In Silverlake, stylist Jessica de Ruiter and sculptor-designer Jed Lind update a 1950s gem into a bright family oasis.
Buy a house, then life happens.For Jessica de Ruiter and Jed Lind’s midcentury modern abode in Silverlake, the renovation of the structure was definitely a bigger project than they had anticipated.
“It took two years,” explains de Ruiter, a fashion stylist (C, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, W). “Plus, I had our baby girl, James, during the middle of it.”
Lind, a sculptor-turned-newly enlisted member of Commune Design’s team, took the reins on the lengthy process. In 1953, a woman artist and civil-rights activist commissioned Gregory Ain to design the house. It was then stamped by James H. Garrott, one of the few African-American architects working in L.A. at the time (he shared an office on nearby Hyperion Avenue with Ain). Lind was concerned that the footprint of the house remain true to its origins, but he wasn’t overly bound to them. Ain’s daughter Emily paid a surprise visit during construction and was able to share valuable recollections (as well as confirm the rumors of her father’s eccentric habit of doing headstands in every house he built). The couple upgraded the kitchen, bathrooms and even the built-ins. A number of rooms are angled with unusual geometry, so in James’ playroom, for example, they made the space feel more square by adding a daybed and bookshelf. They finished the exterior’s breezy landscaping with unmanicured plants such as creeping fig, lavender, sage, melaleuca and a myriad of natives; for the interior, they used warm woods, Moroccan rugs, kilims from Woven Accents and vintage Ikat pillows to soften and contrast sharper angles. De Ruiter’s first love is textiles—all upholstery on the couches is Libeco—and she has a major rug obsession.
A share of the couple’s pieces were inherited from Lind’s mother. Other objects, like their white Milo Baughman chair, was picked up along the way. Many were commissioned, such as the unlacquered brass Byron Stripling coffee tables, and pots by ceramicist Stan Bitters. Lind fabricated several choice pieces including the office desk and the bedroom side tables. “If you look around, you realize there’s not much furniture. Most of the bigger pieces are built-ins,” says de Ruiter.
“This is a very different house for us. We both grew up in Toronto and were used to much more traditional architecture.” But Silverlake drew them in with all things cool: midcentury modern and high design, coffee spots and boutiques, the lake meadow and reservoir—that, and the house’s light, airy charms. “It just gets better and better,” de Ruiter adds. “It feels like it’s ours. I love the way the layers of the house keep building to make a real home.”
By Amelia Fleetwood.
Photographed by Douglas Friedman.
Produced by Kendall Conrad.
A family of five has California dreaming Taylor made
BROOK, BILLY, AND THEIR THREE CHILDREN—Chet, 14, Xiaxia, 12, and Marlin, 4—live a charmed life on Rincon Beach...the quintessential California Dream. Located in the seaside community of Carpinteria, Rincon is home of the fabled longest wave in the state and was even immortalized in the Beach Boys’s famous song, “Surfin’ Safari.”
It also may well be the epicenter of all that is California—sun-bleached hair adorning freckle-faced kids, breathtaking sunsets, wet suited surfers stippling the waves of the Pacific, beach bonfires, frisky dogs playing in the sand, and the natural setting by the mouth of the river. Arriving at Rincon Beach, you get the feeling you’ve stumbled upon a romantic, secret world that belongs in simpler, more innocent times.
As she drives up to her house in the gated residential community, Brook Harvey-Taylor—cofounder of Pacifica, a line of natural, 100 percent vegan beauty products—still has to pinch herself when she sees the surf rolling in. “There is not a day that I don’t think how lucky I am,” she says. “Living on Rincon Beach is most definitely a dream come true for me and Billy.”
All of the Taylors are competitive surfers, more often in the water than not. Chet mends the dings of locals’ surfboards; even Marlin considers herself a surfer. Homeschooling their children frees up the Taylors so they can take family trips and keep the kids focused on what they love most: music and surfing.
Both Billy and Brook attended college in Oregon, and it was ultimately the Portland weather—and the wish for warmer waters to surf—that fueled their wanderlust. One fateful trip, in search of sunnier climes, they decided to scour the California coast for a great surf town to call home. As luck would have it, after landing in Los Angeles, all of their belongings, including their beloved surfboards, were stolen. In a land where every cloud has a silver lining, this seeming tragedy gave the Taylors the opportunity to fall in love with beautiful, sunny Carpinteria, home to Rincon Designs, where they replaced their stolen boards.
Brook, who has surfed Rincon since her early 20s,
has always loved it there. “So many times I’d look up
at those houses on the beach and think how lucky the people who lived in them were,” she says. Nine years
ago, their dream came true when the Taylors found their present house. They were encouraged by a neighbor, who seduced them with magical stories of raising children on Rincon, creating such an enticing scenario that they were determined to replicate it, and the deal was sealed.
The house, which started as a 1972 tract home, has now been sculpted into a wonderfully light and airy family home with a good dose of midcentury aesthetic, adding some chicness to the easy atmosphere. If houses are said to create portraits of their owners, then this one is an easy read, especially being that it was designed without the help of an interior decorator. The beach house is the perfect canvas to showcase the Taylors’ eclectic personal style, always taking into account the considerations of real life. Filled with vintage skateboards and surfboards, the fun-loving spirit of the rooms comes alive with colorful objects, art work, and furniture carefully chosen for its ability to stand the test of time—style-wise—as well as
to withstand the wear and tear of children. Brook jokes: “Our beautiful Milo Baughman white sofas are now beautiful grey Milo Baughman sofas; but I love that idea of barefoot kids running all over the house, so we made sure it’s very livable.”
Collecting things that have history, durability, and meaning, the Taylors insist, is a rule of thumb. Brook especially loves the Shepard Fairey prints and fine art photography hanging throughout the house. Everything contributes to a warm and welcoming home. Brook’s favorite purchase: “It seemed like a fortune at the time, buying the Noguchi lamp.” They bought it when she and Billy first tasted success. “It means so much to us.” For Brook and Billy, both self-made with the advent of their company, Pacifica, the purchase became a reminder of how far they have come.
Pacifica conveys the dichotomy of a sophisticated life lived naturally. “It’s about beauty, lifestyle, the use of all natural ingredients, and recyclable packaging,” she says. They were heavily influenced by Jean Michel Cousteau of the Cousteau Society. He encouraged the Taylors to use recyclable materials and natural products, allowing them to “walk the talk” and to be responsible business owners.
Brook reflects on what she took away from her childhood, growing up on a small cattle ranch in Montana. For her, it’s all about the cycle of life and the connection to nature. “For my kids,” she says, “the waves are their horses.” True. And the connection to Mother Earth remains the same.