It’s not often that a client plays matchmaker for designers, but in the case of Los Angeles-based interior design firm Proem Studio and a homeowner in Encino, California, that’s just what went down.
Interior designers Ashley Drost and Marie Trohman each had their own practices when a homeowner approached them about, well, getting together. Drost had worked with the client on a previous home and Trohman knew the client personally. The client saw a partnership waiting to happen.
“It’s very unusual for somebody to be like, ‘Hey, designers, start working together’ because usually people have pretty big egos,” Trohman laughs. But the project brought them together, and Proem Studio was born. The Encino project was their first together and the rest was, as they say, history. “I know it’s not a normal way to start a business,” she continues. “But ever since, we’ve taken on six or seven other projects in LA and New York. So, [that client] was right.”
The homeowners, a couple with two dogs, moved into the new-build house in 2016, which was developed by LA-based Jason Pietruszka. Trohman and Drost describe the home’s design as a mix between traditional and modern, something they referred to as California modern. Oak floors laid in a handsome herringbone pattern play nicely with the kitchen’s Shaker-style cabinetry as they do with the sleek painted-brick fireplace, with its built-in firewood storage; in other areas of the house, the flooring is composed of long, elegant oak panels, as in the entry and formal living and dining rooms, which the designers styled in a not-so-formal way.
In the kitchen, a statement marble backsplash and brass fixtures keep things current, and, throughout, the home’s color palette is largely neutral, which gives it a timeless feel. Outside, there’s plenty of room for entertaining, with a large, grassy yard, a pool, and an expansive patio.
Through all of their work together, the Encino project continues to stick with Drost and Trohman, particularly because of the collaborative and involved nature of their relationship with the homeowner. “[The wife] wanted to love every single piece that was going in there,” Trohman explains, noting that the wife took the lead on the design process. “She wanted everything to say something and she wanted things to jive, so she was really involved in every detail of the project.”
Drost and Trohman helped the couple furnish basically every square foot, as their previous home was more midcentury modern in style. “We did a lot of classic midcentury furniture [in the previous home] which just wasn’t translating well in this style of house,” Drost says. “We sold everything that they had and started fresh.” They did bring along the Restoration Hardware bed and and the bedroom sconces, from Materia, as those pieces were more muted.
Proem approaches design by considering what the client has in mind and how they plan to use the space; where the light is coming from; and where clients’ things go. “[We’re trying to figure out] the nuts and bolts of what daily life in that home looks like, so that no matter what we put in there, it’s going to age well with them,” says Trohman. She mentions that they’ve never used the same brand throughout a home because “once you pull out one piece of furniture, it’s hard to replace because the whole thing falls apart.”
In the Encino home, they started their work from the media room and worked from there, with a central feature being a really comfortable couch, from Restoration Hardware, that would be “forgiving for pets and wine spills.” This space, with the black-painted brick fireplace and bar, was the comfortable zone the couple needed—just off the kitchen—to watch TV, hang out with the dogs, and cook. Beside the media room and kitchen, a wall of sliding doors looks out onto the yard and its structural furniture.
The client decided to forgo a formal entry and eating area in the dining room, and Trohman and Drost decided to flip the whole formal-dining-room idea on its head by making it one of the house’s most informal areas in the house.
“We did a billiards table, which we’ve never done before in a formal dining room, and that kind of pushed us into doing a whiskey gentleman’s lounge up front with a piano and a Chesterfield leather sofa.”
“What I really appreciate about this project is that there’s no filler in the home,” Trohman says. “I think sometimes it’s like ‘we just need a black cabinet, let’s find a black cabinet’ and ‘that one ticks all the boxes, so let’s use that one.’ I would say that nothing that was put in that home isn’t dearly loved by that client.”