvy and sensual, too. Plus, the directional shades are terrific for additional light when we are reading on the sofa a few feet away." The Arteriors Home lamp (no longer available) was from Lamps Plus and the polka dot planter is from Matthew Ward at Consort Design.
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"Because the Internet cable runs into the house from a hole directly beneath the shelves, we needed a creative way to hide the wires, modem, and router that accompany it. The row of baskets corrals the entire system and keeps it out of sight!" The shelves are from CB2, the "City of Angels" print is from Sycamore Street Press, and the baskets and black globe are from Cost Plus World Market.
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Anne spotted this photo of palm trees on the Instagram feed of one of her favorite photographers, Nazar Melchonian of Naz Films. Although he didn’t have it for sale at the time, she reached out to him and he had one printed to order. "The lesson?" Anne explains, "Don’t be afraid to ask a favorite artist to collaborate on a decor project. It’s flattering to them and it’s a great way to create one-of-a-kind pieces for your home!"
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The “table” next to this Design Within Reach leather sling chair in their bedroom is actually a ceramic planter with a marble platter placed on top of it — "an instant impromptu storage for odds and ends!" The lamp is also from Design Within Reach and the sand dunes photo is from Carley Rudd.
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"Square footage was definitely our biggest challenge in decorating the bedroom!" An oversized photo serves the space-defining function of a headboard without having to lose precious real estate to a bed frame, and their IKEA platform bed boasts drawers in the base. The linen bedding is from Matteo, the patterned lumbar pillow is a custom piece from Cisco Home.
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"Finding a bedside table that would fit in the small space between the bed and the door was definitely a challenge—especially one that would anchor the space in the way that I was envisioning," Anne explains. An oblong stump table from West Elm provides the perfect blocky contrast to the spindly lines of the wire pendant from Color Cord Company.
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Family heirlooms are mixed with vintage finds on the dresser. The piggy bank belonged to Anne’s dad when he was a kid and the cedar jewelry box was her grandma’s, while the ceramic “planter” is actually an old tissue box holder found at the Salvation Army.
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"We’re always striving to create the balance between decorated and cluttered," Anne says, "Keeping objects on the dresser in the same shape and color family, with variations in material, goes a long way to create an interesting and intentional vignette!"

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Comments

  • I’ve been a City Sage reader for years and have enjoyed seeing this evolution on the blog as well! Anne has such a great eye, and of course, everything is styled to perfection. I’m definitely taking mental notes for our home!

  • I lingered on every word and photo, savoring each detail. Of course, I was sipping a brandy at midnight all the while, but I’m pretty sure my enjoyment of this would be the same at sober high noon :)

  • Beautiful home!
    I love this advice: “We’re always striving to create the balance between decorated and cluttered,” Anne says, “Keeping objects on the dresser in the same shape and color family, with variations in material, goes a long way to create an interesting and intentional vignette.” I will remember this – I also really don’t like clutter but love to display my favorite items. My big fear is that it will look knick-knacky! Great advice, thanks!

  • I’m also a long-term reader of the City Sage. Like how they arranged their space, but I had a great urge to move her dining table/chairs on an angle. The rug would probably be a problem. Maybe it’s too tight a fit with the sofa, but I saw a more spacious opening from the front door and a softer delineation from the living room section.

    • Thanks for this feedback, Samantha! We initially did have the table and chairs positioned 90 degrees to where they are now, and as you predicted the thoroughfare behind the sofa was just too narrow. If we stay in the house much longer, I’m thinking we’ll put our big table in storage and downsize to a smaller square or round table! (P.S. Thanks for being a long-term reader, it’s much appreciated!)

  • What a great post. The first line just made me stop and think about life and how true that is. The pics look amazing too. Thank your for sharing it, I’m loving the blog!

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