In 2011, when Leslie Barrett purchased an apartment in a modernist Allyn Morris building, she knew she was buying into the architect’s vision. Built in 1972, what Leslie calls the “Corbusier-meets-California” structure is nestled into a hillside above Los Angeles’s Echo Park Lake. The project was conceived as ambitious, low-cost housing, and even Morris himself once lived in her unit, which offers expansive views and outdoor terraces that make the two-bedroom, one-bath space feel larger than its 900 square feet. But Leslie’s love for the space didn’t mean it was immune to a necessary refresh. As the cofounder and partner of interior design firm Studio Sucio, Leslie was an ideal steward to re-enliven the important space. (Previously, she was a project architect at RCH Studios and director of design for Kelly Wearstler, working on hospitality projects.) Sucio is Spanish for “dirty,” which, for the firm, means open to different influences—Leslie uses the words “impure” and “contaminated” with pride. “Our philosophy is about a kind of découpage of elements and ideas,” she explains, not super stylized or bound by rules.
Leslie’s ideal interiors contain “richness, fun, and differentiation by the interplay of not just multiple disciplines, but different vocabularies and different qualities.” When considering the tactical renovation of her own space, which she shares with her husband, Leslie brought in a mix of styles rather than simply restoring the original details to what they once were. The warm, lived-in space has a bright and airy feel, yet the tactile ’70s furniture and vintage art prints still feel at home.
The apartment’s dated kitchen and bath were certainly due for upgrades, but Leslie was calculated in her approach. Both had orange granite counters, which she decided to keep while revamping their surroundings. “We need to value resources a bit better, and every time a kitchen gets gutted for fashion it is a bit of a crime,” Leslie says. “I mean, I want to have an HGTV show called Just Leave It. But the challenge here was to keep that orange granite countertop and make it cool.”
In the kitchen, Leslie painted the faux-wood cabinetry—the lower ones black and the uppers white—for a modern, sleek feel. She also brought in a compact 24-inch Liebherr fridge, for which her husband built custom casing. This way, if she’s sitting in the living room, no appliances are visible.
Most of the bathroom’s finishes were swapped out for contemporary silhouettes. The toilet was replaced with a Philippe Stark Duravit model, and the existing faucet was exchanged for black Delta fittings. On the walls, Leslie went for a monochrome color-blocked look, painting them half black and half white, a nod to the color story in the kitchen. The vanity was also painted black, and the floors a rich mauve. Patterned bath towels by Missoni and Target—the ultimate high-low mix—hang on sample rods that Leslie purchased for a past hotel project, completing the graphic new look. And somehow the orange granite shines anew.
The main bedroom was simpler—a task completed by a fresh coat of terra-cotta paint and new closet doors. The white wooden doors replaced the older accordion style, and the oak dowel handles were inherited from one of Leslie’s past hospitality projects.
To furnish the space, Leslie dipped into her enviable stash of vintage furniture and samples and prototypes from erstwhile projects. In the living room, the fireplace is flanked by a Moroccan bench and a rattan Gio Ponti peacock chair that was sourced for a hotel project. Leslie is, notably, an eBay pro, having scored the living room’s glossy credenza and set of Sottsass Mandarin chairs from the site. “There were four of them for $250,” Leslie says of the Sottsass deal, which she scored before the Memphis mania of the past few years took hold.
The space’s art comes from a variety of places, from the Kelly Wood piece above the credenza to the geometric wall installation above the vintage curved sofa. The latter is a castoff from a Kelly Wearstler project that Leslie knew would find a welcome home here. Of the ’70s prints on the living room walls, Leslie notes, “That’s the cheap-and-chic kitsch factor. It’s not high art, but I just love them for injecting a feeling of airiness and serenity into the space.”
And the living areas continue out on the terrace, where the artful DIY spirit continues. Leslie purchased a Saarinen table base and paired it with an oval pink marble top from another table. When night falls, the hills gradually illuminate with twinkling light, and Leslie takes in the views of the canyon and mountains beyond. “We can sit on our terrace, and you feel like you’re up in the treetops, and you’re unaware of all the other condos,” Leslie says. “It’s a lovely piece of architecture, what Allyn Morris did.”