Laurie's Thrifty Elegance

House Tour

Name: Laurie Pike Location: Koreatown, Los Angeles Size: 800 square feet Years lived in: 7 years

One might assume that the style director for Los Angeles Magazine would furnish her home with the most lavish of appointments. But then you wouldn't really know Laurie Pike, a down-to-earth sophisticate and Cincinnati native who transplanted herself into ethnically-diverse Koreatown and hasn't looked back since moving in seven years ago. Laurie's joie de vivre spirit inhabits every corner of her near-original 1940s apartment, a colourful pastiche of thrift store furnishings punctuated by a gallery of artwork throughout. Over Langer's pastrami and blintzes, Laurie and I spent a leisurely lunch discussing thrift store decorating, the historical details of her apartment, her love of neighborhood, and the joys of a proper delicatessen.

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AT Survey:

My/Our style: Mid-century, thrift-store furniture and art accented by new art and natural elements such as tree branches. Though there are a lot of books and decorative objects ontop most surfaces, the place is somewhat spare (thanks to 6—count ‘em—6 closets).

Inspiration: French artist Raoul Dufy. His sense of color, relative spareness, visual optimism.

Favorite Element: Branches from hikes that I position in high places lift the eye and offer a counterpart to colors like lime green, blue and yellow.

Biggest Challenge: My own unwillingness to hire people to lug things here, so furniture pieces have to be lightweight enough for me to move myself.

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What Friends Say: “Is that you?” referring to an oil painting of the New York drag queen Fay Runway.

Biggest Embarrassment: I have never painted, nor cleaned the window exteriors.

Proudest DIY: My only DIY projects have been screwing in a loose door handle and replacing drawer pulls in the kitchen—well, half of them. I ran out.

Biggest Indulgence: The Fay Runway painting cost $900. I bought it with waitress tips in 1987 and have since never paid that amount for any single object for the house.

Best advice: “Place things high for precious verticality!”

Dream source: Rubbish, the Silver Lake furniture shop. Its particular take on mid-century modern educated me a lot.

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Resources:

Appliances: Nespresso espresso maker – Sur la Table; fridge, blender, microwave, stove – all pretty much the cheapest I could find or bought used from a friend.

Hardware: Everything came with the house except for Bakelite drawer pulls in the kitchen, from eBay.

Furniture:
Living room

  • Couch: Ikea
  • Coffee table, upholstered floral chairs, silver wood lamps: Kohnmann Quinn vintage shop on Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake
  • Chinese-influence cabinet: 26th Street flea market in NYC
  • Wrought iron table with marble top, wall mirror, black utility table, Fornasetti-esque lamp, double-decker wood table, low wood credenza: bought from or given to me by a friend who dabbled in interior design
  • Brown fabric chairs: H.D. Buttercup, in Culver City
  • Small wood table with drawers: found outside on trash heap (with two checks made out to “cash” inside, which were, regrettably, too old to do just that)
  • Large baroque wood frame: prop house sale in the San Fernando Valley
  • Two large figurative paintings: bought from the artist, Stephen Tashjian
  • The abstract, predominantly orange painting: bought from Ojala Gallery, which used to be on Echo Park Avenue in Echo Park
  • Vintage architectural rendering of the Lakewood, CA post office; ashtray with magazine rack; ceramics and decorative items: thrift store
  • Small framed sketch of myself: gift from the artist, Laurie Rosenwald

Dining room

  • Dining room table and chairs, file cabinet, large portrait of woman, smaller portrait of a guy, bookshelves, flower painting, ceramics, framed sketches of a woman’s face, wood frame with photo (from the New Yorker magazine) of Romanian immigrants: thrift shop
  • Dog photograph, cat lamp, vintage etching of Cincinnati, rack of glasses: gifts
  • Blue he-man painting: gift from the artist, Robert Loughlin)
  • Low metal cabinet: Ikea
  • Cement cat sculpture: From the Pasadena shop Gold Bug

Kitchen
Four portraits of women and vintage metal desk lamp both thrift shop finds.

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Bedroom
  • Bed, mirror, green nightstand, green lamp: Ikea
  • Large table: found on trash heap outside the house
  • Low table with cushions, Hollywood Bowl illustration, vintage Paris map, crystal lamp, non-functioning but fabulous metal lamp (in blue, white, red and black), Panasonic clock radio: gifts from friends
  • Andy Warhol photograph: gift from the photographer, Mark Hanauer
  • He-man collage painting: It’s Robert Laughlin, bought from an NYC gallery on Lafayette Street (undoubtedly there’s a cupcake shop or childcare center there now).
  • Collages of Mann’s Chinese Theater and New York’s East River looking towards Brooklyn: bought from the artist, John Morse
  • Raffia 3-D art piece: bought from L.A. artist Joseph Shuldiner
  • Vintage nightstand, empty wood frame, wood chair: thrift shop

Hall

  • “Specimen” boxed sculpture by Joseph Shuldiner (this stops everyone in their tracks in my house)
  • Framed painting by L.A. artist Maja, bought from the late, great Ojala gallery as a gift from a friend
  • Unframed cityscape and ceramics: thrift score

Lighting: All overhead glass fixtures came with the apartment.

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Paint: The off-white paint was fresh when I moved in. It has held up well considering the earthquakes and natural building movement over the years. I am inspired by one of the House Tours to paint in colors—pale yellow and blue-grey.

Flooring: Linoleum in kitchen is boring, white, and needless to say, not original.

Rugs and Carpets: The apartment came with white Berber carpeting. It would not have been my choice but it has held up surprisingly well and makes for a “Doris Day” feel (circa “Que Sera Sera”).

Tiles and Stone: Original yellow tile in bathroom, original white tile in the kitchen.

Window Treatments: The metal venetian shades and thick cream-colored curtains came with the apartment. There’s a large bay window in the living room with those same cream curtains as well as sheers.

Other: This apartment has soul. There are so many little joys to the architecture and design, since the place was never “ruinovated.” I only share one wall with the next apartment, so with 11 windows, three freestanding walls, and a back door as well as a front door, it feels more like a little house. The mail slot is built into the wall and has a beautifully designed grate. The central heating grates are also very pretty, with levers that allow you to regulate the temperature in each room. There’s molding on the lower walls as well as where the walls meet the ceilings. One of the bedroom closets has a built-in tie rack. There are built-in bookshelves in the living room and dining room; a built-in two-tiered shelf in the hall; and a built-in spice rack in the kitchen.

(Thanks, Laurie for inviting us over and also for the sandwich!)

Photos by Gregory Han

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