A couple years ago, my friend Sari moved from New York to Los Angeles with her husband Eli, son Jude and daughter Teddy. When I went to visit last year, I was struck by how warm and inviting their home was. Since moving, Sari—who used to be an editor at Gourmet and Martha Stewart—has been helping people with interior design on the side, so I guess it was no surprise that I wanted to curl up and stay all day. Want to take a peek inside? Here goes...
On a home with a personality: I respond to homes that have a sense of place—our apartment back in New York was a quintessential Upper West Side apartment: lots of wood paneling. The building was covered in ivy. It looked like something out of a Wes Andersen movie. Even the moldings had moldings. So a big part of why I fell in love with this home was that it felt very much of this place. It’s airy and bright, very Californian. In New York, I tended towards pieces that were more gentlemanly; there was a lot of herringbone and tweed happening! In California, I've been going for more wood and natural elements, rustic stuff with the occasional hippie-ish bent.
On the vintage card catalogue: I loved libraries as a kid and still deeply love everything about them. More than anything I wanted a vintage library card catalogue, and the fantastic Jenny Komenda found it for me on Craigslist. Jude also hides things in it. I’m constantly opening drawers and finding silverware and old necklaces. It’s my go-to place when anything is missing.
On her favorite spot: The happiest place for me is the grey couch because the light is really beautiful there throughout the whole day. That's where the kids and I read together, and there's pretty much nothing more delicious than curling up on a couch reading with your children. It’s also satisfying to see our vegetable garden growing outside.
On rules for the dog: Ike is a lost cause. We’ve gone through stretches of trying to keep him off the furniture, but he’s eleven, and what can we do at this point? Now he’s allowed everywhere. Given how notoriously pugs shed, it's proof we are really crazy about him.
On family-friendly spaces: Our living room is the only room that doesn’t have kids things in it, but children find a way to make things their own. Jude figured out how to dismantle the gray sofa and create a plank across our coffee table. Now he and Teddy play pirates all over the furniture. So this room looks adult, but no, no it’s not.
Credits: Seagrass basket for the tree: West Elm. Grey sofa: Jonathan Adler. Blue sofa: Room & Board. Two grey chairs: Jonathan Adler. Leather pillow: CB2. Ikat ottomans: Jonathan Adler. Zebra coffee table: Vintage. Blue rug: John Robshaw.
On the children’s portraits: My husband, Eli, gave me these for Mother’s Day. Brooklyn artist Carter Kustera will do portraits of anyone—even dogs. You give him a bunch of images and choose the taglines. Jude is very deep into superheroes right now, and Super Jude is a character that we tell him lots of stories about. So Jude's portrait says, "Jude is a superhero-in-training." For Teddy, we sing a song to her and one of the lines is, “We all love our little teddy bear,” so that's her tagline.
On decorating with a spouse: Eli is much more game to pull the trigger on things. If we love something, he’s like, let’s get it; but I can mull over something for a really long time. He jokes that if it weren't for him, our house wouldn’t have any furniture.
On having a bar cart: When we’re going to have cocktails, which we very often do, it’s in a very unofficial way: also known as scotch on the rocks.
Credits: Wooden dining table: Crate & Barrel. Chairs: Louis Ghost and Panton. Bar cart/dresser: Nightwood. Deer bed photograph: Katherine Wolkoff.
On trusting yourself: When it came to decorating our home, it took me a long time to trust myself. A friend told me, “You know what you love, just start.” And she was right. Once you pick a piece of furniture, the other things fall into place. You know better than anyone what you love, how you live and how you use the space. I've been doing some home design work more recently, and it's something I try to help instill in others: When you’re buying things you love and pulling them together, the end result will always look like you. Your home becomes a lesson in trusting yourself.
Credits: Orange-and-white runner: John Robshaw. Peg board: DIY with Manton Cork. White chevron rug: West Elm (similar from Serena & Lily). Swing chair, rope doorstop, captain's mirror: Lawson Fenning. Coat rack: IKEA Fintorp hook, rail and hanging wire basket. Wooden chair/bench: My husband’s amazingly talented cousin, Raffi Lehrer.
On the bedside tables: The hand-painted dressers are custom from Nightwood in Brooklyn. They have a slight camping aesthetic without being corny.
On the Pendleton blanket: It’s not super soft, but I don’t mind. I went to sleep-away camp in Maine for nine summers and this feels exactly like the camping blankets we all used. I have very nostalgic affection for a slightly scratchy blanket.
On the monogrammed pillows: The blue pillows have my initial, Eli’s initial and our last initial. Anyone will do a monogram these days on anything!
Credits: Dressers: Nightwood. Blanket: Pendleton. Monogrammed pillows: Similar at West Elm.
On Sharon Montrose's animal prints: The other day, Jude was standing on his crates and pointing out the animals to Teddy! The porcupine is my favorite; there’s something about porcupines that just kill me.
On creating a child-friendly space: We store Jude's books at his level with the covers facing outward, so he can thumb through them. Before, when the spines faced out, it made it hard for him to find what he was looking for, so he’d pull all the books onto the floor. The bins are great because he can straighten up on his own. I’ve realized that the more things in children's rooms that they can access independently and be responsible for, the better off they are.
On leaving toys out: In his room, if he’s in the middle of working on something, I try to leave it be. What looks like a mess to me is actually in progress for him. A friend gave me a good tip: If your child is in the middle of working on something—a building, an art project—and you put it away and they have to take it out the next day, it ruins the momentum and the magic is lost. I see that. So his room is generally a disaster zone.
Framed animal prints: Animal Print Shop. White storage unit with plastic bins: IKEA. Big-boy bed: IKEA. Faux fur rug: Restoration Hardware. Stuffed animals: Serena & Lily. Wooden storage crates: Serena & Lily.
On creating a cozy haven: Teddy’s room is much more of a true nursery. We don’t actually play much in it; it’s really for nuzzling and reading and sleeping. One thing that’s remarkable to me about having a girl after a boy is that she gravitates toward dolls in a way that I was completely not expecting.
On the flamingo photograph: The flamingo was a gift from a friend. She points to it all the time and says “flamingo” in this garbled way. It was actually one of her first words.
Credits: "T" pink pillow: Jonathan Adler. Crib: IKEA. Bunting: Matteo. Teddy bear: Jellycat. Flamingo photograph: Animal Print Shop.
On having a separate playroom: One of the luxuries of moving from New York to California was getting more space. I tend to be super tidy and organized; I sometimes joke that I have to resist my impulse to have a dustpan in one hand and a broom in another. Knowing that a lot of toys and artwork can be down here, including paints and Playdoh, and I can just relax about it is good for me and them. I want this to be a deeply happy place.
On favorite toy stores: The Land of Nod and Magic Cabin always have wonderful stuff. We get a lot on Amazon Prime (the free shipping is totally dangerous). At IKEA, too. Camden Rose makes gorgeous kids stuff, like mini kitchens, food products and wooden eggs. And I find it impossible to resist Jess Brown dolls. Each one is like a work of art.
On people figures: I recently discovered a couple in Brooklyn who makes wedding cake toppers and wooden peg dolls on etsy. They're the perfect size for little hands, so smooth and so satisfying to play with. And they’re funny—say, a Brooklyn hipster family where the dad’s wearing a button-down and the mom is wearing a flowy Isabel Marant type top. They don’t have set expressions, so the kids can pretend they’re doing anything.
Credits: Lantern garland: Mimi'lou. Mini table: Giggle. Mini chairs: Kartell. Purple rug: Flor.
Thank you so much, Sari! And thanks to the lovely Bonnie Tsang for taking photos.
P.S. A lovely New York apartment, and a 500-square-foot San Francisco home.
(Photos by Bonnie Tsang for Cup of Jo)