An L.A. fixer-upper gets a fresh look with the help of salvaged and vintage finds
Paige Porter Fischer
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In with the old
Joe Karnes is no stranger to tenacity. Since he joined the band Fitz and the Tantrums in 2010, he has been steadily building a massive fan base. But when it came to buying a house, Karnes and his wife, Samantha Scharff, a Fox executive, were running out of patience. They had looked in Los Angeles for more than a year, hoping to find a midcentury home that was move-in ready for their family, including their 3-year-old daughter, Rilo Pearl. Unfortunately, it seemed everyone else was looking for the exact same thing. So when the couple heard that the design team behind many of their favorite properties, ReInhabit (re-inhabit.com), had bought a 1,650-square-foot house five doors down from the couple’s rental, their curiosity was piqued. Scharff and Karnes liked the firm for the way it rehabbed homes using salvaged materials. “We could see the love and care they put into bringing new life into old structures,” Karnes says.
With its low ceilings and awkward layout, the 1966 house was tough to love, but with ReInhabit behind the renovation, Karnes and Scharff made an offer. ReInhabit accepted but asked to retain design autonomy. The couple agreed, and four months later came the reveal: a midcentury charmer with an open floor plan, high ceilings, and rustic-meets-industrial touches that meld with the couple’s collection of vintage furniture and colorful textiles. “It took a year and a half,” says Scharff. “But we found our ideal house.”
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Joe Karnes and Samantha Scharff’s L.A. house got a full makeover by ReInhabit. One of the most impactful changes to the front of the house was the smallest: replacing the curlicues in the railing with steel rectangles painted yellow. The gray and yellow color scheme repeats inside.
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The existing kitchen cabinets got a few coats of gray paint and new hardware. ReInhabit tore out a peninsula but saved the cabinets to fashion the island. The backsplash tile and yellow barstools are both vintage. Salvaged pendant lights add an industrial element to the mix and are "strong enough to survive an earthquake," Scharff says.An original midcentury Western Holly porthole oven, found on Craigslist, fits the home’s era.
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ReInhabit removed walls to create an open space that includes the kitchen plus the dining and family rooms. Karnes and Scharff asked interior designer Shayne Blue (shaynebluedesigns.com) to help them outfit the family room with midcentury finds, like the upholstered chairs. A kid-friendly gray sectional anchors the space, and a bright rug offsets the darker colors in the room. “Every time Joe came home from tour, there was a new rug,” says Scharff. “But when we put the turquoise rug down, the floors sang.” The shelves were custom-built based on photos of a vintage unit the couple had saved.
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The vintage record player gets a lot of use. “I feel nostalgic every time I turn it on,” says Scharff. ReInhabit surprised the couple by hanging a custom-made sputnik chandelier—Scharff’s favorite—over the table, which was built out of mahogany and salvaged scaffolding wood by L.A. Salvage, ReInhabit’s sister company. John Douglas, ReInhabit’s design director, cleaned up scaffolding planks slathered in concrete and stucco to make the tops for the table, bench, and kitchen island.
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Scharff and Karnes wanted a room their daughter, Rilo, could grow into. “I wanted it to be whimsical and for her to be surrounded by things we love,” says Scharff. ReInhabit designed the bed from salvaged wood. Scharff found the tipi on Etsy, made by Marlowe and Jay of Venice, California. Rilo’s bright blanket is a souvenir from a trip to Laos before she was born.
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The bathtub and cabinets are original to the house, but ReInhabit found installed vintage turquoise tile to take the bathroom back to its roots. “They knew it would be our daughter’s bathroom, so they designed it with her in mind,” says Sam. “We love how adorable it is, without looking too much like a kid’s bathroom.”
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The couple call this their “sunset deck.” ReInhabit took advantage of a concrete slab at the top of the property, adding the deck and shade structure to make it seem more like a room where family and friends could relax and take in the city views, including the hollywood sign. L.A. Salvage found the vintage wire planters and designed the angular furniture out of salvaged wood.
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“The folks selling the house didn’t even present this space as value or a nice feature,” says Rudy Dvorak, of ReInhabit. “In my mind, it was one of the most appealing elements of the entire property. That amazing, go-forever view of iconic Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood sign.”