Name: Stuart, Michelle & Marlowe
Location: Los Angeles, California
Size: 1,400 square feet
Years Lived In: 8
A mashup of vintage and modern organically permeates throughout Stuart and Michelle's Los Angeles home, the decor and the home electronics reflecting their diverse taste for all things beautiful and useful. It's a requirement considering the moderate sized dwellings is home to "2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 adults and a toddler", yet the space accommodates for a bit of luxury on a grand scale, with a home theater system which does a more than fair job of bringing the cinema into their home.
My/our style: Danish Modern meets high fidelity meets the reality of a 1,400 square feet home with 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 adults and a toddler. Unintentionally, I think the A/V components are a microcosm of our overall style, a mix of vintage and contemporary. The old: tube amps, a turntable, vinyl records, and the new: dedicated music server, in-wall speakers and dedicated home theater.
The inspiration for my home office/home theater: Our friends, Audiogon virtual systems, old issues of Elle Decor, Anthropologie catalogues, Rose Bowl Flea Market, chemistry labs, faux taxidermy, inherited objects, Chateau Marmont, Julius Shulman's photography, Jonathan Adler and the old Les Deux Cafe in Hollywood, back when it was run by the French woman.
Favorite element in your space: The stereo hi-fi!
Biggest challenge in designing my space: The balancing act of trying to keep things relatively clean & ordered while enjoying the chaos of having a toddler and a house full of animals.
What friends say about my space: The home theater is always a hit.
Area where there is room for improvement/future projects: Our home office (not pictured). We're working on it!
Proudest DIY (do it yourself) project: No doubt, the home theater. We started with a small, 117 sq ft space (13'x9'x9') with no windows but a one-light, glass/wood-framed door. We painted the walls and ceiling 2 shades of neutral grey and hung red velvet curtains from IKEA. When inside the room, the curtains can be pulled over the door to completely black out the room and absorb stray light from the projector. This helps with both picture quality and mood.'
In fact, to achieve a true theater experience, I followed THX recommendations for a 36 degree viewing angle. This would be like sitting in middle row of a typical movie theater. I determined that the largest screen I could use would be 92" and the viewing position would be 10 feet back. Luckily, this allowed 3 feet of space behind the viewer to place the components and avoid the boomy sound that typically comes from putting the listening position against a back wall. In addition, to control sound reflections (and there are a lot of them! 6 speakers in a small room), I added 4" thick acoustic panels to absorb some of the lower frequencies behind the listening position and 2" thick acoustic panels all along the side walls for the upper frequencies.
It's an all HDMI system, from the PS3 to the amp to the projector. I had the projector professionally calibrated by an ISF trained technician. I'm glad I did this because it is the ideal preset for watching Blu-Ray. Standard DVDs, HD and SD television tend to benefit from one of Panasonic's "cinema" presets which adds a bit more contrast, but it's Blu-Ray that really makes this room shine!
Biggest indulgence with respect to my space: The complete turntable rig from the cartridge to the turntable itself to the phono amp to the custom maple isolation platform. This is my favorite source for listening to music!
Best advice about organizing or incorporating tech into the home: If you play computer audio (and let's face it, who doesn't) then get yourself a decent DAC (digital to analog converter). Your computer already has a DAC in the sound card, but they are usually not very good. An external USB DAC will give you a convenient, noticeable upgrade in sound quality for not much money. I recommend the FUBAR II which can be found online for a very reasonable $137.
Secondly, I recommend using an external hard drive for your music files. Specifically, one that is able to run in RAID 1 mode. My LaCie has a casing with 2 individual, removable drives. Everything that is ripped to the drives is automatically copied to both, so if one drive ever fails you can pop it out and replace it without losing any data or paying for expensive recovery (which doesn't always work anyway). Every few months, I copy that entire drive to another back up drive using Super Duper and keep it at my office. Super Duper has a function that allows it to just copy the new stuff, so it only takes a few minutes to back everything up.
A lot of time and effort goes into building a digital music collection and you really can't be too safe when it comes to hard drives. Let's face it, they're little discs spinning at 7200 rpm, day after day, year after year, and they all fail eventually.
The bedroom, headphone system uses a 'vintage' Sony PlayStation 1 as the CD source. There is a kind of cult of the PS1 (specifically, it's model SCPH-1001). Some in the audiophile press believe it rivals $6,000 CD players and they can usually be found on eBay for $40-$60. Even if it can't beat a multi thousand dollar CD player, you'd be hard pressed to find a better CD player for the price! I also like the idea of finding a new use for an outdated, discarded piece of electronic equipment.
Finally, we added in-wall volume controls for the ceiling speakers in the kitchen and another for the speakers outside. It's really nice to have the convenience of turning the music up or down without leaving the kitchen.
Dream source for stuff: Skank World (LA), Surfas (Culver City), Brooks Berdan Ltd. (Monrovia, CA), Colette (Paris), American Rag/Maison Midi (LA), ABC Carpet/Home (NYC), Moss (NYC), Sonrisa (LA), Empiric (LA), the glassworks of Alison Berger, the gift shop at Four Seasons Maui, OK (LA), Yolk (LA), Barkeeper (LA), Kelly Green (LA), Analogue Productions 45rpm vinyl jazz reissues (Acoustic Sounds online)...can you tell we like to dream?
Home Tech Hardware:
The Hi-Fi Stereo:
Favorite places to buy vinyl: Record Surplus (West LA, used), Amoeba (Hollywood, new & used), PooBah (Pasadena, new & used), Origami Vinyl (Echo Park, new) and Online (Elusive Disc, Acoustic Sounds, and Music Direct, all new)
- Magnapan MMG loudspeakers: bought used on Audiogon
- Rogue Cronus Magnum integrated tube amp with EH KT90 tubes: bought used on Audiogon
- Exposure 2010 CD player: Sound Asylum in Venice, CA
- VPI Scout turntable with JMW-9 tonearm: Brooks Berdan Ltd., Monrovia, CA
- Benz Micro Wood SL phono cartridge: Brooks Berdan Ltd., Monrovia, CA
- Musical Surroundings Phonomena phono stage amp: Brooks Berdan Ltd., Monrovia, CA
- AKG k701 headphones: Amazon online
- Musical Fidelity X-Can v8 headphone amp: Audio Advisor online
- Monster Power HTS 3500 power conditioner: eBay
- Adcom GFA-5452 power amp (inherited) drives Polk speakers in-wall (kitchen) and outdoors: Crutchfield online<
- Phoenix speaker selector & volume knobs installed in-wall: Crutchfield online
- E&T Spider equipment racks from Hong Kong: ebay
- custom flat grained Maple isolation platforms: TimberNation online
- cables & power cords: Paul Speltz Anti-Cable & IC, Blue Jeans, Shunyata Research, VPI and Signal Cable
The Music Server:
- Dedicated 17" iMAC 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 512 MB RAM: Craigslist
- 2 TB LaCie 2big Quadra external HD in RAID 1 mode: Amazon online
- Fubar II USB DAC: Audiophile Products online
The Home Theater:
- Panasonic AE1000-U Front Projector:B&H online
- ISF Professional Calibraton by Glen Carter
- ceiling mount: Mounts Direct online
- Draper M1300 92" Cineperm screen: online
- Aperion speakers, mounts & stands: Aperion Audio online
- All cable is Blue jeans cable: Blue Jeans online
- Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver: Amazon
- Monster Home Theatre Reference HTS 2600 MkII: Amazon
- Sony PS3 & DVD remote: Amazon
- ATS Acoustics sound absorption panels: online
- Skycraft Hospital Grade power cords: online
- 2 Belkin wall-mount surge protector: online
- Netural grey wall/ceiling paint: Home Depot
- red velvet curtains & rod, Hamra leather loveseat & Chaise, leather footstool, entertainment credenza (behind sofa) & table lamp: IKEA
The Bedroom headphone system:
- Glow Audio Amp One: Glow Amp online
- Grado Labs Prestige SR-125 and extension cable: online
- Sony PlayStation SCPH-1001: eBay
Home Decor and Furnishings:
- Custom walnut Boxy sofa: Futurama Furniture LA
- The Bed Lounge (most comfortable music listening/breastfeeding pillow ever): www.bedlounge.com
- Vintage leather lounge chair & footstool: Craigslist
- Eero Saarinen Tulip chair: eBay
- Eames Aluminum Group chair: auction
- White nesting tables, white wool rug, bookcase for records, throw pillows, blankets, storage baskets: IKEA
- Tall dresser: estate sale of Artie Shaw
- Green, asian lamp/shade: Glendale Adventist thrift store/Target
- Teak reed lamp: eBay
- Latch-hook 'sleeping dog' pillow: made by Michelle's mom in the 70s
- Credenza: Design Modern (LA, Mid-City)
- Coffee table & silver reading lamp: Sunset Bazaar (Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake)
- Pottery: Glendale Community College
- Photography & artwork: Amy Hoffecker, Meg Madison, Agnes Montgomery, Sage Vaughn, Robert Rauschenberg, William Eggleston and Jessica White among others.
- Large pots & plants: Gainey Ceramics (La Verne, Ca) , Persson's Nursery (Pasadena), California Cactus Center (Pasadena), IKEA
- Built-in bookcase, all kitchen cabinetry and built-in wine rack: Brendan Sowersby of A Single Tree, Los Angeles
- Vintage bar stools: Rose Bowl Flea Market
- Brown swirl wool rug: estate sale of Artie Shaw
- Dining chairs: Arne Jacobsen Series 7 by Fritz Hansen: scored from a commercial job
- Nelson bubble lamp: Modernica
- Vintage round mirror: Pepe's Thrift (Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake)
- Dining table: inherited from an old roommate
- Kitchen floor: Cork from Linoleum City
- Counter: Amazon Leather by Silestone
- Tile: Mizu Bamboo by Walker Zanger
- Appliances: Jenn-Air
- "Squirrel Villa" cookie jar: handed down from Michelle's grandma
- Foor tile: Oceanside Glasstile, Sandstone (Iridescent): Mission Tile East
- Shower tile: Merola Tile, Penny Round Light Green from Home Depot online
- Hardware: Kohler
- Sink: IKEA
- Green ceramic lamp: inherited from old roommate
- Pink piggy bank: Beverly Hills Hotel gift shop
- Resin antlers: Zanzabelle, Silver Lake
- Furry mask hanging on resin antlers: on loan from a friend
- Bedside cabinets: Sunset Bazaar (Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake)
- Wide dresser: Glendale Adventist thrift
- Tall dresser: IKEA
- Photography: Meg Madison, Laurie Wilson, Olivier Lalin
- Mirror: estate sale of Artie Shaw
- Pendant lamp: Simon Karkov's Norm 69 Lamp
- Bed frame: IKEA
- Elk prints: Bird of Paradise thrift, Silver Lake
- White elk print frames: IKEA
- White lamps/white shades: Target
A thank you to Stuart, Michelle and Marlowe for letting us share their lovely home today.