When Bill Harrison, CEO of public relations agency Fifteen Minutes, enlisted LA-based interior designer Ryan White to transform the living room of his five-bedroom apartment in iconic Koreatown building The Talmadge, he gave the designer free reign, save for a couple of requests: that White keep Harrison's pair of blue velvet Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofas, and that he channel the Hollywood essence of the storied '20s structure, which was built by movie producer Joseph M. Schenck for his wife, silent screen actress and real-life Sunset Boulevard inspiration Norma Talmadge. In the end, White pulled off a tailored, glamorous revamp; we caught up with the designer to get the low-down on how he did it.
What was the first, most crucial change on your list?
Coming up with the correct floor plan. He wanted a room where he could feel comfortable entertaining 20 to 30 people, and I knew that the more "areas" we could create, the better. I think he was afraid to put furniture in the room, because he didn't want to take away from the grandness of it, but in actuality the room was calling for furniture to allow you to feel how grand it is.
Art seems to play a major role in the space; what made you select the abstract Michael Smith painting over the couch as the room's focal point?
I chose an antelope-looking rug from Stark and a few other elements that had the potential to make the room go an "old woman" direction. I wanted it to feel more sophisticated man, and I think that piece makes a statement and makes it feel more modern overall. It also sucks you in.
The room feels very balanced, how did you achieve that?
I find myself gravitating toward groupings of three in the home; if my eye is stimulated in a good way, it's three. If it's bored, it tends to be a pair. So there's the lamp with the painting and the photo behind it; the two Milo Baughman chairs in front of the fireplace with the bespoke geometric gold table; even the pairs of vintage Edward Wormley and Baker chairs in the center room count--I consider the coffee table to be the third in both instances!
We notice that the bar is on a piece of furniture rather than a cart, any reason why?
That's a vintage Baker piece that I found at Design Modern on Melrose and had refinished. It's really a chest of drawers that you would normally use in the bedroom, but I think it works, and the grandeur of a big wood and brass piece with the more modern elements of the liquor on top makes a statement--more than your run-of-the-mill bar cart.
Okay what's the story with that bear?
It adds a sense of crazy. I think every space should have a wait-a-minute moment.
Photographs: Stephen Busken