Jon & Tyke’s Modern Cabin

published Aug 20, 2010
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Name: Tyke O’Brien and Jon Leaver
Location: Topanga Canyon, California
Size: 1,700 square feet — 2 bedrooms
Years lived in: 3 — owned
Who else lives here? Our son, Monty (almost 2 year old) and our cat, Tiny. And there’s a coyote named Jeff who sometimes mills around outside.

When we last saw Jon and Tyke in their Topanga Canyon Casa it was cozy and warm, filled with wood and deep rich colors and patterns. Flash forward 3 years and the couple has been busy renovating a new space — transforming a dark old cabin into a modern and bright retreat and launching a new design business.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Jon and Tyke’s home is featured in this month’s Sunset Magazine for their smart (think DIY) approach to renovating. Among the changes they made to the once dark and somewhat dated cabin in the canyon: they painted it white (after trying a few different colors and deciding that white was the only way to go), they converted an attached garage into a light filled living room, they created a new entrance to the house, added an inexpensive wood floor upstairs and in the midst of all of this they had a baby (Monty) and put together a modern white nursery.

Jon and Tyke are true design enthusiasts, spending free time combing thrift stores, looking for deals and always thinking about improvements they could make to their home. The Eames chair in the office was a side of the road find at a desert thrift store, the dining table on super sale at HD Buttercup and the pillows on the sofa, hand sewn from old skirts of Tyke’s. They replaced all the arts and crafts era light fixtures with ones from Ikea and local LA design shops like French 50’s and 60’s (the white sconces in the bedroom and the egg shaped fixture in the living room).

Check out Jon and Tyke’s last house tour here and see more of their design work and services at O’Brien Leaver Design.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We are drawn to a mix of things that are found, things that are very modern, and things that are old and have a story or capture the spirit of the time period from which they come. After that we try to be careful arrangers and then become constant re-arrangers, always sensing what color combinations make us happy and aiming to create spaces that are comfortable and clean.

Inspiration: Every year we buy a subscription to World of Interiors, and the stunning photographs of and brilliantly written stories about every kind of domicile on the planet — from the unrefined to the ritzy always blow us away and contribute to the mental inspiration banks.

Favorite Element: Monty’s room. It feels like you are floating in the clouds inside the room, but when you look out the windows you see 2-story tall stalks of bright green bamboo floating in the breeze.

Biggest Challenge: The configuration of the downstairs rooms was awkward for a while…but then, after a few months, we had our eureka moment and figured it out.

Proudest DIY: The conversion of the living/family room from a dark ex-garage to a light, airy space with polished concrete floors, a spacious opening onto the dining room, and a wall of windows and glass doors (which serve as the new front entrance to the house).

Biggest Indulgence: We actually don’t have one. We are bargain hunters, thoughtful consumers, and homely object re-fashioners to the bone. And because we are always alert to the possibility of finding great stuff, we tend wait until we get lucky.

Best Advice: We keep files of images we love, both electronically — i.e. images saved from blogs — and/or culled from paper sources (i.e. magazines). These “genius files” help to form your own design ethos and will somehow filter into the identity of your own spaces in both conscious and subconscious ways.

Dream Sources: The best things are always ones that surprises us, that we didn’t know we needed but that make perfect sense when we see them, bought from a treasure trove off the beaten track that is owned by an incredibly nice and quirky person.

Other Inspiration The 70s. Always the 70s.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:



    • Sofa and dining room table: HD Buttercup
    • White chaise lounge: found at the side of the road and reupholstered
    • Dining room chairs: Bellini chairs from DWR
    • Phillipe Starck outdoor bubble club furniture: DWR and Craigslist
    • Midcentury Swedish chairs: Surfing Cowboys in Venice
    • The Saarinen tulip table is from a vintage furniture store Palm Springs
    • The bright blue ice cream chairs (at the Saarinen table) were found in an alley and powder coated
    • Yellow chair in Monty’s room: found
    • Orange rocking chair: found in a junk shop and powder coated
    • White office desk: West Elm
    • Black desk chair: Konstantin Gcric: bought online
    • Black sideboard in office and natural wood Heywood Wakefield bureau set (which Tyke has had for 18 years and is about to lacquer white): flea markets (Rose Bowl and Long Beach)
    • Beds: IKEA, gray sofa sleeper downstairs is from DWR.
    • Master bedroom bedding is from Habitat in the UK


    • Throw pillows were made out of vintage clothing fabrics and fabrics bought in India
    • table knick knacks are from places like OK, French 50s and 60s, and Tortoise
    • the Eames elephant was a baby shower gift
    • the silver toy “baskets” both in Monty’s room and the dining room are from Plastica


    • Monty’s blue pendant lamp is from Kartell
    • vintage egg pendant in the living room is from French 50s and 60s (as are the black floor lamp by the bookshelves and the white sconces in the bedroom)
    • vintage chrome multi-globe lamp is from a Goodwill
    • rice paper pendants above the big table are from IKEA
    • the green and red lamps in the office are from flea markets


    • Cowskin rugs: Surfing Cowboys
    • Hidden Treasures in Topanga, and a man in a van in Laguna (he is there almost every day and has the best selection of hide rugs)
    • The Gabbeh rug was bought at a blowout sale at a Pasadena rug shop


    • IKEA
    • J.C.Penney, who has a surprisingly good, well-priced selection


    • Michael Jordan t-shirt photo (next to the bookshelves, in the gilt frame) is from a Japanese artist and was bought at Tortoise
    • pink and white print above the tulip table is by Deanne Cheuk and is from Giant Robot
    • Jon painted and drew many of our pieces (such as the empty pool watercolor — copied from an artist’s photograph)
    • Tyke took the photo of the bed above our master bed
    • Fatima (saint/icon in pink) “paper sculpture” is by Mary Younakof
    • deer drawing is by art students at Tyke’s school
    • the big painting in Monty’s room is by Ruth Trotter
    • many of the little pieces around are by family and friends


    • wide plank wood floors upstairs are from Lumber Liquidators and we painted them white
    • bamboo floors downstairs came with the house
    • Ace Concrete did the concrete work

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks Jon, Tyke and Monty!

Images: Laure Joliet

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