Tour a Fearlessly Designed L.A. Home That Pays Homage to Its 1960s Roots

Nestled in the tree-lined Hollywood Hills, designer John McClain’s home is a lesson in balanced eclecticism.

john mcclain home tour
Zeke Ruelas

For interior designer John McClain, taking big risks is just a part of the job. With a family background in home building, his inherited passion for design eventually morphed into a full-fledged career. With a big break on HGTV in 2010, McClain then founded his namesake design firm in 2013, and launched a luxury home furnishings brand soon after. And, as any good designer knows, a body in motion stays in motion by taking these aforementioned risks.

So, when it came time to dive into his most personal project to date, his own home, McClain’s penchant for risk taking was apparent even before he made a single design decision. After discovering the listing for a Ray Kappe-designed condo nestled in the trees of a Los Angeles hillside, McClain made an offer before ever visiting the apartment in real life. The entire complex had just 12 units, and each was light-filled and architecturally compelling. “Geena Davis even lived across the hall at one point,” he adds. Despite the modest size of the home (just about 940 square feet), the bones of the unit were strong enough to stand out, while still allowing for McClain to add, as he calls it, his “signature stamp.” The airy interior, marked by floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, was an appropriate foreshadow to the unit’s outdoor space, which accounts for an additional 540 square feet. “The apartment is small, but feels much more expansive with all the glass,” he says. An L-shaped balcony creates a border around the main living room, which is framed by trees and views to the Hollywood Hills. “When you step outside, you’re basically sitting in the trees,” McClain says. “It feels like I’m living in a treehouse.”

john mcclain home tour
The kitchen was inspired by a 1960s iteration of the same space.
Zeke Ruelas

To showcase his own signature eclecticism, while still honoring the building’s 1960s roots, McClain balanced the mid-century modern vibe with a darker, moodier, collected approach. In all of his work, blending styles, genres, and periods makes up the loosely-calculated formula for creating fresh and evolving spaces. Simply put, “my homes are a great amalgam of the things that I enjoy.”

The starting point was the kitchen. “One of the previous owners actually had a photo of the way the space was laid out in the 60s,” McClain says. “So, I wanted to take that feel and not only update it for 2019, but for the way that I live.” This involved sourcing mirrored square tiles for the kitchen backsplash, which he paired with dark cabinetry and cool gray floors. “The tile alone makes the space feel larger,” McClain adds. “Plus, you can check your hair while you’re cooking up dinner.” Aside from the versatility of an open-concept common area, distinguishing each space as its own was important as well. And what the home lacked in walls, McClain made up for with smart design. “The biggest challenge was that the walls were basically the windows. I was very intimidated by them, and I loved it.” McClain’s solution: hang oversized, two-sided art from the ceiling, which can be enjoyed from the living room and from the balcony.

He then zoned off each space with sheer drapery, which was installed on a track to offer different configurations. “Even when an idea feels crazy and far-fetched, I’ll figure out a way to make it work,” the designer says. “Having my own furnishings line helps me understand both the aesthetics and construction of things. I decide what I want to build, then figure out how to actually build it.” McClain also opted for artwork in the form of sculptures, vases, pillows, and accent pieces. At this point, walls were no longer necessary for showcasing his assortment of collectibles.

In the living room, low-profile mid-century furniture is punctuated by a blue sofa topped with Picasso-style pillows from Greece, a six-piece mixed metal coffee table, and a statement light fixture in a silver finish. To tiptoe up to but never cross the line between eclectic and crazy, McClain referred back to the color wheel for guidance. “The underlying tones are what connect the space together,” he says. “Black undertones in the furniture are sultry yet bright; snaps of bold color give the space life; plants and wooden finishes add organic dimension without being overwhelming.”

john mcclain home tour
The exterior of the complex, designed by Architect Ray Kappe.
Zeke Ruelas

Elsewhere in the apartment, patterns, and geometrics dance around the home’s sleek architecture. Seven-foot custom oak bookcases offer a place to prop sentimental pieces, and a credenza stands out while blending in with its geometric-inspired silhouette and walnut construction. In the bathroom, a wallcovering designed by McClain features ancient symbols that spells out various phrases; a cryptic sense of grandeur that is apparent in all corners of the home. The master bedroom is a sexy and layered respite, a lesson in the power of quiet texture and sheen.

As for designing his own home, McClain admits: “I’m the worst client in the world. I would have fired myself a long time ago if I were a client,” he says, laughing. “I mean, I had seven iterations of the drapery in the living room alone.” Ultimately, the secret sauce to designing with only yourself in mind is quite simple. “Be sensitive to the style and period and architecture of your home,” McClain says. “Then constantly remind yourself of the feel you want, and stay true to your own design language.”

“Oh, and always take risks.”

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