James’ Handmade Highland Park Home

published Sep 13, 2015
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(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Name: James Burial and his adorable dog, Penny
Location: Highland Park; Los Angeles, California
Size: 600 square feet
Years lived in: 9 months; Rented

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I met James a couple years ago at SHOPCLASS, where he runs the show in all things vintage. I figured he had a fond appreciation and awe for mid-century furnishings and details from decades past, and once I heard that he’d handmade his own dining table and chairs, I knew I had to invite myself over for a tour. I’m so happy he said yes.

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James and Penny (Image credit: Bethany Nauert)
(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

When I came over to visit James for this tour, he told me of his love for vintage and explained that it was quite a transition moving into a one-bedroom apartment after living in his own MCM ranch house in Portland. He traded the dark, gloomy rain for endless summer days — and so far has had no regrets. “My style has certainly changed in the two years that I’ve been in Los Angeles. Before my move from Portland, I was striving for period perfection with my 1961 ranch house (heavy on the kitsch). My current style probably has more to do with being immersed in the eclectic environment of my work at SHOPCLASS and our sister store, Amsterdam Modern (the owners of which have been generous with their knowledge, time and discounts!), than with the lifestyle and culture of Los Angeles. I do still love some kitsch though.”

He clearly has a knack for designing a cozy and livable space, though he admits his problem is “editing” down. James believes that when it comes to designing a home, the most essential part is to make it your own. He says “to hell with” trends and says if you love it, get it. “Do you like that ugly chair? That god-awful painting? Shoe piles? They are yours! Do whatcha want! With one exception: please don’t stack books under objects. This practice is unacceptable. Books are for reading and require easy access. They deserve better than being pedestals for some Target lamp. Seriously. Don’t do it.”

I’m sure that his move from a full-sized house up in the Pacific Northwest to a smaller, edited-down apartment taught him a great deal about holding on to what is most significant — or at least what he felt he valued most. “I have several things made by family and friends scattered around my place. In the fire, those are the things I’ll be gathering along with Penny-baby-goat and a jar of peanut butter.” Altogether, his collection of records (which are housed in four very impressive handmade record stands), his great vintage furniture, his bright, happy kitchen, and his eclectic art collection all make for a great home with lots of character.

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Nature boy down from the mountain.

Inspiration: The outdoors, quiet places, the office of Ray Eames.

Favorite Element: Sunlight.

Biggest Challenge: White dog hair. Lots of it. And shoe piles.

What Friends Say: “Uh, you’ve got a lot of wood and plants.” Don’t care. I like wood and plants.

Biggest Embarrassment: I have trouble editing, arranging, and otherwise organizing the things in my home.

Proudest DIY: Definitely the furniture I’ve made, including my dining table and chairs, the record stands, kitchen table/desk, and bedside tables. I take Furniture Design classes with Dewey Ambrosino at Art Center at Night. They have amazing instructors ready to share their skills and experience, as well as a great facility to make some sawdust. Wherever you are, go find a place to make things. You can do it.

Biggest Indulgence: Books. More than I ever read.

Best Advice: It’s temping to buy your furniture at big chain stores. Often these pieces are made with shoddy materials, aren’t built to last, and are basically tomorrow’s garbage. Everyone needs a shower curtain, flatware, and sheets, but for furniture check out local vintage/thrift/antique stores and flea markets. It may take a bit of searching, but what else do you have going on? You won’t have a cookie cutter home and, no matter what the item’s origin, by buying your furniture used you’ve pretty much guaranteed that your money is being spent locally. Can you see me way up on my high horse? I got him pre-owned.

Dream Sources: Some sort of time machine and period appropriate moneys.


(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


  • Ash table/desk: by me! I’m the best!
  • Bent plywood chairs: SHOPCLASS
(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)


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Thanks, James!