The places we call home—be they houses, cities, regions—influence the way we see the world, and tag along with us no matter where we end up. For some, home is a whiff of sap, the sound of the subway, the Technicolor hues of flowers, or the lapping of water. For stationery designer Jesse Levison, it’s Miami’s palm trees.
Her current home, which she shares with her husband Alex Trendelman and their dog Scout in LA county’s Glendale, couldn’t, geographically, be further away from South Florida. But in spirit it’s closer to home than she’s been in a decade.
In 2015, after nine years in New York City, the couple sought a change of scenery. “We were ready to nest a little bit,” says Levison. She and Trendelman, an Indiana native, wanted to be closer to nature to sate their appetite for more time in the outdoors, and Levison felt the pull of a tropical landscape more reminiscent of her family home.
Levison has been a printmaker for close to 15 years, and she describes her practice as one grounded in a childhood where the ocean ruled and colors were saturated. “I draw a lot of inspiration from Florida and moving to LA helped rekindle that inspiration,” she says.
Once they had decided LA would be their new home it was on to the search for a house, which, luckily, didn’t last long. Levison had fellow card-designer friends vacating a 1920s, Spanish Revival bungalow they had been renting in a sleepy enclave of Glendale. Without much delay, and without seeing the place save for in a few photographs, Levison and Trendelman scooped it up. While Glendale isn’t a magnet for trendy bars and restaurants—the area is known mostly for its large mall and sizable Armenian population—Glendale afforded the couple something they were seeking after living on the East Coast: tranquility.
Clocking in at around 1,200 square feet, their new bungalow features charming curved archways, a tiled roof, and bright interiors; it was just what the couple was looking for as they started their life in California.
Jesse is an avid thrifter and antiquer, and her finds—from the Brooklyn Flea, LA’s Rose Bowl Flea Market, Brimfield, and more—are on full display around the home. Several pieces of furniture in the home—like the living room coffee table, dining table, and Levison’s office shelving—are by Trendelman, a metal fabricator. A Plant Planet print sits atop the fireplace in their cozy living room, and a light from eBay hangs above their Ikea couch, which they snagged from the former tenants.
The dining room displays the couple’s collection of objects—“knick knacks from our travels, flea markets, gifts to one another,” Levison explains—on shelves built and installed by the former tenant to display card designs. Levison’s favorite pieces among these keepsakes are two small ceramic faces of a man and woman, gifts from her father and a series of colorful wooden boats from More & Co. in Portland, Maine.
Levison’s love of ceramics extends to their kitchen, where the couple displays a good chunk of their collection in open cabinets. “We try to use [the cabinets] to showcase all the wonderful [pieces] we’ve collected over the years,” she says. “It’s one of those crafts I’ve always been interested in.” They count pieces from Atelier Dion, Freundeskreis Ceramics, Recreation Center, Black Phoebe Ceramics, Knotwork LA, Helen Levi Ceramics, Robert Blue Pottery, Pewabic Pottery, and Felt + Fat among their dishware.
While the former tenants removed the kitchen cabinet fronts, Levison and Trendelman have been apprehensive about making big changes to the space, which they rent. The backyard, however, has been another story. Levison likens it to another room, one that offers additional space to entertain.
“We laid all the rocks and pavers, and we planted a ton,” says Levison. “We use [the backyard] every day and benefit from it so much. It was worth it to spend some money on it for our pleasure, even though when we leave, it will stay here.” The couple has also taken care to plant thoughtfully, trying to respect the dry climate with their choice in flora. One big surprise was the massive lemon tree they found at the center of the yard when they arrived. “It was so mind-blowing coming from [New York],” she says of its discovery, and explains that they make use of its fruit all the time. She marvels at the “fruit trees just growing in alleyways” across the city, and mentions they also have a fig tree that popped up in the backyard, as well.
Levison who, with an assistant, makes upwards of 500 cards a day for her burgeoning stationery label Gold Teeth Brooklyn, spends most of her days in the backyard-facing studio, which the former tenants outfitted with large doors and windows. Most days, she’s in the studio by 8 a.m. This division of space has been important, as sometimes, Levison says, she has stretches of time in which she hasn’t left the house for an extended period in three days. “It’s nice to be able to work in [the studio] and live in [the house]” and have some separation between her work and her home life she adds.
Her office, adjacent to the kitchen, features art by friends and one-offs of her own, which Levison describes as a “hodgepodge of things that I can tape to the wall and not have to take too seriously.”
While New York was right for the couple during their time there, LA offers them room to breathe, a colorful home from which to live and work, and the outdoor access they craved—not to mention fresh citrus. “We both love it,” says Levison. “We’re able to get into the mountains in an hour; it’s so beautiful.”