Thanks to stellar design skills and great parenting, all remains civil in the teen quarters of designer Betsy Burnham’s Los Angeles home
Ever since my teenage brother stabbed me in the foot with a sharpened number two pencil, I’ve [a] hated him [b] avoided teenagers [c] used a keyboard. When my tortured tween sister was dealing with Floridian mean girls, I’d intervene at the bus stop—to disastrous results. At fourteen, I attempted karate moves in my own bedroom—resulting in my foot through a wall—hours after my mom had the sheetrock redone. During my senior year of high school, my “friends” disowned me claiming I was psycho for naming my Clownfish after their girlfriends. My point…and I do have one, is that dealing with teenagers is usually a nightmare—unless you’re Los Angeles designer Betsy Burnham.
The California-by-way-of-Connecticut fashionista invited us to photograph her latest work—the bedroom suites of son, Will, and daughter, Carson, at her family’s Hancock Park Mediterranean Revival. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail, my photographer and I were perched like eager puppies waiting for treats at Burnham’s back door. Both of us huge fans of her work, we jumped at the chance to see her team in action. While Carson made an after school appearance, Will, much like his stunning mother, preferred as much distance from the lens as possible. In true Los Angeles fashion, both the family AND their breezy abode were cool, calm and collected—not to mention insanely fit [says the guy sipping a glazed Christmas ham through a straw].
Not only were the teen rooms fresh, fun and practical, but like all Betsy Burnham creations, they were layered, worldly and effortlessly chic. High-end elements such as custom draperies were counterbalanced with checkbook-savvy West Elm purchases. Splurges on beds were justified by area rugs from IKEA and accessories from flea markets. After ten hours of shooting teen-related content, talking about inverted box pleats and chasing down gourmet sandwiches with red vines, I found myself pleasantly re-living the teenage experience…this time without Clownfish named Tina and Jennifer.
Thanks to a superstar designer mother, great genes and a cover-shot-worthy bedroom, every day is like Sunday in Carson’s suite. Betsy put her signature layering expertise to good use here starting with inverted box pleat draperies in “Chinese Garden” by Hazelton House [trade-only, available through Keith McCoy & Associates, Los Angeles] custom made by Teresa Prater Custom Interiors. Walls splashed with “Ivy Enchantment” from Dunn Edwards [a goes-with-almost-everything tone] allow each unique element to soar, particularly the black four-poster bed from Lane. A similar model is available through Ethan Allen.
Curfews are something to look forward to thanks to Carson’s crisp, white, embroidered bedding from Deborah Sharpe Linens. Betsy hit up Peter Dunham‘s design hotspot, Hollywood at Home, for the shiny, happy, vintage Suzani bolster. A discontinued fretwork-ish side table from Williams-Sonoma Home supports a cost-saving orange “Boka” lamp from Crate & Barrel. One last bedside penny-pincher, IKEA’s “STOCKHOLM RAND” rug, grounded the sleepy space without breaking the bank.
Read all about it
Carson’s homework/reading area is a mashup of retail therapy and multicultural bargains. West Elm’s Parsons Desk in white houses candles fit for the Vatican and a turquoise Asian Foo Dog lamp found on ebay. Framed graphic art from Village hung above the desk is a nod to teen valley girl lingo. The vintage swivel chair [discovered at L.A.'s oasis of collectibles, Nick Metropolis] was given the Burnham touch with a cushion made of Clarence House’s “Jembala Wool Crewel” fabricated by Teresa Prater Custom Interiors.
State of the union
Union Jack is a signature pattern in Betsy Burnham designs. Luckily, for Carson, Mom nabbed a one-of-a-kind hand painted dresser sporting the U.K. emblem, then used it to pop color and graphic in the room. An autograph from actress Amanda Bynes took it from its original state to an A-List keepsake thanks to a People magazine shoot that took place outside the family’s home.
The right stuff
Teens are always gonna have STUFF, so why not embrace it? From the looks of Carson’s built-ins, it appears that proper accessorizing may be genetic. Betsy designed the unit with a combination of concealed and open storage. Drawers below [adorned with polished brass pulls from Liz's Antique Hardware] keep the unsightly stuff out of sight so that fun objects can be showcased above. Betsy’s favorite place for the fun stuff? High Street Market which has its own fantastic blog, I might add. When I asked Betsy the story behind the hot pink hot mess sporting floral brooches, she replied “We had a period of heavy Chinese propaganda collecting and the Mao bust fit right in”.
Bath to basics
Beyond the bedroom lives a classic black, white and grey bathroom certain never to go out of style. For Carson’s floor tile and sink, Betsy brought in sheets of Parramore Basketweave Mosaic and a Palladio sink, both from Waterworks. Gerber Hinge was the designer’s source for the chrome, hand-shaped pulls. To splash pattern onto the walls, Burnham chose “Attendants” wallcovering from Katie Ridder, then topped it off with a pair of sconces from Circa Lighting. Although Burnham Design is big on custom pieces such as the faux-python clad mirror, the studio’s trusted retail showrooms for all things kitchen and bath are Ann Sacks for more fashion-forward products and Waterworks for the classics.
Two for the money
Although we were specifically focused on Betsy’s teen room designs, it was hard to resist shooting her runway-ready project managers, Max and Alyssa. Not only did my photographer and I learn about their professional backgrounds, we discovered that [a] Alyssa hates photos of herself and is not on Facebook [b] Max is not a fan of the Darren Aronofsky film, Requiem for a Dream, but he does own a dog named Dynamo. Notice how the duo of design dreamboats rock ensembles similar to the layered interiors they help create? Coincidence? I think not.
Where there’s a Will
When it came to the design of son Will’s room, Betsy opted for overall neutral territory. Farrow & Ball’s “Drab” was Burnham’s wall color of choice. Supermom chose Schumacher’s “Galloway” in Navy for Boy Wonder’s inverted box pleat draperies which were fabricated by Teresa Prater Custom Interiors and installed with hardware from Iron Art by Orion. Will calls it a day, nightly, sprawled out on a discontinued bed from Land’s End dressed with dreamy bedding from Deborah Sharpe Linens.
It’s a man’s world
From the sleeping area to the study space to the rock show in the middle, Will’s room is a man’s world. Designer-Mom’s palette of taupe, burgundy and navy is sure to buck all trends—and look uber-masculine while doing so. When retail is a must, Betsy prefers both West Elm [source for the red Parsons Desk] and IKEA for kid spaces. Pops of yellow adrenalize the study space in the form of a Jonathan Adler lamp resting below a framed print by Lichtenstein. Pattern pops up once again courtesy of a Vivienne Westwood for the Rug Company pillow perched against the back of an Eames desk chair. The Rug Company’s “Ponti Red” area rug carries the burgundy tone over to the bed space where it’s greeted by a lacquered side table from Ji Gallery. Union Jack makes a cameo in the form of a custom “Big British Flag Lamp” lamp from Burnham Design.
A fresh approach
While Will’s bedroom layered brute colors with timeless patterns, Betsy went fresh, clean and nearly colorless in his bathroom. Rohl was Momma Burnham’s source for almost everything from the mirror to the sink/faucet combo to the polished chrome tissue dispenser. The Carrara marble surround is from Jerusalem Stone. For a dash of pattern, Betsy brought in a roman shade made from “Oakfield Tartan” by Ralph Lauren. I wonder how well Clownfish would do in that farmhouse sink.