Spanish Fling
Belle Magazine Australia|December - January 2021
The romance of this 1920s residence flanked by the Hollywood Hills drew the eyes of a talented couple who set about enhancing its original glamour.
Annie Kelly 

Los Feliz is one of the many beautiful old Spanish colonial neighbourhoods in Los Angeles. Set in the hills above Hollywood, its leafy green streets wind up to the famous 1930s art deco Griffith Park Observatory which is an iconic film and TV location. Attracted by the charm and style of its picturesque location, Australian designer and photographer James Houston bought this not-quitefixer house over three years ago with his Scottish husband Brian McGrory, who has a hospitality consultancy. Brian is also creative director of historic Villa Carlotta, a nearby landmark hotel.

The couple had spent 17 years living and working in New York, where they built a widely published lake house in upstate New York (seen in Belle April/May 2012). It was business as usual until one day out of the blue Brian asked, “Why don’t we move to California?” to which James surprised himself by instantly responding, “Yes, done!” When pressed for a reason James says, “Being in New York for all these years felt like being at the party too long.” Of course, deciding to have a child helped – having grown up in Australia James wanted more space for Dylan, the couple’s daughter born in December 2019, than their New York apartment could provide. “In five to 10 years I’d like us to go back to Australia,” he says. “It was such a beautiful time growing up there.”

While James was born in Sydney, he grew up on the Central Coast near Gosford. After school he travelled the world and was drawn to both photography and design. One of his main beliefs is that a house should have “anchors which represent the future reality you want to experience. I call this MindSpaceDesign.”

The couple searched for a house that would inspire a renovation and as a result there is not a corner or surface unrenovated or unworked. As intended it has kept its original character and they have added to the Spanish romance of the property by bringing in ideas inspired by a stay at a friend’s riad in Morocco, as well as replicating details they found inside the house.

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