This Artist’s Los Angeles House Is Minimalism at Its Coziest


The story of how Emilie Halpern, a conceptual artist living in Los Angeles, came to reimagine her entire house in the Los Feliz neighborhood starts out with a girl crush. “I first met Jessie through our children’s preschool,” says Emilie, referring to Jessie Young of furniture and interior design studio Estudio Persona. “I remember thinking, Who is this cool lady with an accent wearing black leather shorts? I want to be friends with her.

The women clicked, and soon enough Emilie became familiar with Jessie’s work at Estudio Persona, which she cofounded with fellow Uruguayan expat Emiliana González. Seeing the duo’s fresh approach to design and collaborative spirit captivated the artist. “I noticed how Jessie and Emiliana complemented each other, bouncing ideas back and forth very spontaneously,” says Emilie. “It was inspiring to see these two minds coming together and being so expansive—I wanted in.”

As it turns out, Emilie’s home, a post-and-beam construction from 1962, was in dire need of a makeover. The two-story, four-bedroom property looked rather gloomy and dated, with dark walnut slats covering some of the walls, mauve paint covering others, and a handful of old louvered windows that obstructed natural light. “I love beautiful things, but I didn’t have the skills to translate that into furniture and interiors,” she says. “Jessie and Emiliana came in and responded to what each room needed.”

A custom bench—simply pieces of maple topped with a thin leather cushion—sits in the master bedroom. Above it is an untitled graphite artwork by Ridley Howard. The designers used a bunch of jute rugs throughout the house. “They add warmth and texture and they’re low maintenance; she has a young boy,” Emiliana notes.

Photo: Laure Joliet

While respecting the home’s midcentury style (those interior walnut slats stayed), the designers worked to create a lighter, more contemporary feel. They painted every non-paneled wall white, replaced a few windows, and paired custom pieces with items from their existing furniture collection, which is largely inspired by avant-garde sculptors and painters. The result is an effortlessly chic atmosphere where muted colors, natural materials, and sculptural shapes come together in a kind of earthy minimalism. “There was this very strong retro look that needed to be softened,” explains cofounder Emiliana. “We used a lot of blond wood and textures like jute to create a sense of calm and warmth.”

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Estudio Persona’s pared-down esthetic was an ideal fit for Emilie, whose own sculptures, prints, and installations have a minimalist sensibility. “Now that the house is done, I miss them,” she says. “I actually still see them all the time, but I miss sitting there dreaming about what could be, and then watching it happen.”

Custom furnishings changed things up

Thanks to a few key pieces from Estudio Persona’s furniture line—matched with carefully selected artworks and accents—the living room and entrance went from midcentury to 21st century.

To lighten up the house’s walnut-paneled wall, the designers hung lithographs with white backgrounds by artist Jonas Wood. A white “Cloud” sofa from RH further softens the room. Because the ceilings are on the low side, the designers went with low-slung forms. The minimalist white oak coffee table and alder console, which holds part of Emilie’s vast vinyl collection, are custom. Estudio Persona’s egg-shaped Nido chairs, made of timber and black leather, and Puru side table, made of stainless steel and white oak, complete the look.

Photo: Laure Joliet

The designers wanted to make a unique statement in the entrance. Their solution: a multipurpose piece called Totem. (It was inspired by Brancusi sculptures and a Richard Serra drawing called Weight and Measure.) Now part of Estudio Persona’s collection, Totem consists of two stackable wooden stools and a tray on a concrete base, which fit together into a single column. A Kim Fisher aluminum artwork hangs on the wall; around the corner is a Rich Brilliant Willing floor lamp.

Photo: Laure Joliet

Minimalism is a calming force throughout

Several rooms in the house have a distinctly Japanese austerity, owing not only to Emilie’s taste but also to her lineage. “Her grandfather was a Japanese artist, so it was important to bring that heritage into her home,” Emiliana explains.

This “Cloud” platform bed from RH really is quite reminiscent of the fluffy puffs in the sky. It sits nearly by itself in the master bedroom, joined only by a slim reading lamp from Atelier de Troupe, a smaller version of Estudio Persona’s Totem, and a tiny drawing by Andrew Cameron titled Tear. A floating credenza, original to the home, provides ample storage without dominating the floor space.

Photo: Laure Joliet

Emilie’s lucky six-year-old son gets to sleep in this light-filled room, which features a custom platform bed in maple wood and a matching side table, both designed by Estudio Persona. The walls were left bare for the ultimate serene vibe—even the wall sconce by Rich Brilliant Willing is barely perceptible. The perforated brass table lamp is by Atelier de Troupe.

Photo: Laure Joliet

The master bathroom’s Japanese-style soaking tub is a piece of art in and of itself. The two rugs are from Cold Picnic.

Photo: Laure Joliet

Emilie’s series of chromogenic prints, No End, are on display in the dining room and match the colors of the foliage outside. The red oak dining table and maple chairs by Estudio Persona boast clean, sculptural lines that don’t distract from the view.

Photo: Laure Joliet

Speaking of that dining table, it’s fittingly named Linea because of the deep slit running through it with almost imperceptible joinery. The chair design, called Una, features a horseshoe-shaped seat and a cylindrical backrest upholstered in tan leather. Isamu Noguchi’s Akari pendant light hangs overhead. Open to the dining area, the kitchen was renovated by the previous owner and left as is.

Photo: Laure Joliet

It’s all in the details

Small alterations make a big difference when it comes to lightening a room. The designers replaced a series of old louvered windows in the guest bedroom and playroom, which not only looked dated but also blocked sunlight, leaving the rooms dim and unwelcoming. Throughout the home, built-ins save the day when it comes to keeping things neat. Lastly, Studio Persona painted the formerly mauve walls a bright white.

A Jonas Wood print adds one of only a few touches of color in the home to the guest bedroom. The stump side table is from Kalon Studios and the brass table is lamp from Atelier de Troupe. Naturally wrinkly linen sheets mean no ironing is necessary before friends arrive.

Photo: Laure Joliet

The house’s playroom is super organized thanks to a wall-to-wall closet, which hides hundreds of toys, and Estudio Persona’s custom console. On either side of the piece are two deep drawers. In the middle, what looks to be the base of the furniture is actually a set of detachable stools. The unfinished maple bed is from Kalon Studios and the sconce is from Atelier de Troupe. Halpern’s vibrant blue artworks, a series of cyanotypes called Sunset, hang on the wall.

Photo: Laure Joliet

Off the master bedroom, Emilie’s office is the tidiest we’ve ever seen. “She has boxes for everything; she loves visual serenity,” says Emiliana. An inset bookshelf right behind the custom desk helps keep the surface uncluttered. The table lamp is by Os & Oos. Emilie’s own vases line the floating shelf.

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