In 1949, the iconic Hollywoodland sign in the Hollywood Hills was in dire need of a makeover. Its H had toppled over. Other letters were littered with pockmarks and were in general disrepair.
It was that year that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce came to the ailing sign’s rescue, restoring its letters and removing ‘LAND’ from the end, marking a new era.
1949 was also the year that Nick Weidenfeld and Amantha Walden’s home rose in the historic Los Angeles neighborhood of Whitley Heights, its identity split between Old Hollywood glamour and new midcentury modern.
In the lush, hilly neighborhood, Weidenfeld and Walden have made a home that merges Walden’s Southern roots, a stately flair inspired by Weidenfeld’s upbringing in Washington, D.C., and touches of midcentury modernism, all influenced by silent-screen-siren vibes.
Though it’s hard to imagine, they almost didn’t end up in the house. About five years ago, already in escrow on a home down the street with contractors on site talking renovations, Walden decided she needed to go for a walk to clear her head.
“This house was on the market and it was [being listed by] the same agent,” Walden explains. “I called the agent and said, ‘I think we’re making a mistake with this other house.’” She and Weidenfeld, after arranging to see the other home, decided to listen to their guts and go for it. Weidenfeld asserts that even though the shuffle was a bit stressful, it was the right move.
Whitley Heights “was built for the silent movie stars,” explains Walden. It’s where writers and actors lived in the golden age of cinema and today it still feels rich with Hollywood history and magic, yet somewhat a secret, adds Weidenfeld.
Many of the homes in the neighborhood, built in the 1920s and ’30s, took cues from the Italian or Spanish countryside. But because Walden and Weidenfeld’s home was built later, it absorbed the spirit of the period during midcentury modern design’s ascendancy.
Perched on a corner lot overlooking the city, and secluded by swaths of vegetation, the three-bedroom, 3.5-bath house is expansive at 2,600 square feet, but doesn’t feel sprawling. Large bays of windows with black mullions punctuate its off-white exterior, framing views like works of art.
It’s a fitting analogy: Walden and Weidenfeld are avid art collectors, from giants like Warhol and Dalí to contemporary artists like Martin Basher, Karen Spector, and Jake Longstreth, many of them friends of the couple’s. Photographs by Hellen Van Meene, Sagan Lockhart, and Michael Schmelling hold court in various rooms throughout the home. In the dining room, several portraits of Amantha by painter Joe Bowler, made throughout her childhood, serve as a focal point.
“I have this collection of paintings of me that I never really appreciated until after my parents were gone,” she says. “I thought it was sort of weird to have 20 portraits of yourself.” Once she had her own home, it became a connection to her past, something she saw differently.
“They are such a huge link to my past and my childhood, and they make me feel at home with my past and my life now,” she adds.
The couple collaborated with Tamar Barnoon, a close friend and designer, on the interiors. Once the couple acquired many of Walden’s parents’ furnishings and added their own, Barnoon helped them envision how it would all fit together. Barnoon wanted to let the character of the house shine while finding ways to unify the couple’s family heirlooms with their modern pieces.
“I have a lot of my parents’ stuff that is ornate, sort of Old World, and then our aesthetic is more modern,” says Amantha. “Tamar helped us really meld those two styles together. It really matches the house well because it does have both, too.”
Throughout the design process, Walden says Barnoon really thought about tying in certain aspects from the South and from the East Coast. She wanted to capitalize on details to bring the couple’s past into a California setting.
“We wanted the art and the views to play first and the space to feel accessible and polished,” Banoon says. “I kept the palette very neutral and a little graphic so that the art and the views of Hollywood popped against the background.”
Touches like the lush pastel pillows and coordinated lampshades reminded Walden of growing up in Atlanta, while the library and study, painted a sleek, contemporary black, drew on the dark, warm interiors of Weidenfeld’s Washington, D.C neighborhood of Georgetown.
“That black led to that feeling of it being this sort of intimate space for reading or working, or quiet time,” Walden explains. “And we use it a little bit for entertaining, but it is mostly a room where we work or read.” Barnoon worked in the same shade of black as an accent around the house, from window trim to doors. “The traditional iron work in the house [was] a beautiful detail and we wanted to use that as much as possible to highlight the views [by framing them in the same color],” she explains.
The designer also suggested the couple look beyond mass-produced furnishings in a number of instances, instead recommending refurbished antiques, making use of marble slabs, or, in some cases, designing pieces herself, all in a mission to collaborate on an intensely personal design that spoke specifically of the house and its owners. (Barnoon is launching an online furniture store at the end of September.)
Barnoon’s designs can be seen throughout the home, from a custom console and shelf to ottomans, end tables, and a coffee table. These are mixed in with classic midcentury pieces like a George Nelson pendant lamp, a Noguchi table, Cherner chairs, and a Ligne Roset Togo sofa, as well as contemporary furniture from the likes of Honeyedfigs. All of this is rounded out by vintage and antique furnishings from Walden’s parents.
Though Walden and Weidenfeld are soon parting with the house, they’re proud of the work they put into it. For Walden and Weidenfeld, the home’s rich history has allowed them to balance its charisma with their comfort, and make a space that suitably evokes the golden age of Hollywood—while imbuing it with their own energy.