Liesel Plambeck never imagined she'd live in a home with a panoramic view, let alone a space with this much architectural clout.
Snuggled into the landscape, situated high on the hill and keeping watch over Los Angeles, is where you'll find the textile designer's East L.A. abode. Unbeknown to most, it's a mid-century marvel, an architectural gem that you'd be forgiven for knowing absolutely nothing about. Wander around the woodsy neighborhood of Mount Washington, and there's nine more who can lay claim to similarly impressive design DNA.
"A view was not on our list of must-haves, but now that we have one — it’s hard to imagine going back," Plambeck admits, of the two-bedroom home she shares with her partner, writer Nate Sherman and the couple's mixed terrier pup, Bean.
Despite possessing a love of pattern play, Plambeck's home is devoid of any fuss. The designer has carved a career out of textile creation, partnering with renowned fashion and interior designers, lifestyle brands, and tech companies. A project history that includes established industry names like Kelly Wearstler, Anine Bing, Urban Outfitters, Georg Jensen, Compartes, and Paperless Post. Her fresh, fluid approach to line, figure and form, has become synonymous with that SoCal style —undone, carefree and whimsical. It seems fitting then, that Plambeck's is the type of space you dream of, if you're dreaming of living in L.A. Anything else and you might feel a little short-changed. The couple's original post and beam — designed by Californian architect James Allen Walter — dates back to 1965.
"Nate found it online," Plambeck begins. "The photos were awful, you couldn’t get a sense of anything. You couldn’t see the tongue and groove ceilings or any of the original architectural elements, even the view was obscured by shades and tinted film. I think there was one photo where there were a few inches of beam visible — that's when we realized it was a post and beam house."
It didn't take Plambeck and Sherman long to dream up a future befitting of their mid-century masterpiece. They quickly set to work, reimagining their home's street appeal, ripping up tired, stock-standard pavers and long-forgotten, dehydrated bamboo. The duo converted the defunct garage space into a light-filled design studio, with additional storage, giving Plambeck the flexibility to now work from home.
"The biggest project was converting the open-air garage," the designer explains. "It was more challenging than it sounds because the garage actually sweeps around the house, through to deck area. Figuring out how to divide the space with sliding glass doors — without breaking up the flow of the home — was a tough negotiation. Plus, leaving a little room for traditional "garage" needs."
The result is a clean, studio-ready finish, flooded with natural light and no definitive boundaries. Plambeck admits that aside from the kitchen, her re-worked studio space is where she invests most of her time, thumbing through fabric swatches, putting paint to paper, and dreaming up textiles. Cultivating a space that serves both her appetite for creativity and a busy work schedule was paramount.
Eventually, Plambeck and Sherman hope to rework the lower level of the house, with grandiose plans to convert the large open space into a layered and livable loft. "It’s currently a semi-finished storage space and a weird, windowless room, with its own air conditioning unit," she notes. "We realized it was actually a pretty sophisticated grow room. The previous owners even left one of their watering schedule calendars behind," Plambeck laughs. "A grow room that was at one point only accessible through a hidden trapdoor in my studio."
With its clean angles, limitless natural light, and sought-after location, you couldn't want for much more in a city like Los Angeles. The sun sets over Plambeck's pre-loved abode, a home that has occupied this particular slice of Mount Washington since Hollywood's golden age. Even in its original condition, there was something about the beams, the tongue and groove ceilings, and its surprising architectural pedigree that set Plambeck's home apart.
"As soon as we walked in, we knew this was it. The open floorplan, the light, the view, the indoor-outdoor flow, the wraparound deck — the ceilings — it was like a Case Study House. There was just so much potential. And of course, the garage space for my studio."
The couple wasted no time sourcing the original building permits, quickly unearthing the correlation between architect Walter and their long-forgotten post and beam. They dug into the architect's existing SoCal projects — spaces like the nearby A-Frame House, La Fremontia House, and Via del Rey House in South Pasadena. They read up on his undeniable style — the "maverick of modernism" headlines proclaimed — and became well-versed in what made Walter perhaps one of California's most underrated and elusive mid-century architects.
"We really felt like we’d found this amazing project and we were exactly the right people to help restore it back to its former glory," Plambeck recalls.
Dotted around Northern and Southern Californian, there are 32 residences attributed to Walter — 32 on record, anyway. A distinct portfolio of homes that showcase the landscape, a fixation with topography, flow and fluidity, above all else.
"We get a lot of comments about how our house has this classic L.A. vibe. I think a mid-century post and beam on a steep hillside is possibly the most quintessentially L.A. home there is," Plambeck admits. "All of the light during the day and then the twinkling city lights at night. Our neighborhood of Mount Washington feels like a kind of a rustic, woodsy retreat. There are all these cool undeveloped pockets and hillside nooks," the designer continues. "Yet the architecture is pretty diverse. You'll notice a lot of cute little cabins and plenty of mid-century houses — homes designed by big names, architects like Lautner and Neutra. Walter built a number of homes very close to us. I think we’ve found nine of them just by walking around the neighborhood. There’s even an amazing minimalist A-frame he built nearby, which has had some unfortunate recent renovations and become a lot more... maximal."
Here, the couple remain steadfast and true to the mid-century look and feel synonymous with Walter's aesthetic. A low-profile kitchen is complete with a simple John Boos island, Modernica counter stools, and assorted Miles Gracey chopping boards. There's a clarity and confidence to Plambeck's style, something she practices with refinement. In the adjacent dining nook, a George Nelson for Herman Miller dining table holds pride of place, its raw finish basking in sunshine and surrounded by classic Eames DCM Dining Chairs. Nothing is overdressed, overdone or imitating its predecessor. A vintage print entitled Silent Seasons — Summer by Will Barnet is the only piece that's strictly decorative, yet considered all the same.
Glide through to the living area, and the couple pay further homage to house that Walter built, through vintage design and statement styling. A fully restored 1960s' Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman sits outstretched by the window, its leather warm in the Los Angeles sun. A custom, wall-spanning bookshelf commands attention directly behind it, its vertical shelving receding with the couple's favorite design and architecture books. The Noguchi Pendant Light — hovering above the dining table — serves as another nod to decades past, upholding the home's fuss-free and functional start.
"Modernist principles inform a lot of my approach to work and design," Plambeck explains, when pressed about her preference for mid-century pieces. "The movements leading up to and during modernism, like Bauhaus and minimalism, particularly interest me, especially in the context of history. Finding simple, elegant solutions to problems, reducing to essential elements, a harmony with and expression of nature; I think of modernism as the closest we ever came to incorporating these ideas of perfection and utopia into design and living."
In the master bedroom, Plambeck takes reduction one step further, dressing the space with a low-profile CB2 bed and crisp white Muji linen, sitting beneath a single skylight. A contemporary IKEA floor length mirror, Eames armchair, and second Noguchi pendant adhere to the pared-back look and feel. Ceiling beams, stained matte black, lead your eye around the room and back out again, as if Walter planned it that way. On the floor, an oversized rug of Plambeck's own creation — fittingly dubbed "Pose" and created in collaboration with Los Angeles-based Mehraban — plays with color and the female form, its sinuous shapes softening the sharp lines overhead.
Plambeck takes note of visual repetition, the way only a designer could. Accents are thoughtfully added to surrounding spaces to not only echo but enhance the original architecture — the slotted Artek Alvar Aalto bench seat on the deck, the raw wood throughout. It's as if the Mount Washington home washed itself clean when it met Plambeck and Sherman — receiving a second chance to buff up, all shiny and new.
The designer optimizes her space by working freelance from home. Sunny mornings and warm afternoons are spent largely in the studio, sunsets enjoyed on the deck with pup Bean, usually after a stroll to the local dog park. Plambeck emphasizes the distinction between her studio space and her home, pinpointing what makes the boundaries between the two so significant.
"At the end of the day, it feels so good to be able to step away and leave everything, and come back to it with fresh eyes," she explains.
"It’s a luxury I don’t take for granted. Before last year, I'd never had a dedicated studio space, and it was hard living in my creative mess. I’d spend so much time cleaning up, putting stuff away, then taking it back out again. It’s also so much easier to get distracted when you work in your living space. So I try to lock myself in my studio, pretend it’s not connected to my house, and only leave when I have to eat or use the bathroom."
"I think organization and keeping your space clean is very important," the designer continues. "If my studio’s a mess, I’m a mess. Everything has its place, and I keep supplies extremely organized and easily accessible. There’s nothing worse than feeling that spark of inspiration, only to discover you can't find that stupid bottle of paint or sheet of paper — so you end up distracted and turning the whole place upside down."
"I guess that's really the general philosophy of the space," Plambeck asserts. "Setting it up to make my life easier and smooth out my workflow. If it’s hard to find the thing to make the thing or I don’t have a clean surface — or really if there’s any excuse — it’s too tempting to quit."