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Designer Isabel Griswold's colorful, computer-free home zone

March 2, 2012 |  9:32 am

Isabel Griswold room

Rooms, like people, have different chapters in their lives — some exciting and some, well, not so much. Such was the case of a small, unassuming room attached to the garage of a 1938 Spanish-style home in Beverly Hills. When interior designer Isabel Mata Griswold and her husband, developer Eduardo Thackeray, bought the property in 1999, the 14-by-20-foot room was empty. Griswold kept the existing beige shag carpet, added floor-to-ceiling mirrors along the back wall, and for the next four years she used it as a gym.

Isabel Griswold detailWhen son Alex returned home from college, she replaced the shag with wall-to-wall sisal and put in a queen bed. Voila! A studio apartment. When Alex moved out, Griswold said the room became “a catch-all warehouse for files, fabric samples and anything else we didn't want in the main house.”

At long last, she recently wrote a more exciting chapter in the life of the room. Isabel Griswold portraitShe transformed the plain-vanilla space into a Moroccan-flavored retreat for herself. “I wanted a place to come and dream, talk to close friends, watch a good movie,” Griswold said. “There are no phones or computers. This is purely a fun room. It has no other purpose.”

Griswold’s associate, Paul Olson, cut arches out of 0.75-inch medium density fiberboard, which was glued to the old mirrored wall, above. Artist Kaveri Singh then stenciled a stylized pomegranate. “The arches over the mirror reflect the garden and the fountain outside and make the room appear much larger than it is,” Griswold said.

She designed the sleek, L-shaped sectional sofa finished in brown linen with bronze nailheads on the upholstered legs. "The sofas are the same size as two twin beds, so when you remove the bolsters, two people can sleep here," she said. 

Here's a quick look at how the designer created a space that feels plucked from the pages of “The Arabian Nights” — fitting given that she is the great-grand-niece of explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, known for his mid-19th century translation of the folk tales. Keep reading for more details ...

Isabelle Griswold chairs

Louis XVI-style dining chairs by Palecek were upholstered with an orange leather seat, a patterned cotton front and a turquoise stripe on the back. The palette carries over to the bar, seen at the top of the post, where Wertz Bros. bar stools were covered in a comfy orange velvet. As for the floor: A thin layer of new concrete was added atop the original slab and stained a chestnut-mahogany hue. To achieve a mottled effect, the stain was applied in a swirling motion with a rag; two coats of clear sealant followed. "It looks like bitter chocolate," Griswold said, adding that she drove the installer to drink getting the color right.

Isabel Griswold ceiling

Inspired by Fatih Cimok's “Book of Rustem Pasa Tiles,” Griswold called in trompe l'oeil artist Kaveri Singh to create free-flowing arabesque — stylized tulips and pomegranates — across the ceiling. “The idea was to make it resemble an old tented ceiling,” Singh said. The artist began with a base coat in dark chocolate, then drew the various motifs in white chalk before painting them in turquoise, orange, white, black, brown and silver. 

Isabel Griswold wall masksSingh used three layers of paint to create the strié -- or striped wall finish. After rolling on two coats of water-based paint in a pale blue eggshell finish, she applied a glaze composed of oil, thinner and a colorant of turquoise and brown to give an antique appearance. The glaze, applied with a 4-inch-wide stiff brush, creates the subtle wall effect. "It was a three-day process," says Singh.

Isabel Griswold pomegranate

Detail of the arch stenciling.

Isabel Griswold courtyard

Broken-up concrete pavers filled with pebbles line the patio. Griswold added a vintage lion-headed fountain for a trickling sound as well as roses and jasmine for fragrance. The dining table with bench and chairs is from Crate & Barrel. Griswold replaced the original entrance and small flanking windows with 10 feet of Pella sliding doors. They have bottom-up shades sandwiched in the glass to black out the room for guests who might want to sleep late or simply watch an afternoon movie on the wall-mounted TV.


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-- Barbara Thornburg

Photos: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times