Musician’s LA home combines colour and modernity
Los Angeles interior designer Corinne Mathern has created new interiors for a modernist gem originally designed by architect Schwen Wei Ma in 1952
A house originally conceived in 1952 by architect Schwen Wei Ma for Peter Soo Hoo (one of the founders of Los Angeles’ newer Chinatown) gets a new lease of life with an interior refresh by LA interior designer Corinne Mathern. The house’s original design was remodelled in the 1960s by Gilbert Leong, the first Chinese-American to graduate from USC with a degree in architecture, and the author of many of Chinatown’s buildings.
Mathern’s interior renovation maintained the soul of the home with a light, practical update of finishes and amenities. ‘The property is an example of classic Los Angeles midcentury architecture and had charming, original details throughout,’ she says.
A new life for Schwen Wei Ma’s LA house
Recently described as a ‘1950s time capsule’, the house’s original details guided Mathern’s design, which was focused on repurposing some of the original features to keep its character intact.
The brief from the client (Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, who had recently bought the house) focused on keeping the house’s original character, and offered guiding visual references that include the films of Jacques Tati and Michelangelo Antonioni, the light in William Eggleston’s photography, as well as Jean Prouve’s furniture.
Colour was a key consideration throughout the interiors, with bright bespoke elements including a blue bar, yellow legs on the dining table, and a large-scale tiled coffee table in a deep rust shade. Materials-wise, Mathern offered a palette of chrome metals and honed concrete softened by custom walnut panelling for warmth.
‘The materials and colours were all chosen to have a chalky, smoky filter on them so they felt muted and like they could have been part of the house in 1952,’ says the designer.
An eclectic collection of vintage and bespoke furniture
Adding a new layer to the house’s interiors is a series of vintage pieces sourced from local galleries by Mathern, from Bruno Rey stools for the bar to a Friso Kramer chair and Peter Løvig desk for the home office.
The vintage furniture is combined with custom-designed elements, such as the dining table (created in collaboration with Los Angeles-based design-build firm PSS Design Cult) referencing a Jean Prouvé design and placed alongside raw oak chairs by Robert Guillerme and Jacques Chambron, sourced from France.
Mathern also worked with PSS Design Cult to create further bespoke elements, such as the modernist-inspired walnut screen that defines the house’s entrance, and with local woodworker Christopher Norman, who created a custom walnut piece to be placed above the bed.
The result, for this gem among Los Angeles houses, is a bright, airy space with a palette of colours and materials that feels contemporary yet authentic to the house’s original design. §