Every week, our House Calls feature takes you into homes with great style, big personality, and ineffable soul. Today we look at the midcentury modern home of Adam Singer, who recently relocated from Northern California to the southern half of the state.
Anyone who knows the Golden State understands that the 381 miles (give or take) between Berkeley and Los Angeles offers a vastly different design outlook and popular aesthetic. Singer sought out a fellow transplant to make his new house feel like his home.
Singer was ready for a change, and he got one. The tech entrepreneur had spent 10 years in the Bay Area, first attending University of California, Berkeley, and then working for a string of start ups. When one of those businesses was acquired by Twitter, he decided it was time to move on from the region.
The native Canadian was weighing a move to either New York City or Los Angeles, and when the scales tipped toward SoCal, he found a modern home in the Hollywood Hills that was built in 1949.
"It wasn’t in terrible shape, but it had gone through a lot of different renovations over the years and had some really ugly finishes," Singer said. "There were things like cherry-wood built-ins, yellow stone, weird cut-outs between some rooms fitted with frosted glass, and two bathrooms right next to each other. But what it did have were really good bones."
He sought out Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design for help. He found the designer (who believes that every room can benefit from a bit of black and a bit of lacquer) via Houzz, which she laughingly agrees is a bit like Tinder when it comes to pairing remodel-hungry clients with interior designers and architects.
"I had no idea what to expect when I met him," she says. "But I found a big, full-renovation project, a client who was ready for anything, and a person with whom I clicked immediately."
As a native Hoosier (she was raised and schooled in Indiana), Murray knew what it was like to be new in town—and she had lived in LA long enough to understand the particularities of the city.
"In other cities, there’s more of a club scene. That’s here too, but primarily Los Angeles is all about house parties and pool parties," Murray says. "Although Adam is incredibly smart and hard-working, he is also young, single, and a lot of fun. I wanted his house to express that."
But Singer didn’t want your stereotypical male space. In lieu of dark woods and a color palette echoing Giorgio Armani men’s offerings, he opted for the hues of the Bonobos resort collection (that is, bright colors versus somber hues).
"I was looking for something more midcentury Palm Springs," he says. "It seems like a lot of designers want to do dark or neutral colors for men. I was after something more colorful, and I gave Caitlin the license to create rooms that are unique and interesting."
In response, Murray designed rooms like the kitchen, which features glossy dark green cabinets offset by gold-tone hardware, deep-black marble countertops striated with white veins, and barstools with turquoise upholstery. "I’d had the color combination in my mind for some time," she says. "To my logic, the green reads like a neutral and enhances the indoor-outdoor feeling."
Singer didn’t buy it—at first. "It was the only thing I hesitated about," he says. "And now I’m so glad we went for it."
The bold kitchen decision is more visible, thanks to the elimination of some floorplan-blocking shelves, a wet bar, and superfluous storage. Now there’s a more open plan, and the kitchen is seen from the new office, the living room, and the dining room.
It sets the tone for the rest of the house. "Adam has a great art collection, and the colors pull from that," says Murray. "There are pops of vibrant greens, blues, and oranges throughout the space. Most of the walls are white, so these are like punctuation marks around the house."
Another rule-breaking room is the dining room, where the table is moved to the side of the space (as opposed to sitting in the center of the room, as expected) and a wall-to-wall banquette creates seating for one side of the table. Banquettes are sometimes thought of as the stuff of diners or the eat-in kitchens of family homes. This one, with its centerstage location and a graphic upholstery that’s somewhat reminiscent of a seismograph reading, is definitely for more sophisticated, grown-up gatherings.
"Here, if the table were centered in the room, it would block the glass doors that lead to the pool. I view this room as more of a breezeway to the outdoors," says Murray. "I think people gravitate to this type of seating. It feels cozy, like a place you could curl up and have a conversation with someone."
The pool also drove another decision: replacing wood floors with wood-grain printed porcelain tile. The existing wood floor had suffered from years of wet feet, and it was cupping and warping.
"There’s an amazing backyard here, with a wraparound deck, a pool, a hot tub, and even an outdoor screen that drops down alongside a wall, allowing you to watch movies from the pool," Murray says. "I knew that his pool would become the center of his social activities, so it made sense to take out the wood floor. It makes the indoor-outdoor connection seamless."
Since people move from pool to dining room to living room to kitchen, it also made sense to make indoor areas for comfortable, easy gathering. In addition to the long banquette and the row of barstools lined up at the kitchen island, there’s a large, L-shaped sofa in the living room. "This allows the maximum number of people to come together in here, and it’s how we were able to incorporate a lot of space for lounging in a relatively small area," says Murray.
The private spaces are also daring. The master bath, for instance, has an intrepid mix of tile, with a geometric blue-and-white floor, small hex tiles on the walls, and a vanity crafted from reclaimed wood. Describing the room as "a fun conversation piece," Murray explains that she drew on her image of an "old boys club" for inspiration, mixing in the rustic wood for an organic touch. "I like playing with juxtaposition," she says.
The vintage painting of the man with the pipe (discovered on Etsy by the designer) really does get people talking. "Everyone comments on him," says Singer. "They think it’s a portrait of my father."
And, given that Singer has embraced the home-party culture of his new town, "everyone" could add up to a lot of people. "Every weekend there’s a pool party, and sometimes it’s at my house," he says. "I love entertaining, and with the new house, the view, and the pool, I’m definitely hosting more gatherings than I used to."
Singer’s designer says his change of surroundings has even manifested in his physical appearance. "The first time I met him, Adam was wearing a polo shirt, chino pants, and boat shoes," she says. "Now he has a buzz haircut and wears muscle tees. Although I don’t think he knew anyone when he moved here, he’s adapted to the culture and now has many friends."
She’d like to think the house is, in part, responsible for fostering connection. "I wanted to help him create his first awesome bachelor pad in LA," she did. "We made a home for entertaining that’s also perfectly tailored for him."