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Bright Lights, Big City
By Maile Pingel | Photo: Interiors Photography by Karyn Millet | Portrait by Tim Melideo | October 2, 2018
Orange County-based designer John Wooden makes an iconic Sunset Strip condo his perfect pied-à-terre.
"I’ve always collected things, and this became a fun place to put it all,” says interior designer John Wooden of his Los Angeles home. The designer, whose eponymous firm is located in Laguna Beach, bought a condominium at Shoreham Towers several years ago so that he could have an L.A. base for client meetings, as well as a comfortable place to stay while in town overseeing custom furniture projects. And while the building itself was a lure (it’s a midcentury icon perched above the Sunset Strip that has been home to everyone from Humphrey Bogart to David Lee Roth), it was the views that really captured Wooden, who often works out of the space with firm members Zack Davenport and Stacey Day. “I was sold,” he recalls of walking into the south-facing, eighth-floor unit for the first time. “You can see from downtown to Century City, and looking over the flats of Beverly Hills looks like Central Park.”
The condo, which previously belonged to interior designer Jeffrey Hitchcock, only needed a few tweaks for Wooden to feel right at home, chiefly replacing the black marble floor with slate and redoing the kitchen and bathrooms. Wooden wanted the home to be true to the building’s 1960s character but he also didn’t want to live on a Mad Men set. “It’s an homage to the era but eclectic,” he says, noting a mix of pieces like the turquoise sofa he designed for a Pasadena showcase house, a Curtis Jere wall sculpture and a de Gournay wallpaper screen that hides the television. There are showroom finds too, like the Nickey Kehoe dining chairs and the living room’s Lawson Fenning ottoman, but it’s vintage finds and a photograph by his friend Paul Robinson that create personality.
“Age brings a softness to interiors,” he continues, recounting that he wanted to be an architect before discovering interior design as an art student in Paris. Wooden, who is working on projects in Laguna Beach, Lake Tahoe and Sun Valley, may be the grandson and namesake of the venerated UCLA basketball coach (“I gained a lot of wisdom from him,” he says), but he also has design in his DNA. His maternal grandfather ran Tropical Lamp & Shade, a lighting company whose clients included the Royal Hawaiian in Hawaii. “I got to go to the shop as a kid,” he recalls, wondering aloud if that’s perhaps why his firm is known for its lighting designs.
It can be a difficult task, a designer designing for himself, and Wooden admits that editing for clients is easier than editing for himself. “It’s going to look like a JF Chen showroom!” Wooden recalls thinking at one point. “There’s a risk of visual gluttony, so I try to buy and sell—to enjoy pieces and then pass them on,” he explains. “But homes need a sense of history. If they’re sterile, that defeats the purpose of hiring someone for their artistic vision. There are infinite possibilities, so it’s important to put your own spin on things.” Wise words—and ones that would likely make both grandfathers proud.
Berbere World Imports
Living room parchment end table
Dining room chandelier
Dining room Curtis Jere wall sculpture
Walnut and leather bed with hidden storage
Vintage chrome and driftwood living room lamps, bedroom nightstands
Living room brass chest of drawers
Bathroom wall covering
Living room rug