If “match the powder room to its celebrity owner” were a game (and it should be), we’d easily pair Michael C. Hall with his guest bath: a crisp, enigmatic retreat with black subway tile and an anatomical light fixture grasping a bulb in its palm. “I can't deny the resonance of disembodied hands,” jokes Hall, best known for his roles as a sympathetic killer in Dexter and a mortician in Six Feet Under. It was this “pocket of rock and roll in the midst of a grand and austere main floor,” in Hall’s words, that helped sell him on his 1920s Spanish-style abode in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, as well as on the mastermind behind its aesthetic— Kishani Perera, L.A.-based interior designer and owner of home decor store Rummage. “That little space has tons of personality,” Perera says of the room. “When the developer who originally hired me was selling the house, he told me some people thought it was too weird. But I knew the right person would love it—and he did.”
Loved it so much, in fact, that Hall hired Perera when he moved into the two-level, 4,000-square-foot residence. (The designer had already collaborated with architect Bobby Rees on an extensive nine-month remodel of the home, which included the construction of a bell tower and the exposing of the master bedroom’s original ceiling beams.) In terms of decor, Hall was hardly starting from scratch; his impressive collection of statement pieces ranged from a stunning silver-and-gold herringbone-patterned console he discovered at the Rose Bowl flea market to a Vivian Maier print. “He has the most amazing objects ever—the coolest tchotchkes of any client,” Perera says. The mission, then, was to incorporate his existing possessions with new ones in a cohesive way that honored his self-proclaimed “sense of symmetry and earthiness.”
1. Play to Your Space Architect Bobby Rees’s remodel resulted in a 20-foot-high entryway with sight lines reaching all the way to the top of the second floor. “I thought, ‘We have to do something cool and dramatic here,’” says Perera, who hung an Arteriors chandelier composed of vintage glass bottles to draw attention to the altitude without blocking the light.
2. Break It Up In the living room, Perera paired a leather chair from the 1800s with a piano stool in a corner to “create a moment away from the rest of the seating.” The tête-à-tête arrangement also makes the room more inviting. “It seems very formulaic when you just have a sofa and chairs,” she says. “I like to have multiple seating areas—so you have a lot of things to look at.”
3. Pick Your Opening The barn door separating the living and dining areas is a must-have of the moment. But the monumental rustic touch doesn’t work just anywhere: “You can’t force it,” says Perera, who recommends a wide and tall opening (in this case, about nine feet high by eight feet wide), as well as a room that works when either open or closed. For Hall’s home, she installed a reproduction made from alder wood with custom fabricated iron brackets and a track.
4. Splurge on Comfort “When we met, Michael told me that he had some really cool pieces that were good to look at but weren’t necessarily comfortable,” says Perera. To balance out the mix with items that were both beautiful and functional, she purchased a pair of worn leather early-20th-century chairs from JF Chen for the library, and stuck to luxurious washed-linen textiles in the master bedroom.
5. Restrict Palette, Explode Texture “Cream linen pillows on a cream linen sofa is boring,” says Perera. “But a monochromatic palette doesn’t have to be.” The family room features a neutrals-heavy color scheme with an interplay of diverse textures—fuzzy throw pillows from Lawrence of La Brea and a vintage leather sofa among them.
6. Bring in Uninvited Elements “I like to incorporate things that don’t belong,” says Perera. She and Hall moved one of his prized pieces, a citrus-hued midcentury bench from West Hollywood design boutique Orange, into his otherwise sleek, grayed-out kitchen to make the space pop. Perera also recommends a table lamp on a kitchen counter: “I put drip-glaze lamps everywhere because they warm up a space so quickly and work in modern or traditional decor,” she says.
7. Put a Sink on It An easy way to revolutionize a bathroom, regardless of its size? Forgo the typical basin. In the guest bath, Perera placed a sink on a vintage library cart, using the push-rail to hang hand towels. In the master bath, she commissioned a custom vanity that reads more like a dresser to add a sense of visual substance.
8. Sometimes It Pays to Follow Trends Yes, subway tile is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there. “Even though some of my clients think it’s overused now, I think it’s classic,” says Perera, who featured black, gray, and white versions throughout the home. “It’s been around for a million years, and it will be around for another million.”
9. Catch the Light A window can draw attention to what’s in front of it as well as what’s outside. Perera suspended a wood-and-shell mobile off Hall’s built-in bookshelves (which he designed) to give the decorative piece its due. “I wanted to see it out and about,” she says. “It’s like a piece of jewelry on the window, and since it hangs on the bookshelf it still has sufficient breathing room.”
10. Be a Groupie Perera turned low-traffic countertops and surfaces into beguiling displays by arranging Hall’s manifold knickknacks and keepsakes in strategic ways. “I like balance—it’s my main principle when it comes to accessorizing,” she says. “You want your eye to rest, so vary heights and materials; don’t put too many little things together, because it just looks messy. And mix materials and types of objects in collections rather than using all glass, for example, or all books.”