My House: Kitchy Kitchen’s Claire Thomas Restores an Endlessly Charming L.A. Midcentury
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My House: Kitchy Kitchen’s Claire Thomas Restores an Endlessly Charming L.A. Midcentury

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By Jen Woo
Food blogger and commercial director Claire Thomas honors this Brentwood home’s heartwarming history.

Los Angeles Renaissance woman Claire Thomas is not only the founder of popular food blog The Kitchy Kitchen and cofounder of Sweet Laurel Bakery, but also works as a food stylist, personal chef, editorial photographer, and commercial director. In some ways, it seems inevitable: she’d worked for a production company on weekends and school breaks since the age of 12.

"I grew up surrounded by people who occupied that strange space where art and commerce meets," says Thomas. "Everyone was incredibly creative, and the focus was always on ‘the work’ that told a story in a beautiful way."

Jack and Marilyn Zuber lived in the Brentwood home for 65 years without altering anything but the wallpaper. Thomas even has photos of them digging on the site when construction first began. Out of respect for the home, Thomas tread carefully with her updates, even keeping the old drapes and using the original paint colors as a jumping-off point in researching color palettes of the era.

Jack and Marilyn Zuber lived in the Brentwood home for 65 years without altering anything but the wallpaper. Thomas even has photos of them digging on the site when construction first began. Out of respect for the home, Thomas tread carefully with her updates, even keeping the old drapes and using the original paint colors as a jumping-off point in researching color palettes of the era.

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In her work, which involves creating stories for digital platforms, broadcast commercials, and international campaigns, Thomas tries to instill change, creating visibility for the ways people actually live. Says Thomas, "It can even be with little things—like, food being messy and about the ingredients, or wardrobe and make up looking more accessible and reflecting people’s actual lives." 

Into her hectic schedule, Thomas managed to squeeze in another project—the preservation of her three-bed, three-bath abode in Brentwood. Originally built in 1953, the 3,000-square-foot home was designed by architect and UCLA professor Jack Zuber and his wife Marilyn. They planted a palm tree the day they moved in and lived in the home for their entire lives. Now, the tree stands 60 feet tall. 

To Claire Thomas, it was a perfect time capsule with wood-clad walls, a hidden bar, room dividers, and a chrome-edged streamlined kitchen.

To Claire Thomas, it was a perfect time capsule with wood-clad walls, a hidden bar, room dividers, and a chrome-edged streamlined kitchen.

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"You could feel the love in this house, and standing on the back porch, looking at Jack and Marilyn’s palm tree, we knew this was a special place," Thomas says. "I’ve renovated a few midcentury homes before, and it’s always a balance of respecting the past while adding modern comforts, but with this house, that was on an entirely other level." 

To Thomas, it was a perfect time capsule with wood-clad walls, a hidden bar, room dividers, and a chrome-edged streamlined kitchen. It was all rooted in Danish modernism and decor references from the late ’40s rather than the atomic, Palm Springs modernism of the late ’50s.

"I love the view from our bed, and had this idea of bringing the outside in through color," says Thomas. "I painted the room a rich, emerald green—Mission Jewel by Dunn Edwards—and centered the color palette on a painting by Michael Harnish of a floral arrangement by my dear friend, Yasmine Khatib." Black-and-brass Mitzi pendants float above the nightstand, while two chairs she reupholstered with Kravet velvet sit in the corner to match the dark walls. Floor-to-ceiling drapes by The Shade Store add a touch of drama. 

"I love the view from our bed, and had this idea of bringing the outside in through color," says Thomas. "I painted the room a rich, emerald green—Mission Jewel by Dunn Edwards—and centered the color palette on a painting by Michael Harnish of a floral arrangement by my dear friend, Yasmine Khatib." Black-and-brass Mitzi pendants float above the nightstand, while two chairs she reupholstered with Kravet velvet sit in the corner to match the dark walls. Floor-to-ceiling drapes by The Shade Store add a touch of drama. 

Thomas’s approach was to "celebrate and preserve, rather than rip out and change." There were, however, a few elements that needed to go, including the popcorn ceiling, vinyl wallpaper, and old carpet. She also refurbished the original hardwood and touched up the paint with period-appropriate hues. 

"Every contractor who walked in commented on how well-built the house was—the ceiling lines are perfectly straight, there’s no drywall; it’s all solid wood and plaster," she explains. "I thought I would have to add outlets in the kitchen because I didn’t see any, but the electrician pointed out that all of the outlets were hidden on the underside of the upper cabinets—Jack and Marilyn really thought of everything."

The green hue permeates her space, including this boho sitting area. 

The green hue permeates her space, including this boho sitting area. 

Where do you spend most of your time in your home? 

In bed, haha. In the mornings, I’ll grab my son and we’ll read books in bed while [my partner] Craig gets me a cup of coffee. If I can swing it, I’ll work from bed too. I’m sure it’s not the most efficient, but I love the light in here and it’s so comfortable. 

As someone that spends hours shooting and directing, what’s the one thing that you had to have in your sanctuary? 

A really good mattress and bedding. A good night’s sleep is imperative!

"The kitchen is like stepping into a time machine, and I love it," says Thomas. "It has such a great energy to it, and it’s truly a pleasure to cook in." This was the first design project in which she didn't remodel the kitchen, though she did create an additional kitchen in the garage for photoshoots.

"The kitchen is like stepping into a time machine, and I love it," says Thomas. "It has such a great energy to it, and it’s truly a pleasure to cook in." This was the first design project in which she didn't remodel the kitchen, though she did create an additional kitchen in the garage for photoshoots.

What is your single favorite piece of decor that you own, and why?

Oh gosh—this is a hard one! I really love the upholstered banquette in the kitchen. It really makes the space. 

What's one detail that made this truly feel like home? 

The framed photos in the hallway of my family. 

One of Thomas’s favorite color combinations from the ’40s was rust and pink, which she used in the guest bedroom. "I would not have thought of painting a room red (we’ve all seen that Sex and the City episode), but when I saw the sample of Spice of Life by Dunn Edwards, I was really surprised," she says. "It’s rich, and almost like a mood ring—it changes in depth and hue based on the time of day and what’s next to it." 

One of Thomas’s favorite color combinations from the ’40s was rust and pink, which she used in the guest bedroom. "I would not have thought of painting a room red (we’ve all seen that Sex and the City episode), but when I saw the sample of Spice of Life by Dunn Edwards, I was really surprised," she says. "It’s rich, and almost like a mood ring—it changes in depth and hue based on the time of day and what’s next to it." 

What's a trinket or souvenir that has a lot of meaning for you?

My polaroids—I frame all the polaroids from my travels and hang them in the guest bathroom. 

What were your must-haves in terms of furniture and accessories? 

Rugs were pretty high up there—I wanted to find great rugs for each space, since I was removing the carpet. Really great light fixtures were second—they’re like the jewelry in an outfit. 

A Rejuvenation rug, drapes from The Shade Store, and bedding from Parachute all echo the rust and pink palette. 

A Rejuvenation rug, drapes from The Shade Store, and bedding from Parachute all echo the rust and pink palette. 

What home items would you say are most important to invest in?

Other than excellent beds and appliances, I’d say furniture that you want to hold on to (especially the larger pieces, like a couch or dining set), drapes with good hardware (cheap drapes and hardware look cheap), and artwork. Artwork really can make a space. It personalizes your home and brings life to it. Indoor plants too! 

Since you’re a photographer and influencer, could you include some tips on how to make a home Instagram-worthy? 

Turn off all of the lights. Natural light is key! And make sure it’s clean but not sterile. You want the home to have humanity; otherwise it looks like a staged space. 

Thomas creates a thoughtful vignette on the guest room nightstand. 

Thomas creates a thoughtful vignette on the guest room nightstand. 

The backyard is an outdoor sanctuary filled with foliage and natural wood. 

The backyard is an outdoor sanctuary filled with foliage and natural wood. 

Thomas is all about emerald tones. 

Thomas is all about emerald tones.