Street Artist Keith Biele and Filmmaker Daniela Amavia Invite Us Inside Their Encino Hub

A creative lair, indeed.

  • Category
    Arts, Homes, People
  • Written by
    Susan Spillman
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

He’s one of Los Angeles’ premier street artists. She’s a former model/actress turned house flipper and filmmaker. Together, Keith Biele and Daniela Amavia cultivate their talents in a meticulously remodeled Encino estate bought from actress Shirley Jones.

“Her husband, Marty Ingels, had passed away and I think the property was a bit much for her to take care of,” says Daniela. Jones’ sons helped move out some of her things, but they left behind a mock dual street sign that reads “Cassidy” and “Ingels” streets, which remains out by the pool.

“I walked inside the house and saw the potential immediately,” shares Daniela, who was on the lookout primarily for space. She and Keith have 9-year-old twins, and both wanted to be able to work from home. “It’s our creative lair,” adds Daniela, who was born in Greece and raised in Germany.

In addition to her movie career, Daniela also flips homes under the banner Bravia Design, which she co-owns. She and her partner Dale Brasel spent six months updating the secluded, five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath home, which was built in 1957 and remodeled in the ’80s. Daniela’s makeover entailed extensive updates, including new floors, a new roof and almost everything in between. Still, Daniela and Dale were determined to maintain some of the home’s original architectural integrity.

“We felt that the house was special and needed to stay its meandering, magical ranch self,” says Daniela.

They moved interior walls and raised the ceilings to open up the space, added skylights and replaced the expanse of dated windows and French doors with single-paned, black-rimmed styles that welcome in views of the backyard, pool and Santa Susana Mountains.

“Each house has its own story and it’s our job to tell It. This one didn’t want to be all white and bright. It wanted to have a mood, to be an earthy color, from nature.”

Typical of today’s ranch remodels, giant rocks were removed from exterior and interior walls and the fireplace and refinished with a smooth surface. The wood veneer kitchen cabinets were upgraded to solid oak, and the master closet was enlarged to an enviable 17 by 20 feet.

The floors, formerly a hodgepodge of terra-cotta tile, hardwood and carpet, were replaced with white oak in the master bedroom and ceramic and concrete tiles throughout the rest of the house. Twins Lennox and Georgiana “can Rollerblade through almost the entire house, says Daniela. “The tile we put down is basically indestructible.”

They chose Restoration Hardware’s paint in “slate” for both the exterior and interior walls, in varying tones. For example, in some rooms, 50% of the paint color’s pigment was used.

“Each house has its own story and it’s our job to tell it,” says Daniela. “This one didn’t want to be all white and bright. It wanted to have a mood, to be an earthy color, from nature.”

The bathrooms are each tiled with different playful, black-and-white designs from Arizona Tile’s Cementine line.

“We like our materials in each house to be part of the same family, so as you walk through the house, you can feel a calmness through the unity of vision,” says Daniela.

A big part of the home’s character comes from Keith’s artwork, displayed in every room—even the bathrooms. In the living room, the sense of drama is heightened by a cohesive gallery of his bold, graffiti-style paintings. They mostly feature vibrant colors, though some are black-and-white.

As on the street, his work displayed at home imparts messages about teaching peace, empathy and protecting our planet. Each painting is signed with the moniker “Teachr.” (The “e” is omitted to represent budget cuts in public education, his initial and constant protest issue.) Some pieces are purely decorative; others honor famous people he admires. Portraits on display include educational activist Malala Yousafzai and the late pop icon Prince, who, Daniela shares, was a friend.

If Keith’s style looks familiar, chances are you’ve seen his graffiti on walls and electrical boxes throughout the city. He attended Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida, and originally moved to LA in 1999 with aspirations of being a volleyball player. But after a few commissions, he pivoted into being what he describes as an “activist artist.”

He worked on a 9/11 remembrance piece at the Pentagon, and his first graffiti art was a 2010 protest of public education cuts. The image was of a dollar bill with a picture of a baby—Georgiana at age 4 months—and the message “teach.” It now hangs in a bathroom.

Keith sticks to blank surfaces like electrical boxes rather than vandalizing billboards or signs. “Most of them are gray,” he says of the electrical boxes. “Why not put some art on them?”

Armed with spray paint and elaborately cut stencils, he hits the streets between midnight and 2 a.m. at least twice a month. Lately he’s branched into placing sculptures in public as well, including a series of a small French bulldog known as the Climate Watchdog.

Keith, who goes by @Teachr1 on Instagram, has 18,500 passionate followers. The artist often hides trademark symbols in his work, including peace signs, a spray paint can with wings, and a triple cross with the words Teach, Peace, Learn.

His creative process begins in his home studio, which occupies half of the family home’s eight-car garage. Here you’ll see the tools of his trade —including hundreds of stencils, some as large as 7 by 11 feet. Each takes between an hour and several weeks to make. Keith pioneered a stencil-making technique using paper and fiberglass window screen that’s been adopted by other street artists. He shares that his custom-crafted stencil process makes it easier to cut highly intricate designs and allows for multiple uses.

Among Keith’s favorite outdoor venues are an electrical box for Amoeba Records and another at the top of Vine Street, both in Hollywood. Political pieces, he says, work well on a box at the top of Lookout Mountain just off Laurel Canyon. Prime Valley locations include boxes at the corner of Burbank Boulevard and Hayvenhurst Avenue and another at Ventura and Balboa, both in Encino.

“Having a gallery that is free for everybody 24 hours is the best thing that happened to me as an artist,” says Keith. “Sometimes you can reach people who make a difference. But it can also be therapeutic in making me feel like at least I’ve made an effort to get a message out.”

Above Keith’s studio, Daniela and Dale’s talents are in play. They share a spacious loft office with skylights and vaulted ceilings. She divides her time between design and house flipping duties for Bravia Design and those for her burgeoning career as an independent filmmaker.

Daniela’s debut feature, A Beautiful Now, about a group of 30-something friends in LA, was a hit on the festival circuit and scored a run on Netflix. Next up, this summer she’ll shoot and direct her latest script, Get Lost, in Europe. A modern-day Alice In Wonderland, the film’s cast includes John Malkovich and Rosanna Arquette. Daniela’s twins, both aspiring thespians, have small parts in the movie.

Summing up her family’s vibrant, active hub, Daniela quips, “There’s something about this weird, strange commune going here. It’s a very creative place.”

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