A private, natural refuge sets the stage for a picturesque family retreat.
Written byRachel Heller
When Lisa and P.J. Shapiro bought their secluded Encino estate in 2007, they knew the previous family still harbored a strong attachment to the property. But the couple didn’t realize how deep their predecessors’ feelings ran until they found a touching surprise on move-in day.
The children—who had grown up in the house and were then just graduating college—left notes in their rooms for the Shapiros’ kids:
“We loved our life here.” “We hope you have the best childhood, like us.” “Take care of our house the way we did.”
“It was so sweet,” Lisa recalls. “For us, the energy that they left here was so positive, because these kids just loved their childhood so much. And we have three kids and wanted that for them. Our feeling was, if we have anything like what this family had, we’d be thrilled.”
So far, the Shapiros are off to a good start. P.J. and Lisa (he’s an entertainment attorney; she’s a full-time mom) have given the 6,000-square-foot traditional residence a tasteful update while honoring its unexpected historical pedigree. In the process, they carved out ample play space for their three young children, so the dwelling feels as though it belongs as much to the young ones as to their parents.
The first sight that greets visitors is a massive, cylindrical brick fireplace in the foyer that hints at the home’s age. Lisa was told the abode was initially built as a two-room guesthouse on a sprawling country ranch in the early 1900s.
The foyer, dominated by the striking hearth, was once a snug but serviceable living room. Lisa and P.J. don’t use the fireplace “because it’s so old,” but it sets a historical tone, design-wise, which she enhanced with antique chairs and fixtures.
“The house has a lot of history,” Lisa says. “Families have added onto the core of it throughout the years.”
The Shapiros’ digs are anything but cookie-cutter. In fact, the “unique layout” is partly what drew P.J. to the structure in the first place. “I love all of the curves and corners,” he shares.
That creates some tough spaces; several rooms are oddly-shaped or hidden down meandering hallways. Lisa admires that. “It makes me have to be creative,” she explains.
Much of the couple’s furniture is from Ralph Lauren, but Lisa added rugs, mirrors and other accents from antique stores. “I definitely have funkier taste in furniture,” she admits. “I’ve made many mistakes along the way, and I have furniture on consignment all over town.”
The couple hired interior designer Mark Langos to redo the kitchen and bathrooms, and he also picked out tiles, window treatments and the black-and-cream floral wallpaper that adds a subtle modern touch to the dining room.
In the kitchen, P.J. and Lisa knocked down a view-restricting wall and opened the space to encompass a breakfast nook that overlooks the backyard. The kitchen is bright and comfortable beneath a pitched post-and-beam ceiling, with white marble countertops, skylights and a bay window seating alcove that also harbors extra storage space. The worn brick flooring embeds another historical reminder: a brick that bears the date 1924.
Upstairs, what could have been a utilitarian hallway adjoining the master suite and the children’s bedrooms has been turned into a spacious second living room for the home’s younger inhabitants. Here, a TV, pull-out sofa and bins of toys set the stage for a kid-friendly retreat, where Max, 8, Jack, 5, and Paisley, 1, gather to watch movies, host sleepovers and play.
In contrast to the children’s colorful bedrooms, the master suite is an oasis of muted, soothing greys. Seagrass wallpaper and a potted broad-leaf tree lend natural elements to the bedroom, while the bathroom features modern, stamped concrete tile floors from Ann Sacks Tile & Stone and a Victorian pendant light from Restoration Hardware.
Mature olive and spruce trees shade the backyard, which abuts the protected wild lands surrounding the Encino Reservoir and feels, to P.J., like a “sanctuary.” Up a terraced brick walkway is an outdoor dining area where the couple likes to host dinner parties under the stars, illuminated by string lights overhead and candles in mason jars that Lisa has hung from the bough of a nearby tree.
The Shapiro kids’ hands are imprinted in a concrete footpath in front of the house. It’s an homage to the previous family, whose daughter’s handprints are still in the garage.
Like the last residents, Lisa says she and her husband relish family time outdoors the most. “I love to be out here with our kids,” she says. “It’s so much fun. It’s why we live in California.”
Like the Look?
3 of Lisa’s favorite shopping destinations
One Kings Lane
“The gold mirror in the living room is from One Kings Lane. I think it is cool not to be a snob—just get what you like in stores, mail order, whatever! My friend Alison Pincus started the website with a partner several years ago. It is a terrific way to find a variety of exciting, special items at reduced prices.”onekingslane.com
“They have beautiful furniture and accessories, like this zebra print pillow. I love their lamps, side tables and chairs. Mecox Gardens is a great place to get ‘jewelry’ for a room. You can always find a gorgeous bowl, candleholder or other exciting trinket.”919 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-358-9272
“They have a great selection, and their choices are a little different. I find their pieces to be funky and unexpected. In addition to the brushed brass sconce in the dining room, I also got the red lanterns on the wall by the kitchen table there.”7126 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-933-7244
They’re roadside attractions.