The couch was what got them started. It looked like something out of the 1960s, a sleek, angular sofa covered in cream-colored chenille with orange lumbar pillows. Ron Galperin and his partner, Zachary Shapiro, knew they had found the perfect piece of furniture for their newly remodeled Beverly Hills residence: contemporary but warmed by a splash of color as bright as a Chinese amulet. After that, everything else fell into place.
"I always saw a relationship between modern architecture and design and Asian architecture and design," said Galperin, a real estate attorney. "I wanted to accentuate that and bring the two of them together more strongly."
Thus emerged the radiant style the couple refers to as "mid-century mandarin."
Two years ago, Galperin and Shapiro, an associate rabbi at University Synagogue in Brentwood, were house-hunting on the Westside when they saw a 1960s house off Coldwater Canyon Drive. The outside of the structure was beautiful, but the inside looked like a dank English manor, with grimy white carpeting, boldly flowered wallpaper and cottage-cheese-covered ceiling. No one had shown interest in buying the place -- except Galperin and Shapiro.
"It was a diamond in the rough," said Galperin, 40. "The house was well done when it was built; it just needed to be brought back to life." He asked a friend, architect Bruce Tucker, to help overhaul the interior, "to open it up."
They knocked down walls and tore out sliding glass doors. An enclosed porch was turned into a sunroom, with a ceiling of windows. The kitchen was expanded to include a breakfast bar. Doors were widened to let light into narrow hallways. Wood floors, stained deep brown, were laid throughout the 3,000-square-foot house. Heavy blinds were taken off the windows. Finally, after nine months of work, the empty house started to look like a contemporary glass pavilion, bathed in light.
"It was transformed," Shapiro said. "It just blew my mind."
With the dust finally settled, Galperin went to work decorating. "I had been thinking a lot about orange," he said. "I had seen a lot of it in stores. I thought to myself, 'I really love this color. It just makes me happy.' " Then, while browsing at the Rapport International Home Furniture Store on La Brea, Galperin spotted the creamy couch with the orange pillows. "I wanted something angular that said early 1960s," Galperin said. "This couch just jumped out at me. I thought, 'I have to have this.' "
Next, the couple bought a contemporary rug accented with a giant orange circle to match the couch, which they placed with two plush brown chairs and a coffee table from Plummers, all previous acquisitions. "I wanted each room to have a little bit of modern, each room to have a little bit of orange, each room to have a little bit of Asian," said Galperin. "That was my guide."
It was like a treasure hunt. Galperin consulted Shapiro on the purchases. Shapiro, in turn, gave Galperin free rein to create a new living space from scratch.
In his spare time, Galperin scoured stores, flea markets and even garages of family members, looking for items that caught his eye. He found two contemporary orange lamps at Carla, a store that specializes in 1950s and 1960s furnishings; a set of Asian lacquer serving trays at Japanache on Robertson Boulevard; an old steel end table in his parents' garage. His sister gave him several hand-tinted photographs she created to hang over the couch.
He went on excursions to Pasadena and Alhambra, where he discovered cavernous warehouses full of Asian antiques, some still in shipping containers from China. He brought home curved chairs, lacquered cabinets and painted tea sets that had pictures of geishas imprinted in the bottoms of the cups.
With key pieces in place, the couple needed to choose colors for the walls. The process was arduous. "I didn't know there was more than one shade of off-white," Shapiro said. "We spent days trying to figure it out," Galperin added.
Galperin suggested bright white for the vaulted ceilings and most of the walls. But he also wanted some accent color. He brought home stacks of sample cards and tubs of paint, brushing a patchwork pattern on the walls to see how the hues looked in the light. "We wanted colors that accentuated the relationship between the inside and the outside," he said. "We were looking for certain earth tones and green tones."
Finally, a wall behind the couch was painted mushroom brown. A wall in the dining room was painted sage green. A narrow wall near the staircase was painted orange. And Galperin had the "punches of color" he was after.
At IKEA, he bought colorful circular rugs, which he arranged in a polka-dot pattern in the house's entryway. "I think they were $9.99 each," Galperin said. "I bought a whole bunch of them. They're really fun. Instead of buying just one carpet, we can play with these and change the look. The idea is to mix things up."