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When Naomi Gibson started designing this cottage in Cypress Park, Los Angeles, she fantasized that an artist from the nearby la BEAST gallery would buy it and use it for after parties. So she focused on turning it into a host’s dream home. “It is unique in that it is a flat plot that is 100 per cent utilised; there are so many different places to visit,” she says. Finally, a young couple bought the property just five days after Naomi and her husband, Josh, listed it. Together, they make up the team behind Gibson House, an interior design firm dedicated to renovating and selling homes—but they’re not your typical flippers. They’ve both had long tenures in the cut-throat world of fashion, Naomi as the former director of design at For Love & Lemons, and Josh owning a clothing, screen printing and embroidery factory in downtown LA.
“Having such an intense fashion experience gave me a great understanding of color balance and proportion,” shares Naomi. “It was a good background to switch to interiors. I fell in love with the process and switched from silk and velvet to wood and marble.” The circa-1916 Cypress Park home is the couple’s fourth project, and one of the easier ones. Despite a dated interior filled with stained wood cabinets and linoleum floors, Naomi was able to keep the overall structure of the 1,136-square-foot home intact. Of course, with a house over 100 years old, there were a few hiccups, like re-leveling the whole place due to sagging foundation beams and replacing the framing and plaster in the kitchen after water damage was discovered . “It’s not nice money to spend, but it’s important,” notes Naomi.
To offset costs, she was picky about where they saved and where they saved. For example, going with durable laminate flooring in all the rooms except the bathrooms has given way to materials with bigger price tags, such as leather marble, which is obtained by sanding down the stone so that the grain has more height and the shine is gone. “It’s non-negotiable; it’s essential to communicate romance in a space,” shares Naomi. When it came time to sell, she saved on staging costs by relying on thrift items from antique stores (and their neighbor’s estate sale), handmade pieces from Etsy, and even a few finds from Target, Wayfair, and Amazon. (Psst: The fifteen foot tall potted trees lining the fence are from a mansion in Pasadena that Naomi found on Facebook Marketplace). Ahead, the seasoned renovator reveals how they pulled off the transformation in just nine weeks.
Frame the series
Naomi found the large wooden beams that now outline the red-hot kitchen range at her local lumber yard, but the 180-year-old boards initially came from an Amish barn in Ohio. The designer used the wood, along with Calacatta marble and plaster, to give the space an old-world Italian farmhouse vibe; to make it “feel like it’s always been there”. “Tuscan kitchens have large wood stoves in the kitchen, so I wanted to mimic that with the hood by making it massive,” she describes. They also added beams to the ceiling of the kitchen to tie together the dark wood floors and countertops.
Let Flat Walls Sing
Continuing the Mediterranean feel, the couple wrapped the walls in texture using a technique the Gibsons used in all four of the homes they remodeled. The limewash is applied by hand with a wide paintbrush in a cross-grid pattern, which adds depth to the 2D surface. “What I love is that it bounces light around a space. It sets the mood,” she says. Throughout the house, Naomi opted for colors found in nature (although the new owners could easily paint over the whitewash if they preferred traditional white).
In one of the bedrooms, the designer used a green-grey hue to mimic the lush garden outside. “I’m obsessed with atriums; I hope to have one one day, and my husband has the greenest thumbs,” she says. To finish off the space, the Gibsons DIY made some marble hexagon tables by painting them dark emerald.
Adjust only what is necessary
Some existing elements of the house were in decent enough shape to keep, including the “wobbly” flagstone patio in the backyard. “I kept it even though it’s uneven and worn because it adds emotion and history,” says Naomi. Paving over everything would have been a shame, especially after finding children’s handprints with dates etched next to them in the concrete. “I liked it too,” she says.
For the most part, the backyard just needed a little reimagining. Where there used to be a braai area, there is now a fireplace and built-in seating. “I enjoy working with design constraints and reusing existing things,” she adds. Naomi took a similar approach inside as he reconsidered the various nooks and crannies. The designers turned an old cubby between the living room and the kitchen into a bar nook, while an old broom cupboard next to the fireplace became an open shelving area.
Connect the dots
To remedy the awkward flow between the home’s bedrooms, the designers added an archway between two of them (one of which they staged as an office) to allow a full-circle flow through the home. When privacy is a concern, they can separate the areas with a custom barn door. “Having double barn doors creates a sense of barrier between two spaces,” she says. “And the bow is soft and welcoming and has more flair. “
Find your best light
Knowing that her own husband complains about having uneven lighting when he shaves, Naomi wanted to make sure that the light in the bathroom would not be too harsh for future residents. To achieve perfect eye-level lighting, she had a custom mirror made with soft dressing room-style lights around it. It was designed to fit the custom marble vanity exactly, and required careful measurement. In the end, a gallerist does not live in the house, but the new owners certainly live in a work of art in itself.