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Before and Happily Ever After : A House in Need of Repair Becomes the Perfect Home

January 05, 1986|VIRGINIA GRAY | Virginia Gray is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine

Two months before their wedding in June, 1984, Douglas Barr (of ABC's "The Fall Guy") and Clare Kirkconnell (of Showtime's "The Paper Chase: The Third Year") bought this 1920s-vintage house in Los Angeles. "Because of its age," says Barr, "the house was in need of major remodeling, and because it hadn't been lived in for over a year, it needed extensive repairs."

It just didn't occur to Barr and Kirkconnell that the house and landscaping might not be completed in time for them to be married in the garden and hold the reception in their newly refurbished home .

"I think it was the challenge of a project like this that made Doug want to buy this particular house," says Kirkconnell. "What is ironic is that just before we looked at it we had made a list of everything we wanted in a house, and this is the only one that had everything on the list."

To speed the project along, the couple worked hand in hand with their contractor and various craftsmen. "Everybody was working here at once--electricians, tile setters, carpenters, painters," says Barr. "It's unusual to get such a major job completed in such a short period of time."

"The day before the wedding I was still planting flowers around the house," Kirkconnell remembers. "And the day of the wedding the slipcovers for the living room sofas arrived. Miraculously, everything was completed, and the wedding took place right on schedule."

The kitchen and master bedroom are the only rooms where structural changes were made. To make the kitchen larger and more workable, a butler's pantry and small kitchen were incorporated into one room. "We like the idea of a mostly white kitchen," Barr says, "but if you're not careful, it can look like an operating room. That's why we had the walls painted a soft peach-beige tone, and we specified a blue linear trim on the tile counters to break up the look of all-white."

Designer Jaret Hedborg helped them choose interior and exterior paint colors, in addition to advising them on how to incorporate a capacious walk-in closet in the master bedroom without chopping up the room. Hedborg also created a floating wall facing the fireplace to provide a backdrop for the bed and to screen it from the hallway.

Barr and Kirkconnell are inveterate collectors, and wherever they travel they scour out-of-the-way shops and flea markets together. They are particularly fond of a set of brightly painted, personalized restaurant dishes they found in Positano, Italy. Another one of their favorite collections is of antique quilts--family quilts, a few that they've been given and others they've purchased. Barr's antique child-sized wooden wagons are on display in their living room.

One of the most appealing aspects of this house is the couple's collection of pine furniture. Barr had been the financial backer and a buyer for his sister's antique business in his native Iowa. When she decided to close her shop, he inherited what he calls "a warehouse full" of English and European furniture--"more than enough to help us furnish our house," he admits.

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