Perfect Perch

Clients of interior designer Annie Fitzgerald love her ability to integrate color and texture—as well as add elegance—to a space. Here she takes that aesthetic to her own new home—a mid-century modern in Sherman Oaks.
Written by Susan S. Spillman  |  Photographed by Shane O’Donnell

After six years of viewing mid-century modern homes in the Valley, Annie Fitzgerald and husband, Gregg Fienberg, finally found their dream house. The couple knew it the moment they walked through the front door.

It wasn’t that the home was picture perfect. Greeting them as they entered the hilltop property just below Mulholland Drive was a black, Asian-inspired mural that covered the entire south entry hall wall, chocolate brown drapes and a serious lack of light.

“It wasn’t my aesthetic,” says Annie. “But we knew we could do something special with the architecture.”

And did she ever.

In just four months, Annie, a partner with Maria von Hartz in the design firm Von Fitz Design, transformed the 3,628-square-foot space from a dark mishmash of dreary sage, khaki and brown into a bright, breezy sophisticated oasis.

Built in 1956 by noted architect Armand LeTourneau, the structure already had the distinct mid-century modern features that Annie and Gregg love: clean lines, floor-to-ceiling windows and an open floor plan that makes for great entertaining.

One of the first problems addressed: the lack of light. Despite numerous oversized windows, the afternoon sun was obstructed by a large, stacked stone wall in the front yard. By lowering and shortening the length of the wall, which was also resurfaced with white concrete, the kitchen and family room became drenched in glorious sunlight.

Add to that the picturesque Valley and canyon views and the home’s 1/3-acre lot, and it’s easy to see why Annie calls this “my little tree house.”

Little is merely a term of endearment. The home has five bedrooms, including one for Annie’s son, Jesse, a student at University of Washington. There are offices for Annie, who is also an actress (Bloodline, Big Love), and for Gregg, a producer with HBO.

Another key move in terms of brightening the house was lightening the dark cherry hardwood floors. That entailed a thorough sanding and three bleachings, followed by a whitewash and two coats of protective matte varnish.

“Not an easy task,” admits Annie, “but less expensive than doing a whole new floor.”

Another thing Annie did to lighten up the interiors was to cover the mural, as well as all the walls, with Benjamin Moore’s “Decorator’s White.”

The kitchen revamp included installing walnut cabinets, Caesarstone quartz countertops and a Heath Ceramics tile backsplash.

The biggest structural change was relocating the powder room that opened into the family room.

“It was the weirdest thing,” says Annie. “You’re having a party, and literally the door would be open, and you could see the toilet.”

Cleverly repurposing a second pantry, she moved the powder room to a more appropriate spot off the entry hall. The original powder room space was then brilliantly converted to a built-in bar, stunningly tiled with brushed brass and topped with Rosa Aurora marble.

The step into the living room in front of the new bar was then extended about 18 inches to make the passageway wider. After a brainstorming session with architect friend, Sue Addison, a bench/bookcase was built into the stairs.

Once these structural changes, the floors and painting were complete, mid-century light fixtures were added throughout. Among these is a four-ball, vertical hanging light in the foyer, made in Germany, that Annie purchased on eBay years before having a place to hang it. The kitchen island lights are original 1959 Wohlert pendants from Louis Poulsen, and the dining room and breakfast room lights are Noguchi lanterns.

The furniture is a combination of custom-made and vintage pieces, including a custom dining room table made by MIDCENTURYLA in North Hollywood, surrounded by fiberglass, molded Eames dining chairs from Modernica, in Los Angeles. Rugs throughout the house are from Amadi Carpets in West Hollywood.

Annie’s handpicked, and in some cases, own original artwork and artifacts complete the casual, clean and highly personalized space. Prominent among these is a 22-inch-high pair of 1960s platform boots that sit on the family room fireplace hearth. Annie spotted the boots, which each weigh 8 pounds, in a Seattle vintage store, and Gregg surprised her with them for Christmas.

The house is still a work in progress. Next up: installing a slatted, teak wooden wall behind the bed in the master and wallpapering the powder room. The couple would also like to eventually add a Jacuzzi next to the pool and a bit more landscaping.

“It’ll never really be done,” admits Annie, “but playing is the fun part.”