Trading Places

A showbiz couple swaps a Westside house for a Valley lifestyle– transforming a ho-hum spec home into a bold, color-popping Shangri-La.

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    Suzanna Cullen Hamilton

From the outside, it’s a perfect, Cape Cod-style house complete with crisp white trim and Adirondack chairs on   the front porch. Upon entering the foyer, it’s evident that the home of Nikki and Brandt Joel is the Los Angeles version of a New England saltbox house. Every detail—from the millwork to the lighting—has been blown up to a grand scale, while pops of bright colors yield energy and youthfulness to this traditional style architecture. 

The home’s dramatic flair hints at the owners’ Hollywood connection. Brandt is an agent with William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. And Nikki, a broker with Prudential California Realty, is the force behind the popular blog Lifestyle Lemonaid, which is currently being piloted as a sitcom for Fox. 

After living in Brentwood for five years, the couple bought the two-story Sherman Oaks house last year as a spec home (by builder Patrick Bengal). They recently transformed it into their dream home, which they share with their two sons.

Nikki has a practiced eye for design. She’s known for her love of the color pink, and from the moment the somber, raised-paneled front door swings open, you know you’ve entered her home. A pink-and-white Ikat print covers the living room walls, while four gigantic, white linen swivel chairs anchor the seating area.

The generous foyer and central hallway both boast exquisite, over-scaled, raised paneling, but it’s carefully foiled by soft grey wall tones and beautiful plank floors. Although the room sizes are not overwhelming, huge windows permit sunshine to flow throughout the house. 

The woven seagrass dining room chairs lend a modern, hip vibe to the established architectural style. A panoramic photograph of an Alaskan glacier, which Brandt took on his iPhone, has been blown up to fill an entire wall. The cool blue walls of the dining room combined with the glacier photo lend a subtle seaside feeling to this south-of-the-Boulevard home.

“I love my interior designer, Lara Nesburn of Mangrove Interiors,“ says Nikki. “She gives us what we want and makes our home represent us—not her.” 

The kitchen is a cook’s paradise, although Nikki admits, “The only thing I make is reservations.” A massive wine refrigerator and a gracious island ensure easy entertaining. The family dining and living area flow from the kitchen, and the nautical theme continues. Large orange lifebuoys have been framed in shadowboxes lined with a blue-and-white Ikat print fabric—continuing the reference to California beach living. 

Like most Cape Cod style homes, the staircase is a work of art. However, the Joels’ staircase is elevated in every sense of the word. Not only is it architecturally commanding, but also it is encased in Brandt’s photographs. The wall is a riot of blown-up images (both color and black-and-white) of the family and their travels, simply mounted behind plate glass.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a cocoon of bright blue grass cloth walls with a pink headboard. Crisp white fittings, mirrors and Carrera marble create a clean palate in the master bathroom. 

Each child picked his own room color, and Nikki’s sons are a testament to her design influences. One son picked brilliant grass green while the other chose hot tamale orange. Simple white IKEA beds provide a stark contrast to the vibrant walls. 

Every home has at least one special place, and for the Joels, it’s their respective offices. Brandt has a handsome office. Ink-blue semi-gloss paint over traditional raised paneling lends a modern, rich twist on what would otherwise be a predictable room of an established executive. 

Nikki’s upstairs office provides yet another fun, unexpected twist—a tribute to the ‘60s with a cage of brilliant yellow latticework lining the walls. However, the true jewel box of the house is literally that: the jewel box. Nikki loves accessories, so she had an entire closet in her office outfitted with shelves, drawers, boxes and hooks to house all of her fashion accoutrements. 

Completing the Joel house is the picturesque outdoor living area. A pool, trampoline, seating area and grassy yard make family entertaining easy. “We moved to the Valley because our kids go to school here, and I got tired of the drive,” says Nikki. “However, after living here, we love the Valley, and we’ll never leave.”

The motto of Nikki’s Lifestyle Lemonaid blog is “making lemonade out of lemons.” It seems that, with her new digs, she’s made a sterling pitcher of lemonade—with just the perfect combination of tangy and sweet—for her family to sip all year long.