Janina Gavankar was house-sitting for a few of her pals when she first met Mandy Cheng, the interior designer sprucing up the couple’s pad. Gavankar, who has starred in the 2018 film Blindspotting and is cast in the upcoming Apple TV+ program The Morning Show and the feature film The Way Back with Ben Affleck, was impressed.
She ended up hiring Cheng to renovate her own 1940s Los Angeles home, knowing the designer would help it "reach its fullest potential." When Gavankar moved in five years ago, "the house had a masculine, Moroccan vibe," she recalls, "and then I made it into a standard California bungalow."
But as Cheng, principal designer at Mandy Cheng Design, is quick to explain, "Janina had grown out of that neutral style and wanted something to reflect who she is today instead. She wanted more colors and textures and for artwork to be prevalent. My design was crafted around those bullet-point ideas."
Gavankar admits she is a demanding client, and she loves how Cheng is able "to work with people who require a lot of artistic fortitude." Cheng, who began her career as a film production designer, has a knack for swiftly envisioning how spaces can evolve.
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For instance, Cheng immediately knew that putting swings and 20-foot-high walls of tiles in the kitchen would fulfill the actor’s desire for an "artistically bold and extra" aesthetic.
For the renovation, Cheng began with the moody green-on-green kitchen, with cabinetry that blends into the barrage of porcelain tiles. Floating shelves and those swings, the latter of which the detail-oriented Cheng spent hours considering the right rope and hardware for, complement the live-edge wood slab on the central island.
This space flows into the living room, where artist Livio Ramondelli’s spare design of two intertwined Grecian-inspired ladies covers one of the walls, extending down into the television. Once his work was finalized digitally, the crafty Gavankar projected it onto her fireplace and painted the monochrome image by hand.
Opposite the seating area is an expansive gallery wall. "Art is such a part of Janina’s life that it needed to go floor-to-ceiling. Some of it is priceless, some of it is Janina’s own work. The wall offers a glimpse into her as a person," says Cheng, pointing out intriguing pieces like the terracotta-dipped Victorian paintings on display.
To ground the house, a limited color palette was introduced. "We had a day where we sat down with Benjamin Moore paint swatches and stuck to our choices, trying not to waver. It was worth the amount of time and thought we put into it because everything feels cohesive and intentional," says Cheng.
Adds Gavankar, "These colors are large choices, but somehow they are repeated in different and interesting ways that feel neutralized. The blues in the guest bedroom are the same in the living room; the green in my bedroom is literally leftover paint from the kitchen."
In Gavankar’s bedroom, a reproduction of a J.H. Rosberg Mfg. watchmaker’s bench, sanded and painted in that same earthy green, is topped with a custom Hollywood lighted vanity mirror. Overlapping light and dark blue angles are painted onto a wall of the guest room, which features a closet with industrial orange pipes taking the place of a standard clothing rack.
That unexpected splash of brightness matches the cheerful hue in the pool house, where a ladder leads to a sleeping loft and a turquoise kitchenette evokes circa-1950s domestic splendor.
Then there’s the pool-adjacent cabana, which also received Gavankar’s personal touch. For a week she painted a colorful "carpet" onto its floor in 90-degree heat. "The cabana is the reason I bought this house," she says. "I always wanted an outdoor office."
Cabinetry Design (for pool house): Reform
Living Room Furniture: Rove Concepts
Outdoor Furniture: Article
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