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Dark whimsy, bright roost

February 23, 2006|David A. Keeps | Times Staff Writer

IT would be a little unnatural not to have birds in the home when you're Raven Kauffman. Indeed, fine feathered friends flock all over the 32-year-old collector's 1920s Spanish duplex, which mixes the swank sophistication of Hollywood Regency revivalist Kelly Wearstler with the ghoulish glam of punk princess Kelly Osbourne.

Japanese herons and American songbirds perch on Kauffman's vintage 1940s bark cloth curtains. Birds' nests and eggs lie under glass bell jars, and handmade plaques with artificial birds are poised on white spray-painted branches. In Kauffman's home office, an array of ravens made from 1920s petit point, haberdashery feathers and cast porcelain roost by an enormous brown wasp's nest made of paper.

The L.A. duplex is also bugged: Iridescent beetles and owl-eyed moths mounted in glass frames hang on walls and sit on twin 1950s Chinese modern buffets in the dining room. Seahorses and shells, antique zebra rugs and a mounted African antelope head over the fireplace complete the picture.

"I can understand why people might be repelled," Kauffman admits. "When I think about what taxidermy is, I am horrified, but the animal itself is so beautiful I want to have it around. Having grown up on a farm, I don't want to go through my day without seeing nature." Fakes are fine, and her taxidermy is all "previously owned."

Kauffman embraces the juxtaposition of contemporary design, Cold War-era kitsch and 19th century European oddities. She turns flea market finds into one-of-a-kinds with seven toolboxes, paint, fabric and elaborate trims. After a stint as a fashion designer, stylist and personal shopper, she now bills herself as a "luxury lifestyle consultant" who finds and customizes couture for the body and home.

"I'm more of a magpie than a raven," she says. "Magpies fill their nest with all sorts of shiny things. It sounds a little more eloquent than being a pack rat."

She shares the home with her husband, musician-composer Isaac Sprintis, and a border terrier named Ella. Though Sprintis complains good-naturedly, "If I leave the house for a few hours, I'll come back to a bamboo forest painted in the foyer and a wife with a sore arm," it is clear he loves their home.

Living with birds and butterflies, he adds, isn't nearly as precious as it may sound. "There's something slightly gothic about it, so it doesn't feel girlie," he says. "After all, her parents named her Raven, not Rainbow."

The result is pretty and provocative. Here Kauffman details how she feathered her nest.

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