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Character study

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This remodeled apartment retains all the charm of its 1920s heritage while camouflaging its new role as an interior design office


Moving from a house to a single-bedroom apartment is always difficult when it comes to accommodating furniture and belongings. But it's even more of a challenge when the apartment has to double as an office.

But for building owner and interior designer Janet Bussell-Eriksson of Bussell Interiors, the charm and character of her new home far outweighed any concerns she had about its size.

Her apartment, on the top floor of the 1925 Tuscan-style residence, reflects the attention to detail that is evident on the exterior. Nine-foot-high coved ceilings, high baseboards, original brass hardware and lead crystal door knobs were all features that appealed to the designer. But while she wanted to preserve these elements, she also had to ensure the space would work as an office.

"The main focus of the project was to retain the feeling that the apartment was still a residence, despite its daytime function as an office," Bussell-Eriksson says. "The answer was to provide plenty of concealed storage that is easy to access – but everything can be tucked away when not in use."

For the living room, where her assistants work, Bussell-Eriksson designed high cabinets with antique-mirrored doors. A thin slab of granite provides a wrap-around countertop that doubles as a desk.


"At the end of the day, client files and sample boards can be hidden in the cabinets," says Bussell-Eriksson. "There is also a closet in this room with floor-to-ceiling shelving. This accommodates the computer network and the sound system for the audiovisual equipment."

Bussell-Eriksson's passion for, old-world furnishings determined the look of the interior. The living room features mahogany side tables, an velvet-upholstered antique chair, and a traditional settee. There is also a large, custom-designed leather ottoman in a rich oxblood shade.

"I love to introduce unexpected modern elements into a traditional interior," she says. "The ottoman is multi-purpose – it provides casual seating and also serves as a coffee table. And because it is such a low piece it doesn't block the view across the room."

Bussell-Eriksson retained the original wood floors, but sanded the 2-inch-wide boards and stained them dark brown.

"The rich color plays off the light walls and also works with the wood furniture," she says.

Bussell-Eriksson also highlighted the coved moldings in the living and dining rooms by painting them a different color to the walls and ceiling. This helps to make the room appear even taller, she says.

Another traditional feature to be retained was the different door styles, which Bussell-Eriksson describes as a door hierarchy.

"In years gone by, the importance of a door could be determined by its styling. The front door was always the largest, most significant door. Other openings might have three-panel or five-panel doors depending on their use. I love the way this varies throughout the house."

The main living spaces are open plan, however, and there is an easy flow between the living area and the dining room, which is another office in disguise. A large armoire opens to reveal a desk complete with lamp and filing systems. The dining table also doubles as Bussell-Eriksson's main desk. Walls in this room are a very pale pink shade, a color that appears in the drapes, along with dark brown and blue. A glittering chandelier further enhances the sense of grandeur.

The kitchen, which had been partially remodeled, was updated with more substantial granite countertops and glass-fronted maple cabinets.

The bedroom was also given a makeover, with soft silver-blue walls and taupe-toned furnishings. Furniture includes an antique settee covered in a Robert Allen silk fabric, and matching bedside tables with bevelled mirror surfaces. The bed conceals another storage option – 12-inch-high drawers for bed linen.

A large patio at the rear of the house offers an unexpected outdoor living area, complete with dining table and second-hand wood chairs covered with waterproof slip covers. A black-lacquered Balinese day bed, decorated with black-and-white pillows, provides casual seating.

First published date: 06 September 2006

Credit List

Designer Janet Bussell-Eriksson, Bussell Interiors (Los Angeles)
Structural engineer Parker & Resnick
Kitchen manufacturer Oliver Downie
Flooring Original wood, stained and refinished by Alsi Wood Floors; Plynyl vinyl from Chilewich
Paints Dunn Edwards
Varnishes and stains Custom blends by Victor Flores
Sofa, ottoman and master bed Custom designed by Bussell Interiors, manufactured by Fineman Brown Upholstery
Living room side tables and console Beacon Hill
Living room cabinetry Designed by Bussell Interiors, fabricated by Oliver Downie and Antonio Lopez, with finishing by Victor Flores; antique mirrors from Glass Queen; marble from Modul Marble; countertop fabricated by Real Tile
Armoire Ballard Design
Dining chair fabric Silk Trading Company
Kitchen cabinetry Maple
Backsplash Antique mirror from Glass Queen
Countertops Granite from Modul Marble
Range Frigidaire
Microwave GE
Bedroom night stands JC Penney
Bedroom settee fabric Robert Allen
Bedding Soft Home from Robert Allen
Bedroom carpet Royalty Carpet
Roman shades O'Shea Custom, with fabrics from Kravet, Robert Allen and Beacon Hill
Drapes O'Shea Custom, with fabrics from Donghi and O'Shea Custom
Television LG plasma, supplied and installed by Media Systems
Water heater Noritz tankless system
Toilet St Thomas from Design Expo