My name is Jay Wolf, and I am what some may call a renaissance man, though maybe it’s more like a jack of all trades, master of none. Wearing lots of different hats has become the norm after my wife, Katherine, suffered a massive brain-stem stroke on April 21, 2008, as our 6-month old son slept in the other room. Miraculously Katherine survived, and we have been on the excruciating but beautiful road of recovery ever since (she shares her journey on her blog Hope Heals, www.hope-heals.com).
I have always been an artist and a creative, very right brain oriented (I somehow parlay that creativity into my “real job” as an attorney), so the decision to take on some of Katherine’s more wifely roles following her stroke was not too daunting for me, and I knew that finding ways to celebrate life in the midst of our suffering, as well as creating a really special home for my family would be keys to our overall healing.
We live in Los Angeles in a specific area called Culver City where I happened upon several thrift shops very close to our home. Finding little treasures amidst a lot of junk became extremely cathartic for me. I suppose in many ways it was a metaphor for what our life had become, finding the best things in the middle of lots of terrible things. I brought many of these finds into our home, and formed a little Etsy shop, Once Lost Home Goods, with the rest.
Our home seems to be a constant work in progress, and even the pictures posted here would look a bit different if actually taken again today (and these were only taken about a month ago!) I’ve found that carving out a unique, personal, safe, inviting place to call home and to “do life together” in is one of the great and unexpected joys that I’ve experienced recently in my life. Welcome to our home!
This is the view as you first walk into our living room, which for us, is truly the room that we do most of our living in. I love seeing the large, vintage seascape painting as I walk into the room, now dramatically lit with its own vintage art light from Katherine’s grandmother’s home. It definitely sets the tone. We lived in Malibu,CA, which is on the beach, for 3 years while I was in law school. We have such great memories from that time, so we incorporated lots of nautical and sea-inspired influences in our current home as a nod to that special time in our lives. Also, it’s hard not to feel relaxed when you have reminders of the ocean around you, so we tried to create our own little not-on-the-beach, beach cottage, while still not being too themey about it.
We’re from the South originally, which is much more traditional and formal than California, in every sense, I think. As a result of living in those two very different environments, our style has morphed over the years, and currently seems to be a cozy, eclectic, vintage, pared-down traditional. I think the juxtaposition and contrasts in a room are the most important elements for me, and of course, the mix of the new and the old seems to give a room lots of soul. Also, since two guys and a girl live in this space, I always try to mix the masculine and feminine. Not only does it end up pleasing everybody, but the combination of those differing elements adds infinitely more interest than something that has more of a one-note perspective.
We live in a charming (aka “pretty old”) 1920’s bungalow. And while all 1,200 square feet of it have lots of character that can’t easily be found in new construction, it comes at a bit of a price. Honestly, did people in the 1920’s not have any stuff? Lack of storage is an issue, for sure, so when planning out the living room, we had to incorporate a good bit of non-built-in storage, this includes our “linen closet” boxed up in various sizes of Rubbermaids under our IKEA sectional. Also, the coffee table, while not so kid-friendly, is literally a trunk with drawers. This vintage piece was picked up for cheap at one of my local thrift stores because I thought it looked cool with the brass and the nailheads. I only later found out (thanks to some design blog) that this chest, handmade by the Spanish company Sarreid, was actually a really nice piece. Honestly, I could care less about the name, I just liked the design of it. To that end, I think you can never go wrong buying something you love, whether or not anyone else thinks it has value or not.
We received a lot of home items for our wedding (not off a registry, just given with the assumption that they would all come together somehow, I guess), many of which have left us for good at this point as we honed in on our own style; however, this spindle-base lamp (with an updated shade) and antique English bamboo table from the late 1800’s have stuck with us since the wedding day. It’s great to be able to incorporate personal things from your past into new spaces, even if you have to tweak them a little, and correspondingly, it’s even better to be able to let certain things go completely and start anew.
My introduction to the design world has mostly been through design blogs (thank you Jenny!) Literally, I knew very little of the lingo a year ago, but learning it proved to be valuable. For example, I would read about Hollywood Regency and the Dorothy Draper chest in blog after blog. One day, I went to a junk shop and this chest was sitting on the sidewalk, having been bought from the estate of a long-time LA resident, a woman who had gotten her start as an actress in Hollywood’s Golden Age. I knew this piece was a Dorothy Draper chest, and though it was not in perfect condition I figured it would still be way too expensive, but I thought I would inquire anyway. The price was $40, and after I asked the store owner to repeat it, I threw him two twenties and ran with my loot before he could change his mind! Full-on Hollywood Regency is not my style, for sure, but adding it to the room creates an unexpected visual edge. I love that this iconic piece holds all the odds and ends and 4-year old’s toys that must be shoved somewhere when company comes over. Beautiful and versatile, if only the walls on this chest could talk.
The grouping on top of the chest always makes me happy too, the textures and colors are just right, in my mind. And once and for all, I can’t be considered a bad parent for throwing away most of my son’s preschool art projects (where am I supposed to store them?!), since one of his first abstract finger paintings holds a place of great prominence in our living room. The capiz moravian star is from Target and the green leaf pottery is from TJ Maxx Home Goods, just going to show that in the right setting, anything can look more expensive than it actually was. The beautiful, vintage alabaster lamp (with an updated shade) was from Katherine’s grandmother’s home (she recently moved to a retirement home and gifted us quite a few great, vintage things) and is such a wonderful daily reminder of her beloved grandmother.
Also, I’m not much of a DIY’er, but I was quite proud that the bordered curtains in the living room were actually two Target fabric shower curtains that we had cut off and hemmed to the right length by our local alterations lady. So much cheaper than having custom curtains made in that bordered style and so much easier than trying to somehow, very badly make them myself.
Again, the 1920’s architects didn’t do us a lot of favors in the storage or in the space planning department either. This room is an awkward, long rectangle, with lots of doors opening out to other rooms and heaters coming up from the floor, so we had to get creative. This very tight and long spacing is why we opted for the sectional sofa, which is not necessarily my favorite type of couch but sometimes practicality wins out, though practical can still look good. Likewise, some practical seating and visual space was needed in this tiny corner, over-crowded by the door to my office. I decided to fit this great occasional chair there, which looks like it was picked up from a Parisian flea market (it was actually from a rather seedy Goodwill on Santa Monica Blvd, but who would know?) The scale was much better than a previous chair we had there and the green velvet and patinaed gold edges fit the room perfectly. I love how it looks in contrast with the large black and white photograph of the California landscape that I took as we drove into California in our U-haul, for the first time, 7 years ago.
This armoire is one of my favorite things in the room, and I think it was the first one I bought. Of course, inside lies our TV and naturally, more storage space for exercise mats and DVD’s, etc. It was a Craigslist find, and I was initially drawn to the old oak and the shape of the top. I loved it even more when I found out it was used in the late 1800’s as an armory (ie. to store weapons and guns) and was made for quick disassembly and travel (I guess to run away from rebel forces) so it literally comes completely apart. Cool, right? Though it was not so cool when I was trying to put it together by myself late at night and the heavy wooden doors kept falling on my head, but still, totally worth it!
The faux bamboo stools were re-covered in a gray lattice patterned fabric shower curtain (what’s the deal?) and were originally from the Sunset Tower Hotel (a rather famous hotel among celebrities, on the Sunset Strip near Hollywood). There are several warehouse-sized businesses in LA that specialize in re-selling hotel surplus furniture. I’ve even picked up some furniture for a friend’s room that I designed (www.oncelosthomegoods.com/portfolio/before-after-classic-nautical-guestroom/) from a Kelly Wearstler-designed hotel, though like anything, you usually have to dig through a lot of junk to get there, but then you get a pretty inexpensive piece with great design. And you never know who might have been perched on that stool.
Another of my favorite elements in the room are the pair of vintage Italian tole wheat sconces. Despite my mentions of Kelly Wearstler, Dorothy Draper, and tole sconces, I truly do not have a secret obsession with Hollywood Regency–not that there’s anything wrong with that. What I most love about these is that they were not sold as a pair. I bought one on Ebay because it was inexpensive, and I loved its design compared to lots of other wheat, tole sconces that I had seen. I later concluded that two is better than one, so I set out looking for its mate, which I finally found on Etsy, from a totally different seller. I had to pay up a bit for this one, but I love how they flank the armoire, and the symbolism of harvest will always be extremely meaningful to me.
On this wall, the main visual element is obviously the collection of vintage seascape oils. I love art, in general, so I can’t help but love a good gallery wall, and I’ve got quite a few of them, even in our tiny house. I got all of these from either Ebay, Etsy, or my thrift stores. They are all by different artists but all in a rather specific range of color palettes and an impressionistic style which makes them work really well together as a grouping. I did change out most of the frames, and at first, I probably would have wanted all the frames to match, but the same frame wasn’t always available, but now, I really like that the frames are complimentary and all thin but not matching.
The pair of leather chairs was something that I have always wanted, and I finally got them on major sale at HD Buttercup, a great furniture store in Culver City. They are one of those items that I will keep no matter where we live or what my style may be. They were the biggest purchase in the room, and I love how they only get better with age. Our four year old does a fine job of adding to the weathered look, which is sort of softened by the large, French grain sack pillows.
The round occasional table between the two chairs is hands down my best and probably only find from Ross. It’s got a black marble top and though hard to see in the pictures has a fantastic, sort of mid-century starburst design base, made out of iron, with an antiqued brass finish. The apothecary floor lamps are from Target and again pull in some black, which is a color that is very grounding to a space (though I’m not even sure what that means, but I get it). I used to be kind of worried about matching black and brown and clashing metallic finishes but I think not knowing too many rules has probably helped me the most in being able to confidently pull designs together. Whatever works, just play around with it until it looks right to you.
Katherine was in ICU for 40 days after her stroke, during which we could not fill that sterile, sad room with any flowers or potential contaminants, understandable, but it definitely made it hard to bring any sense of life into that place. So, ever since, I have felt the need to have fresh flowers around our home as much as possible. It’s a slight indulgence, but we always just get them at the grocery store and arrange them ourselves. We also use a lot of orchids and other long-lasting varieties. No offense to fake flowers, but it kind of defeats the purpose of bringing some life into a room, right?
Though geometric shapes and patterns are pretty trendy, I feel they bring in a different kind of organic element which is really timeless. These wooden stars echo the larger white one on the chest (they were puzzles that I finally had to super glue together after one too many guests awkwardly brought me the pile of pieces unable to put it back together themselves). The wooden, mid-century geometric basket, DNA-model-esque, used for magazines on the floor next to the leather chair, was such a unique piece, spotted in a small Southern “antique” booth (looked a little more like a cross between Cracker Barrel and Hoarders) on a holiday trip back South, that I had to lug it back in a separate suitcase. The mirror is from Home Goods and is another example of something that looks much more expensive and unique than it was by being put in the right context. The orchid pot is mid-century vintage, with a unique ombre effect coming up from the base. This utilitarian piece also adds another layer of style and color, mixing eras, and not letting things fit too neatly into one box. There’s an inherent sense of nature and science and just enough uncommonness to these things which will never get old to me.
“After many a sore foot and many a passive aggressive remark about the hazards of child-rearing around a sharp metal trunk coffee table, I conceded and got this new tufted, storage ottoman. It’s brilliant because it is infinitely more comfortable to prop up our feet on when we watch TV, and it stores all our “blow-up guest bedroom” pillows and sheets. It’s also so much easier to move since it rolls around on casters, so we can push it out of the way when we need to do our Denise Austin workout videos! And of course, it was christened with a juice box on it’s first day in our home, but not to worry, it’s covered in Sunbrella, indoor/outdoor, washable fabric–victory (at least until a large cup of coffee is sloshed on it)! I added an extra yard of the fabric and recovered a vintage bench for more seating in front of the chest of drawers. Also, the pillows got a bit of an update, from one trendy pattern to another–what can I say, lots of people like them for a reason. This ikat in green, blue, cream and brown really pulls in all the colors of the room much better than the previous green trellis.”
“Since we no longer have a hard-surfaced coffee table, a stable tray was needed to take on drinks and the like. I found this vintage lucite tortoise and greek key tray (I think Jenny might likey) at my local thrift store, originally intended for my Etsy shop, but as often happens, once I tried it on this new spot, there was no going back.”
Thanks for reading this to the end! I hope you enjoyed the tour and my rambling thoughts. Thank you Jenny for letting me share.
– Couch = IKEA Ektorp Sectional, slipcovered in Svanby Beige
– Chest of Drawers = Vintage Dorothy Draper Espana Chest — Man on Motor, Culver City, CA
– Coffee Table = Vintage Brass Sarreid Chest — House of Return, Culver City, CA
– Side Table = Antique Bamboo Table — Appointments At Five, Athens, GA
– Occasional Chair = Vintage Green Velvet Chair — Goodwill, Santa Monica, CA
– Armoire = Antique Oak Armory — Craigslist, Los Angeles, CA
– Stools = Vintage Faux Bamboo Stools from Sunset Tower Hotel — Hotel Surplus Store, Van Nuys, CA; Fabric Shower Curtain — Ross
– Pair of Leather Chairs = HD Buttercup, Culver City, CA
– Occasional Table = Iron Starburst and Black Marble Top Table — Ross, Culver City, CA
– Rug = Nate Berkus Kilim Stripe Rug — HSN + 40oz Rug Pad — Amazon
– On Chest = Vintage Carved Alabaster Lamp; New Shade –Home Goods
– Art Light = Vintage
– On Side Table = Spindle Base Lamp — Appointments at Five, Athens, GA; New Shade — Target
– Between Leather Chairs = Pair of Pharmacy Lamps — Target
– On Chest = Green Leaf Pottery — TJ Maxx Home Goods, Westchester, CA; Child’s Art Frame and Capiz Moravian Star — Target; Books = Lapham’s Quarterly, Winter 2011 — Amazon, “How Should We Then Live?” by Francs Schaeffer — vintage, “The Home Book” by House Beautiful — Amazon, and “All the Saints of the City of Angels” by J. Michael Walker — The Hammer Museum, Westwood, CA
– On Coffee Table = Mahogany and Brass Tray — Crate & Barrel; Shell — African souvenir; “The Way We Live By the Sea” by Stafford Cliff — Amazon; Glass Hurricane — TJ Maxx Home Goods; Black River Rock Vase Filler — Target; Capri Blue Candle in Black Currant and Cassis — Lundeens, Culver City, CA
– On Couch = Tan Euro Shams — Target; Green Imperial Trellis — Nena Von Pillows on Etsy; Black and Cream Border Lumbar and all down inserts — Pottery Barn; Brown Cable knit and Cream Chain link Blankets — Nate Berkus for Linens ‘N Things
– Curtains = Bordered Fabric Shower Curtains by Fieldcrest and Curtain Clip Rings — Target; Curtain Rod — Ross
– On Side Tables = Hydrangea Vase — TJ Maxx Home Goods; Mini-orchid Ombre Pot, vintage — House of Return, Culver City, CA; Wooden Moravian Star Puzzles — Ross
– On Walls = Vintage Seascape Oil Paintings — Ebay, Etsy, House of Return, Culver City, CA, NCJW/LA Thrift Store, West LA, CA; Frames = Aaron Brothers, Culver City, CA; Large Black and White Photo — Jay Wolf, blown up on Shutterfly; Frame — Aaron Brothers; Vintage Italian Tole Wheat Sconces — Etsy and Ebay; Geometric Capiz Mirror — TJ Maxx Homegoods
– On Leather Chairs = French Grain Sack Pillows — Colcha, Venice, CA; Brown Geometric Blanket — TJ Maxx Home Goods
– Magazine Rack = Mid-century Wooden Basket — Eastbrook Flea Market, Montgomery, AL
– Tufted Ottoman = Ballard Designs, in Brass Sunbrella
– Tray = Vintage Lucite — House of Return, Culver City, CA
– Ironwork Bench = Vintage — House of Return, Culver City, CA
– Pillows = Ikat — Jenny Farley Designs on Etsy