Mark’s Original Mid Century Modern Home

published Dec 12, 2011
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Name: Mark W. Knowles
Location: Los Feliz — Los Angeles, California
Size: 1,900 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years — own

Mark lives in an incredibly restored Mid Century gem that offers the best example of 1960’s modern architecture. Not only was the home built the same year he was born, but he was lucky enough to acquire some of the original furniture from the original owners. This is a home he loves so dearly, he confessed, that its beauty and history keep him awake at night with awe and admiration.

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

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

When I photographed Julie and Rob Maigret’s awesome home, she encouraged me to take a peek at her neighbor’s house. So we snuck next door and I peeked into the living room and knew immediately it was something special. Both Julie’s home and her neighbor Mark’s home were built by the architecture firm of Corey & Rodwell. The original owners were Herman and Anita Stein, who both lived in the home until they passed.

Fifty years since its creation, this home still has all the original fixtures, glass, doors and wood paneling. Mark noted that he made no augmentation to the home, because he wanted to honor the original integrity of the design. Besides matching the original paint colors for touch ups, he was even able to get some of the original accessories and decor from the original owner. “The most significant pieces for me are those that actually belong to the previous owners who built the house, who were both musicians (he a composer, she a Violist with the LA Philharmonic). One is a set of Eames Eiffel chairs, and the other is a glass bowl from a glass collection Anita Stein displayed on the through-way shelf, which sits between the kitchen and conversation area beyond.”

Mark wanted to pay homage to the authentic design of this era of architecture, as he loves how the floor plan embraces outdoor and indoor living into one space. “LA is a perfect environment for mid-century style. Aside from the easy access to design resources, most mid-century homes were designed to spill out of the interior, making the exterior an extension of the spaces within. Also, LA’s mild semi-desert climate allows for a constant comfortable contact with outside nature and its elements.”

One thing that I loved about photographing the space was how proud Mark was of it, taking the time to tell me the history of each room. I found it genuinely charming that he also included genre related artwork that was tied to the films which Herman Stein (the original owner) composed for. He has really found a way to keep the generations of the home all tied together.

The entire northeast side of the house is floor to ceiling windows and glass doors, which give you constant light and inspiration throughout the day. I wanted to know what his design philosophy was. “Be receptive. How does the space make me feel, and what is it telling you about how it wants to be expressed? Notice what colors speak to you as you go through your day. Try to find that “one thing” that helps inspire the design of an entire room. Example: for the color palette in my office, it was a paper plate that was left behind by an electrician. The plate had a combination of colors that became my color scheme for the entire room (shades of green, blue, and pink). So thanks Dixie-plates!”

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Mid-Century Modern, both me and my home were built in 1961.

Inspiration: Nature was the main inspiration for the interiors. The house is nestled in the hills of Griffith Park, which reminded me of the Sierra Mountains. There’s nothing atomic-age about the house’s DNA. Also, many mid-century artisans reinterpreted nature in their designs with a modern twist; art, furniture, and textiles. From the house’s terrazzo floors, to the Red Wood paneling, natural textures and materials just felt like the way to go.

Favorite Element: My favorite element about the house is that everything is absolutely original to the day the architect said “done.” Nothing has been altered, only restored. Only the furniture and textiles are new. This includes original kitchen utilities (which still work perfectly) and light fixtures. We even had the paint as closely matched to the original colors as possible. The other element that I love is that every room has access to natural light. If it’s a space with no windows, it either has a sky-light, or there’s glass above the walls to allow light in from other rooms with windows.

Biggest Challenge: I encountered one “problem” area in the house, which was the living room surrounding the fireplace. All the community spaces at the front of the house are open to each other, which gives the modest size of the home a much larger feel. But this particular area presented a special problem, because it was both a sit-down spot, as well as a through-way from the front door to the other community spaces. When the Steins owned the home they floated a baby grand in the center; Herman Stein composed many scores for Universal B-Horror films (Creature from the Black Lagoon, Incredible Shrinking Man, The Mole People, This Island Earth, etc.). It took me almost three years, and several cycles of different seating, to finally get it right. At the front of the house is an entire wall of glass, so I needed to take advantage of the spectacular view, which meant the couch had to be angled, not flat against the rear wall. Eventually I settled on a straight eight foot sofa (rebuilt from a pair of vintage settees I’d been dragging around since the 80’s), and a vintage white nagahide bar which fit tightly against the wall. This created a cozy space to entertain, yet let people pass-through to the other community areas. Size and proportion were imperative. Also all the vintage seating I’d acquired for these community spaces were without arms. This visually kept the energy flowing from one seating surface to another, allowing the eye to move from space-to-space unbroken.

What Friends Say: My friends tell me the house gives them a very peaceful feeling. Part of it is the furnishing made from natural materials, the other reason is that I keep the interior as uncultured as the views outside. Also, I feel there’s a positive presence in the home, maybe lingering from Herman and Anita Stein who built it. More than once Herman told neighbors before he died that they just wanted somebody to eventually buy the house who’d keep it intact. All I’ve ever wanted was a unique house that was completely original, so we both got our wish. It was a match made in heaven.

Biggest Embarrassment: My biggest embarrassment was locking myself out of my home the first week moving in, barefoot and in my PJ’s, while taking out the garbage. Luckily I have trusty neighbors who were willing to keep an extra key for me for just such emergencies. Thanks Julie & Rob!

Proudest DIY: One of my favorite things that I designed and exicuted was the bas-relief sculpture in the living room. I originally created it for my husband’s pool wall, who lives across the street in his own home. The bas-relief was inspired by a 1940’s menu cover from the Queen Mary Ocean Liner, and luckily we had a back-up made when we poured it. Its sort’ve symbolic for me of the way we’ve structured our living arrangement. My husband’s bas-relief sits above his pool, which I can see from my living room window, and mine sits on the wall as you enter the house.

Biggest Indulgence: The biggest indulgence was purchasing an all natural organic latex king-sized mattress. It’s unbelievably comfy, and cost easily 3-to-4 times that of a good commercial mattress. But organic latex is non-toxic (standard mattress are full of harmful off-gassing materials), plus it will last 25 to 30 years or longer. So I’ll possibly be dead before I need to replace it. I also have a couch from the 60’s with pads made from organic latex, and they’ve kept their shape and resilience to this day.

Best Advice: Design to the DNA of your home. Hopefully the bones are good. I once read that the beauty lies in the expression of the structure itself, so don’t fill it with too much stuff. When you go to a museum, the reason the art looks so important, is because there’s a lot of negative space surrounding it. Try to keep clutter grouped together on shelves and defined areas. Don’t spread knickknacks over every surface. Also, try not to mix more than three colors per room, it will diffuse the pallet.

Dream Sources: 1) Great vintage pieces can be found at a hole-in-the-wall called Hernandez (furniture & Appliances) at 6208 Santa Monica Blvd. It looks like a junk store from the outside, but inside you’ll see Mid-Century/Danish/Deco gems pilled three layers high. Pay cash for the best deals. 2) Inexpensive Sculptures can be found @ Francisco Castaneda @ 6705 Santa Monica Blvd. It’s a stand centered in a mini-mart, and they have great prices and statues of all kinds, and they always change. 3) For one-of-a-kind ceramics: The Glendale Community College Spring Ceramics Sale (usually held the 1st week of June @ Glendale community College – 1500 North Verdugo Rd, Glendale 91208). Get there early because the good stuff goes like hot-cakes. Most of the Ceramics in my house were purchased at a single exhibit/sale. 4) Always keep you’re your eyes peeled around alleys & dumpsters. People are lazy, and you’ll be amazed at some of the treasures that get throw out… Just look at out my house!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Side Table: Part of a furniture set given to me by friend when her grandmother passed away. Other pieces from this set are scattered throughout my home.
    • Circular Sci-fi painting: pulled from the backyard of a duplex my friend was renting. It was left behind by the former tenant, who was an artist, and he used a kitchen table as a canvas. It’s heavy as hell.
    • Round Foot Stool: given to me by friend. It was recovered to match the original upholstery.
    • Dot Rug/Mat: IKEA


    • Green Couch: Purchased from a thrift store in Queens, NY in the 80’s. Recovered to match original upholstery.
    • Pillows w/circle designs:
    • White Shaggy Wool Rug/Throw: IKEA
    • Glass Coffee Table: Base found in an alley in Silver Lake. Glass Top designed and re-cut to fit.
    • Metal and Glass shelf unit: dumpster
    • Glass Lamp: Round base found in trash, chandelier topper from IKEA
    • Blue Vase- bar: Glendale Community College Spring Ceramics Sale
    • Bar: East Village Street, NYC late 80’s.
    • Wicker Bar Stools: estate sale.
    • Bas Relief: sculpted by myself
    • Saint Frances of Assisi statue: Francisco Castaneda @ 6705 Santa Monica Blvd
    • Pounded Brass Bas Relief: taken from the interior of a retired Ocean Liner
    • Rug: Cut out from a larger wall-to-wall piece thrown out by my neighbors.
    • Eames Wicker Womb Style Round “O” Chair: Yard sale.
    • Round woven stool: purchased on the street in Los Feliz Village, 1 of 2.
    • Wicker Basket: Estate Sale
    • Vintage HOLLYWOOD REGENCY Brass Deer Sculpture: gift from neighbor
    • Two small coffee table sculptures: Hernandez (furniture & Appliances) @ 6208 Santa Monica Blvd
    • Round Glass Flower Vase: garbage
    • French Movie Poster: Douglas Sirk film “Tarnished Angels” which Herman Stein composed music for.


    • Eero Saarinen pedestal table: Hernandez (furniture & Appliances) at 6208 Santa Monica Blvd
    • Mid-Century China Cabinet: Hernandez (furniture & Appliances) at 6208 Santa Monica Blvd
    • Mid-Century wood screen: yard sale
    • Paper Floor Lamp: IKEA
    • Eames Eiffel Chairs: Original to the house, purchased back from a neighbor


    • Round Marble Wet-bar: Los Feliz Vintage junk store (no longer in operation)
    • Round Slate Coffee Table: From my alumni University’s Student Union
    • White Nagahide Couches: Gift from a friend.
    • Curtains: IKEA
    • White Shaggy Wool Rug/Throw: IKEA
    • Round White Rugs: IKEA
    • Papasan Chair: alley in Silver Lake
    • Free Standing Candle Sticks: Pottery Barn
    • Round Lamp: IKEA
    • Gray Vase: Glendale Community College Spring Ceramics Sale
    • Small White Vase: Jonathan Adler home design


    • Couch: gift from a friend’s garage, missing pads which were rebuilt.
    • End tables: Estate Sale
    • Lamps: Veterans Thrift Store
    • African Paintings: gift from a friend
    • Yellow Display Shelf: found on the street in NYC
    • Slipper Chair: purchased from a friend, recovered
    • White Male-Head Stool/Side Table:
    • Zebra Painting: found in an alley in Glendale
    • Organic Brown Sculpture: Hernandez @ 6208 Santa Monica Blvd
    • Frankoma Pottery: Goodwill


    • Rugs: Ikea
    • Glass Vases in throughway display cabinet: IKEA (except for original lavender colored bowl owned by Anita Stein)
    • Ceramic Vases: Glendale Community College Spring Ceramics Sale
    • Flour/Sugar/Tea Canisters: My Grandmother’s Kitchen
    • Mid Century Brass Coffee Set:


    • Living Room Set: Craig’s list
    • Leaf Rug:
    • Buddha Head: Francisco Castaneda @ 6705 Santa Monica Blvd
    • Lamps: EBay
    • Curtains: IKEA
    • Pillows: IKEA/Target/West Elm
    • Klimt red needle-point pillow – made by Jillian Taylor
    • White Shaggy Wool Rug/Throw: IKEA


    • Ripple rug – Thrift Store
    • White plaster Conch Shell: Armstrong Gardening Supplies
    • Bath Mats:
    • White Display Shelves: IKEA


    • Four Seasons metal reliefs: Thrift Store
    • White Make-up Stool: Yard Sale
    • Round Rug:


    • Sleeper Couch: Vintage – Craig’s List
    • Pink Vintage “Cosmos” Curtains: Trash
    • Movie Poster Prints: Various films that Herman Stein composed music
    • Vintage Folding Chairs: Alley in Silver Lake
    • Black Colonel Chair: John Hopkins School of Medicine Alumni Chair – inherited from my father Paul W. Knowles

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Mark!

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