Getting Off Tract
A Whole New Look In The San Fernando Valley
Installing a sense of English countryside in the San Fernando Valley, designer Norm Wogan took “an ugly tract house from the ‘40s” outside Encino and transformed it inside and out for client Jayne Shapiro, founder and president of KIDS SAFE, and organization dedicated to strengthening child abuse and molestation laws and furthering awareness of this social problem.
A widow with four sons (two of whom still live at home), Shapiro told Wogan she “just wanted to do a fluff,” the designer says, adding with a laugh that “we ended up doing the whole house the interior, exterior, landscaping, everything!”
He’s not kidding. Wogan started from the outside and worked his way in. “My favorite style is Old World European, and I’m always happiest when I can bring in antiques and old stone from Europe and old plank flooring.” For the Shapiro home, Wogan used European slate roofing and old Cotswold stone from England at the front entrance. The door itself was custom made from used Douglas fir with four panes of old Colonial glass.
Shapiro was a designer’s dream client: “She gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted,” Wogan recalls. “Jayne has a contemporary house when I met her. She asked me what she should do with her furniture, and I told her to get rid of it all.” Shapiro was an active participant in the design process, accompanying Wogan on many shopping excursions. The project took seven months to complete.
The results are in evidence as soon as one walks through the front door. The graceful blend of exterior to interior is first seen in the living room, where the Cotswold stone in the fireplace echoes the front entrance of the house. Earthtones in the furniture and area rug add a further welcoming touch. The wood planks that make up the floor here and throughout the house were hand distressed and finished to look worn and aged.
For the dining room, Wogan found an antique table that he had raised up and made longer, to accommodate Shapiro’s entertaining needs. “I wanted to keep the integrity of he old,” he says, “but needed to modify the table for when Jayne has a big dinner party.” Now she can comfortably fit her family around the table for intimate holiday gatherings and also expand the table for a larger social or political function. Antique reproduction chairs complete the seating arrangements, and Wogan wired the Renaissance-era chandelier that hangs gracefully over the table.
In between the living and dining rooms was “one of those rooms that you don’t use,” Wogan says of what became Shapiro’s sitting room and office, and effective space for her to write letters and work on her projects. Instead of searching far and wide for artwork, the designer made a great find much closer to home: the walls both here and the living room feature framed sketches by Shapiro’s son Danny.
The landscape surrounding the house got as complete a makeover as the interior. The Shapiro home has a large front yard, and a side yard with a koi pond that has views of the San Fernando Valley. In the back there is a courtyard and a pool, and another backyard area houses a spa. Using a combination of landscaping techniques, Wogan created a sense of outdoor space that is “all nestled in” and linked by the European countryside theme.
The Wogan-designed remodel was the first work Shapiro had done on her home since her husband’s death several years earlier. “It was kind of a cleansing for her as well as her boys,” Wogan says. His imaginative ideas for an Old World motif ultimately turned into a “whole new look” for Shapiro and her family.