Interiorssneak peeks

In California, a Mid-Century Modern Home with a Carefree Spirit

by Kelli Kehler

The home of Matt and Jen Monroe and their daughters, Cecily and Eleanor, breathes a fresh, California spirit throughout its mid-century modern walls — a combination that feels both effortless and meticulously planned all at once. Though, truth be told, it’s taken quite some time, work and patience to get it to this point from the moment they laid eyes on the house and saw its potential five years ago.

The 1951 home in Los Angeles, CA’s Eagle Rock area lured the family in with its big windows and private backyard, but the biggest draw for them was the neighborhood itself and great public school nearby for the girls. Matt is a woodworker/furniture designer/toy designer and owner of Monroe Workshop, and Jen is a film producer (her credits include Jackie starring Natalie Portman, The Zookeeper’s Wife starring Jessica Chastain, and Megan Leavey starring Kate Mara). With the two excelling in vastly different creative fields, they’re bound to approach things from different perspectives, and designing this house over the years was a perfect example of that.

“Matt takes a long time to make careful decisions and I make really fast (sometimes bad) decisions just to cross things off my list,” Jen admits. “Luckily we are usually on the same page with design and have really similar taste. Matt will sometimes come up with an idea that I don’t understand — for me I like to see it first in a photo or online or else I’m nervous to commit. For example, I couldn’t really visualize what he had in mind when he wanted to cover our living room walls in big panels of walnut. But we both like natural materials and he was convinced that it would warm up the house in an interesting way and he was right. I need to trust him when he gets excited about design…”

Despite Jen’s tendency to speed through to-dos, she heeded the advice of others to live in the home first before doing the majority of the renovation work. “Before we moved in, we redid the floors and put in the big sliding doors,” she shares. “Everything else happened in spurts over time. We redid the kitchen, enclosed an outdoor laundry area which extended the kitchen, we added on to the master bedroom and raised the ceiling (which makes all the difference), we added a master bathroom, we added an office, we built decks and fences in the backyard… It was a huge job and no room was left untouched. It wasn’t easy living through it all but the end result was worth it.”

Now the 2,000-square-foot home (one level, with 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms in the main house and a guest house with a bedroom and bathroom) functions as a comfortable and functional house for the family of four — along with their two chickens, Moana and Precious. It’s the perfect spot to come together after work and school and share stories about the day. —Kelli

Photography by Nicki Sebastian / @nickisebastian

Image above: Jen tells us, “We watch TV in the living room and like having the two big couches in there even though they probably take up too much space. Design wise, we would be better off with one couch across from two lounge chairs — but we like being able to spread out and relax… So we chose comfort over design. But the best part of having two similar sized couches is that we can create one of our favorite family events — movie night in ‘the pod.’ We push the couches together and it’s like a huge cozy crib and we all get in for a movie night.”


Jen, Matt, and their daughters Cecily (Cece) and Eleanor. Jen, a film producer, grew up in Vancouver, Canada and has lived on the East side of Los Angeles since 2001. “Matt got his BA at Colorado College and his Masters in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has been designing and building things since he can remember. Monroe Workshop launched in 2008 and Monroe Workshop Toys was born a few years after when he started making toys for his daughters out of wooden scraps,” the couple tells us.


A Restoration Hardware couch and vintage rug ground the otherwise airy and light space. A giraffe toy made by Matt almost blends in as a decorative piece of art.


On the other side of the living room, a cute record station where Block Shop Textiles prints pop off the walnut panels Matt designed for the space.


The kitchen is the perfect balance of warmth and simplicity.


The kitchen shelves — custom made by Monroe Workshop — feature a mix of organic items, like a ceramic sunrise by Pauline Wolstencroft, a planter by Pop Up Greens, and grid cutting boards by American Heirloom.


The kitchen features a nice little seating niche for prepping or work. “We ended up with a nice mix of art made by friends, given to us by family, and made by the kids… Those last finishing touches make it feel like home.”


In the breakfast nook off the kitchen, the table and furniture were custom-made by Monroe Workshop.


“Our girls helped Matt out with our remodel and he taught them how to use power tools,” Jen shares. “They also hid drawings and notes in the walls before we closed them up.”


“Our goals for decorating were to keep the house comfortable and interesting for us and our kids,” Jen notes. “Everything is functional and nothing is precious… The main house is only around 1,600 square feet and it’s all one level and we feel the size is perfect. We can always see and hear one another and we use every inch of the house. I work a lot so when I’m home with my family I like being close to everyone.”


Matt built a lot of the house and the furniture himself which makes it really special and personal.


A custom dining table and chairs and custom credenza (all made by Matt) pair beautifully with a light fixture by Lindsey Adelman to keep the mid-century modern ethos of the home alive and well.


In the living room, this sweet corner fireplace is a cozy little spot. If you look closely in the fireplace you can see one of Matt’s favorite finds — a styrofoam rooster he bought at a drugstore.


In the powder room, a striking combination of Tesselle tiles and a pendant light by One Forty Three.


The main bedroom is light and bright, featuring a minimal assortment of furnishings to keep things calm and clutter-free. Pillows by Block Shop Textiles and an Overstock rug add cheery pops of color.


A custom Monroe Workshop tree stump side table, Pop Up Greens planter, and Cedar & Moss sconces combine for an aesthetic that’s organic, cheery and sleek all at once.


“We love having no curtains in the [main] bedroom and getting woken up by the sun,” Jen says. Here, the family dog, Nuge (who sadly passed away in August), soaks up the bedroom corner’s sunlight.


In the main bathroom, the floor’s aqua cement tiles steal the show.


On the other side of the main bathroom, a large tub for soaking after a long day’s work.


“The kids share a bedroom and it allows us to have a dedicated playroom where we can store all their games/toys/dolls,” Jen says. “Since they’re so close in age they have the same bedtime and they love sharing a room so it’s a win/win for all of us.”


Besides the home’s large windows and backyard, the biggest draw for the Monroes was the local public school. “We love the school and since it’s public all the families live close by. It’s so fun seeing all the kids and their backpacks walk to school in the mornings. We have made a lot of good friends through our kids,” Jen shares.


A cheery design moment in the girls’ room. Jen shares, “People told us to live in the house for a while before making any big renovation decisions. I’m impatient so that was hard advice for me to take — but it’s true. Since we took a few years to do the work, we knew what made sense for us. Even if we could have afforded to do it all right away, we would have made a lot of mistakes. Living in the house taught us how we would use the space and what problems needed fixing. Even with decorating, taking time to fill the space allowed us to make more thoughtful and meaningful choices.”


Cece and Eleanor enjoying the outdoor deck’s swinging chair.


With LA’s ideal weather conditions, the family knew they wanted a home with a yard where they’d spend a lot of time. “The whole house invites you outdoors and we spend as much time outside as possible. The kids play on the deck and we can eat outside most of the year.”


With an outdoor seating area like this, memories are easy to make. “We’ve had birthday parties in the backyard, dinner parties, we had a Bachelor finale viewing party. All great memories and so fun to share our home with friends,” Jen says.


The backyard also features a coop for the family’s chickens, Moana and Precious. Jen says, “Our chicken coop has its own garden and the chickens love to eat from it.”


Cece and Moana the chicken enjoying the sunny backyard.


Living Room

Framed Oceanscape – Montrose and Merrick
Green Pillow – Schoolhouse Electric (no longer available)
Giraffe – Monroe Workshop
Sofa – (Dark) Restoration Hardware
Lighter Sofa – Overstock
Rug – Vintage
Coffee Table – Vintage
Cabinets – Monroe Workshop custom
Basket for plant – Target
Prints – Block Shop Textiles
Planter – Pop Up Greens
Wooden Mustang – Monroe Workshop


Chick/Monkey/Mini Horse – Monroe Workshop
Planter – Pop Up Greens
Vase in front of grid cutting boards – Lily Glass
Shelves/Kitchen – Monroe Workshop custom
Sunrise ceramic – Pauline Wolstencroft
Breakfast nook’s table and furniture – Monroe Workshop custom
Cutting board – American Heirloom
Vase – Lily Glass
Cactus plants – be loved
Stool – Target
Bowl – Heath Ceramics
Longhorn Bull – Monroe Workshop

Powder Room

Light pendant – One Forty Three
Tiles – Tesselle

Main Bathroom

Tiles – Villa Lagoon Tile
Hardware – Delta
Mirrors – Restoration Hardware
Tub – Wyndham Collection, SoHo Model
Towel – Schoolhouse Electric

Kids’ Room

Paint – Benjamin Moore “Wet Cement”
Wooden beds – handmade by Matt
Kids bedding – Natti Natti
Horse Print – Sharon Montrose

Main Bedroom

Pillows – Block Shop Textiles
Rug – Overstock
Lights – Cedar & Moss
Stump – Monroe Workshop custom
Planter – Pop Up Greens
Chair – Urban Outfitters
Fur – Article

Dining Room

Framed Photo – Lisa Eisner
Rug – Room and Board
Dining table + chairs – Monroe Workshop
Credenza – Monroe Workshop
Light – Lindsey Adelman

Outdoor Area

Patio deck and backyard furniture – Monroe Workshop custom
Outdoor hanging chair – Serena & Lily

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  • So sorry about the doggie. Our time with them passes so quickly. Love the large print, framed photographs.

  • This house is lovely and I really like how much color they’ve brought in through decor while sticking to a fairly neutral and natural color palette structurally. That custom dining table is TO DIE FOR.

  • Hello from Vancouver Island. I never comment but had to here – I just love how warm, happy, beautiful and welcoming your home is. So much here resonates with me: all the custom, self-made furniture; the fact that your girls learn to use power tools and had a part in creating their home; the pod with its memory-making function over form; the beautiful colours, textiles and light. Just beautiful!

  • I’m in love with your home! I am slowly renovating a 1956 house in Portland. I had a very similar vision for my daughters’ shared room and now realize those curtains are what’s missing! Can you share where the fabric came from?