Finishing Touches

An interior designer with a flair for sophistication morphs a spec house in Studio City into the perfect home for her family of four.

WRITTEN BY LINDA grasso

PHOTOGRAPHED BY Shane o’donnell

When Janelle Werdesheim got the itch to move a couple of years ago, she considered building. “But then I started thinking about our kids (Isabel, now 13 and Grant, now 12), and I honestly thought I just don’t want to take time away from being with them at this point.” Instead, the interior designer and husband Brian, set their sights on a turnkey spec home by Valley-based builder Dimitri Lekkos (Lekkos Builder Group).

The New England-style traditional, dotted with big windows and spacious rooms, has grey-whitewashed oak floors throughout. The home also has great “flow” and nearly every space is filled with natural light. Good bones aside, Janelle and Brian knew she could transform it into the ideal home to raise their family.

“Janelle is a big-picture person,” explains Brian, a wealth advisor for Oppenheimer & Co. “She has a vision and she executes it. She just makes sure I am comfortable with it and 90% of the time I say, ‘That’s perfect.’”

“The only thing that we didn’t love about the house was the backyard, which consisted basically of a lawn and several types of concrete,” shares Janelle. Sherman Oaks-based landscape designer Sarina Klemes was hired with a set of instructions. Janelle wanted different areas for entertaining: a built-in BBQ, an outdoor TV area and an open area in the center, where more seating could be added.

“We talked about keeping the grass but then decided that replacing it with a decomposed granite would make it easier to entertain. Once that was determined, all the other elements fell into place,” explains Sarina. Drought-tolerant plants like the Olive tree, as well as Boxwood and Westringia shrubs, were the perfect complements.

Painted a sandy white with a Swiss coffee trim throughout (all Benjamin Moore paints), the home is awash in subtle tones of grey, ocean blue and occasional pops of teal.

A living room near the entry sets the stage for a stunning painting by Sam Francis, an artist whom the couple admires. “I love his use of colors and the abstract nature of it. It feels like controlled chaos,” Brian states.

Complementing the bold painting are two mid-century modern chairs from Grace Furniture and a muted antique rug bought at Aga John. The living room wall, which faces the street, is lined with long, rectangular windows. Janelle hung the woven roman shades approximately 6 inches under where the glass begins. “With the window open that high, privacy is not an issue, so the shades start lower. That way it lets the light in,” she says.

An extra wide hallway leads to a dining room with a stunning contemporary light fixture (purchased at Arteriors), hung over a table for 10. Grass cloth, in a soothing shade of ocean blue, creates a cozy but elegant vibe.

Toward the back of the house is a large family room and kitchen that flow into each other. Glass doors in the family room open to reveal the backyard.

Two pieces by the photographer Slim Aarons, known for taking shots of people at famous vacation destinations, are on the family room walls—one shot in Palm Desert and one in the South of France. “I’ve always loved his work,” explains Janelle.

Brian, a founding member of The Summa Group, a wealth management team at Oppenheimer & Co., can get away from it all in his home office. A rich hue of chocolate was used on the walls, giving the room a masculine vibe, which is cleverly o set by a whimsical rug with orange and raspberry stripes. A handsome Eames chair and ottoman sit catty-corner to the desk.

Standing in the open-air space between the kitchen and family room, facing the back yard, Janelle takes a moment to appreciate the fruits of her labor. “I love this—having it all open to the outdoors. Plus at night, when we all are here, there is a spot for everyone. We all pick different spots but we are still all together,” she says with a smile.