Before and After: Saving a stylish Midcentury from an ugly ‘80s aesthetic

By Jack Flemming

Cinematographer Paul Sommers recalled high stakes and pouring rain as he sped to La Cañada Flintridge from Warner Bros. Studio on a lunch break in 2005.

He and his wife, Julie, a film production manager, had twin daughters about to enter first grade, and they needed a peaceful family home in the suburban city’s school district. Their agent told them this Midcentury ranch had everything they wanted, but the seller was reviewing offers the next day.

If the bones were right, they planned to pull the trigger. Despite some brutal flourishes from the ’70s and ’80s, the couple liked what they saw in the A-frame estate, and their offer of $880,000 beat out the pack.

The previous owner left them plenty to do. His name was Val Grayson — a big band leader with a colorful personality and a soft spot for awkward interior decorating.

After buying the house newly built in the ’60s, he remodeled it two decades later with all the trappings of the time: green shag carpets, dark oak cabinetry and wood-paneled walls that Paul described as “like a rec room in a basement.” In the living room, Grayson tossed an oak mantel over the stone fireplace and threw in a wooden ship’s wheel.

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