My House: The Founders of Backdrop Paint Accentuate the Charms of Their Spanish-Style Home

My House: The Founders of Backdrop Paint Accentuate the Charms of Their Spanish-Style Home

By Melissa Dalton
Leaving New York City for the sunnier climes of Los Angeles, color connoisseurs Natalie and Caleb Ebel play up the historic details of their Silver Lake residence.

This was the first home that Natalie and Caleb Ebel looked at upon landing in Los Angeles with their daughter. In 2018, the couple founded Backdrop, a direct-to-consumer paint company with a curated palette of 51 colors in New York City—then followed that up with a cross-country move last year. 

Natale and Caleb Ebel’s home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles was built in 1922. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, with an additional bedroom and bathroom on the lower level, which can work as a separate private suite for family from out-of-town, or a studio for the couple.

Natalie and Caleb immediately fell in love with the innate character of this 1920s-era Spanish-style home, which included such charming features as 100-year-old doors, textured stucco walls, lots of mosaic tiling, and a large outdoor living room. A neutral paint palette brings those details to the forefront, and creates the perfect setting for the couple’s kid-friendly furniture scheme and personal collections. We chatted with them about their approach.

A 100-year-old door was painted in the After Hours color from Backdrop to make the historic tile surround pop.

What motivated you to move to L.A.?

Caleb: We lived in New York City for about a decade, and we love the city, but after having a child and realizing that the apartment didn’t feel so large anymore, that started us thinking, "Well, how do we make this work?" Desire for a change of scenery and better weather and a bit more space—all those things informed moving out to the West Coast. 

We were really pleasantly surprised to find this little area of Los Angeles, in Silver Lake. The east side has a very Brooklyn feel, but with all of the Spanish-style architecture and weather that L.A. is great for. It was the best of both worlds. More and more folks that we know from New York are coming out this way, and we’re trying to encourage everyone we know to come out west. 

Inside the entry, Natalie experiments with color-blocking on the ceiling. "Between the beams right now, I've painted a little bit of a color-blocking palette, which gives this really cool effect," says Natalie. The colors seen here are The Early Stuff and Miami Parasol by Backdrop.

Tell us about finding the house. What first attracted you to it?

Natalie: We landed in L.A. last July, and it was the very first place that we saw. I found it online, and the pictures did not do it justice at all. It was very confusing. All I saw was this beautiful foliage with the bougainvillea, and then there’s this big cactus in the photos. This outdoor space is amazing. I loved the original, 1920s Spanish architecture. 

But I think what really sold me is [that] there are lot of quirks. The Spanish tile is gorgeous, the arches. I don’t know if you’ve seen any pictures of the original doors—they’re 100 years old. But there were just so many charming things, and I think some people couldn’t see opportunity, but Caleb and I really loved it.  

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In the living room, the trim was painted in Backdrop’s Dark Arts in semi-gloss sheen. The Gwyneth Boucle chairs are from the goop x CB2 collection, and chosen because they allow the occupant to swivel and face the dining room. Having a toddler means "picking out furniture is tricky, because no sharp edges [are allowed]," says Natalie. "You can see that all my coffee tables move around, and there are no 90-degree angles, which is a rule when you have kids."

Was the home in pretty good shape, or did you have to do any work to it?

Natalie: Other than painting, obviously, because painting is the easiest way to transform a space and in an affordable way. Even repainting some of the exterior doors, repainting the exterior, redoing the trim in here, and just a fresh coat of white paint, makes it look new. That is one of the first things that we did. 

Caleb: Some people see signs of age as a detriment, but we see it as character. We enjoy that. 

Natalie: I think it’s really something special to celebrate the original architecture, or the original lighting and the original doors, and not replace any of that. The chandelier is an original; it’s part of the home, and same with the Spanish-style doors with the carving and the stars. They’re just really beautiful. I think those little details are what made it special for us.  

A framed Joan Miro piece makes for an eye-catching corner. "I really love vintage art," says Natalie, who scours eBay for her collection. "You can find some really special pieces."

A vintage Murano glass vase sits with a framed etched print from artist Don Corleon. 

How do you describe your approach to putting the home together?

Natalie: We did it pretty fast because with the nature of our lives—we’re running a business, we have a three-year-old—there are enough hectic parts of our life. Getting it together was really important to me. We try not to overthink it, but also make sure that it’s a design that we like and flows with our lifestyle. We’re now spending more time in our home than ever, so it [needs to be] both beautiful and functional. 

I do have white furniture, [and] a lot of people think I’m crazy. But our daughter, she knows. She’s like, "I don't go on the couch with my shoes." Scotchgard is our best friend. Our approach is to mix vintage, old and new, decorate with colorful accents, and then I really like a neutral backdrop. Our Supermoon color is throughout the house, and it’s a pure white. It doesn’t skew warm, doesn’t skew cold. It really just complements any decor that you put in the room. 

Artful stacks of Caleb’s collection of National Geographic and Monocle magazines. "They make for decoration, but I just like having them around after I read them as well," says Caleb. Adds Natalie, "I love them because my family's Italian, and my grandma would always have bright yellow pieces that she would decorate with. That was my way to celebrate that part of her home and bring it to our home." The Lincoln Center poster is vintage, and the couple lived nearby it when they were based in NYC.

The quirky tiled kitchen holds much of its original charm and is Natalie’s favorite room. The rug is by Patterson Flynn Martin.

An assortment of vintage glassware fills the open shelves, as well as ceramics from Don Corleon picked up on a trip to Italy.

How did you choose the color palette?

Natalie: We deal with color so much in our jobs and in our day-to-day that I like having a neutral palette. Especially with the stucco walls and the plaster, the white just made sense for this space. Really, Supermoon was part of the impetus of starting Backdrop. I went to go paint my daughter's nursery when I was pregnant in 2016, and there are 300 whites, and there did not need to be 300 whites. I just bought a vintage rug from Morocco, and that took me seven days to get it, but painting her nursery took months because it was way too difficult. 

I'm a big fan of white paint, and it's so easy to touch up. It's so easy to make a space look new. Complementing that with Dark Arts on the trim to highlight the architecture just felt like a no-brainer. We have such beautiful foliage and views that the Dark Arts trim really frames everything like a picture window. 

A vintage Henri Matisse poster in its original frame that Natalie scored off eBay. "I think I watched this one for over six months and finally got it," she says.

Accent walls in the bedroom are painted in Backdrop’s Harajuku Morning, and the bed is the Floyd Platform Bed.

It looks like there's that touch of color in the bedroom?

Natalie: We do have Harajuku Morning in our bedroom, which is a light, peachy-pink color. The name was actually one of my favorites. We also have a playlist that goes along with it, but it was inspired by our trip to Tokyo and Harajuku neighborhood when I was pregnant. 

I like pink in the bedroom, especially this light pink. It's warm enough, but it's also bright and cheerful. When the morning light comes in our bedroom, it just hits it and looks very beautiful. It's so subtle that it's not overwhelming. 

A citrus tree sits right outside double doors in the bedroom.

And then there’s an area in the house where you can test different paint colors that you’re working on?

Natalie: Especially during COVID, since we've been trapped at home, we've used the downstairs area [more]. I painted those walls so many times. 

Right now, it's painted in Shy Boys, which is one of our newer colors, which is a true pink, and then Kismet. It's a dark Dutch green. I'm testing out colors all the time down there. I tested out Ghost Ranch with another color. We have one coming up that's getting ready to go up on the walls called Disco Nap, and it's a yellow color. I like it because we don't spend as much time in that area, so it's like a [makeshift] studio for us right now.

At the lower level, the family dog Winston sits on the The Sofa by Floyd in Mist.

The downstairs patio is framed in bougainvillea and has two Boomerang Lounge rattan chairs with a mosaic-topped table, both from CB2.

Color experimentations in progress downstairs, with the Backdrop colors Shy Boys and Kismet.

The Ebels have outdoor living and dining rooms. The Span Small table is composed of stone composite and natural fibers and designed by Mermelada Estudio, available at CB2.

The outdoor area looks amazing, and must be especially nice during COVID times. How did it come together?

Natalie: That was so much fun. I think that in my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined that we would have basically an outdoor living room. But it came together before COVID, and I feel so grateful for that. 

It was really important to celebrate the tiling, which I think is the hero of the space, and we did two parallel couches that are actually modular. You can pull them apart and move them around. We do movie nights out there and we project onto the wall. We really, I would say, spend more time out there in the summer than we do inside. 

The Ebels enjoy their outdoor area.

The outdoor living room can accommodate anything from movie night to a morning work session.

What’s the new normal at home now?

Natalie: I like to work from home, and Caleb goes to the office; he's literally the only one that's there right now. I work outside, too. It's really nice in the mornings to go sit on the sofa, listen to the birds, and send some emails, which was never a possibility when we lived in New York. We used to have two tiny windows on the Upper West Side, and we'd pop our head out, and that was the extent of our outdoor space. This is quite different than that.

The living room sports original tiling, the Bizerte sofas from CB2, LED string lights from Costco, and a fresh coat of Backdrop’s Supermoon exterior paint.

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