L.A Story: Erinn Valenich Gives Her TV Producer Client a Home to Reflect the Media IndustryAuthor:Mary Jo Bowling
Jim and Theresa Berger have a place in New York City and a sprawling ranch-style house in Denver. When they decided to buy and remodel a home along the Venice canals in Los Angeles, they chose to make it completely different.
Overhauling the traditional Cape Cod–style house didn’t faze the couple at all. Jim operates High Noon Entertainment, the production company behind TLC’s Cake Boss and HGTV hits such as House Hunters, My First Sale and My Big Amazing Renovation. They hired interior designer Erinn Valencich after Jim noticed her work on HGTV.
“They wanted a beachy interior,” says Valencich, who repainted most of the spaces in the house—such as the living room, dining room and family room—light colors to amplify the sunlight that floods the house. In place of Cape Cod–style trims and colors, wallpapers and fabrics with bold, modern prints now fill the home’s three levels. Color and character come from an eclectic group of framed paintings, prints and wallpapers and a diverse mix of old and new furnishings.
The family home in Denver is traditional, and Theresa was ready to inject a healthy dose of glam into the design of this house, but with two young boys at home (ages 12 and 7), the elegant life often gives way to reality. Throughout the house, Valencich was conscious that a family would be living there (Jim lives in the house half the year, and the whole clan joins him for months at a time). In the living room, where the family often gathers, the sofas have refined lines but their frames are upholstered with tough and easy-to-clean Ultrasuede and their seat and back cushions are covered with outdoor fabrics. “And we used Scotchgard everywhere in the house,” says Valencich.
Before the remodel, the Craftsman-style fireplace was clad in heavy wood. The mantel was given a thinner profile and painted a light color, and water-hued glass tiles and built-in bookshelves surround the firebox. Theresa, whose email address contains the words “story lover,” is passionate about literature and collects manuscripts and novels (her favorite possessions include a 16th-century treatise on astronomy and a first edition of Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad). Valencich played on that interest by using books as accessories wherever possible. The bookshelves around the fireplace are filled with biology textbooks with red and blue spines. “I buy a lot of old books for their color, shape and size,” says Valencich, who shops used bookstores for vintage finds. “They add personality to a room.”
Another major piece is a vintage red-and-yellow Chinese console to the side of the fireplace. “It was important that this home have several older pieces to give it an eclectic look,” says Valencich. “We wanted something that looked more ‘collected over time’ than ‘instant interior.’”
The assembled look continues in the adjacent kitchen and dining room, where a long farm-style table that serves as a family gathering spot is surrounded by woven chairs, a bench and ladder-back chairs with striped seats. “Matched sets of anything give me hives—it’s so 1970s Levitz,” says Valencich. “It’s much more interesting to mix it up.”
A modern combination of furniture and fabrics is also in the deep brown media room, which is visible from the kitchen via a pass-through. “That is the only area in the house that doesn’t get much light,” says Theresa. “The previous owners tried to fight it by painting it bright white, but it looked shadowy and grim. We decided to embrace it by painting it a dark color, which makes it the perfect, cozy place to watch TV.”
The media room’s color palette may be limited, but the space is a symphony of pattern: Dark brown curtains with a subtle print in the same color cover a window on one side of the room, while cream-colored window coverings with a brown design dress the other side, and the tan-and-cream rug is decorated with oversize modern flourishes. “I love mixing and matching patterns, and I like them big and with graphic elements. I start with one pattern and just keep layering until it looks right to my eye,” says Valencich. “The only things I avoid are very small patterns, because even if they are modern, they can easily go too ‘grandma.’”
One of those bold patterns gave Theresa pause in the decorating process. When she saw a wall covering with a pearly gray background and black silhouettes of pomegranates, leaves and vines, she immediately wanted it for the master bedroom. But as it started going up, she had doubts. “I saw it on the wall and I started wondering if it was too much,” she says. “Erinn told me just to wait and see. I’m glad I did, because now it’s one of my favorite rooms.”
The big pattern is just a backdrop for more subtle patterns on the dupioni silk curtains (concentric circles), sisal rug (diamonds) and pillows and bedspread (brocade). The knotty pine ceiling was left unpainted for an added shot of texture. “I think this room is the most striking in the house,” says Valencich.
The open-plan third floor, which includes a large balcony, serves as an indoor-outdoor family room. The balcony’s table and chairs are a place for the family to play games, relax and entertain. “I love this part of the house, not only because it’s beautiful, but because you can hear the ocean from here,” says Theresa. This is also Jim’s favorite room in the house. “I have to say, if I had just seen a photo of that crimson sofa, I would never have chosen it,” he says of the bright red sectional that holds court in the family room. “But once I saw it in place, I loved it. It’s amazing what a splash of color can do for a room.”
This part of the house has been the scene of many wrap and premiere parties (Jim says the first showing of VH1’s Tough Love was particularly notable). “When we entertain, we host a lot of industry people,” he says. “Our company is one of the largest independent producers of lifestyle shows, so it’s important that our home be on the front edge of style.”
Of course, typecasting also may have had something to do with the design. “This part of Los Angeles is unique and fabulous. It is an urban area in the midst of everything, but walking along the canals makes it feel like a serene, quiet escape,” says Theresa. “We wanted to make our new home as fun and funky as Venice itself.”
*Published in the March 2011 issue of California Home+Design. Subscribe for free here!
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