Kelly and Alexis made an offer on the house, which was soon accepted, and promptly headed back to Pacific Palisades, where Kelly immediately set about Googling Portland-based interior designers. Though the couple was delighted with their purchase, the house had some considerable cosmetic deficiencies—not the least of which were the battleship-gray exterior paint job and an overly narrow front door. Kelly hoped to get these things in shape before they moved in.
The contemporary looks on the website of interior designer Jessica Helgerson, who had moved her business to Portland from Santa Barbara four years ago, appealed to Kelly, and over the phone, Kelly says, the two women “clicked.” Kelly e-mailed Helgerson images she’d clipped from magazines and then arranged for her real estate agent to meet the designer at the house.
Helgerson’s response to the home (as Kelly’s agent casually mentioned to the Zahoudanises a few weeks later) was a mixture of horror and dismay.
“The house was such a dog,” Helgerson recalls with a guilty laugh. “It had all these small vinyl windows. The kitchen was super-cramped. Inside, everything was mauve.” Fortunately, the Zahoudanises were in full accord with Helgerson’s criticisms.
Everyone concurred that the two biggest problems with the house were the kitchen and the master suite. The galley kitchen was poorly situated along the house’s front (north) side, and it was enclosed by an interior wall that cut off the main living area both from light and from views of the front yard. Meanwhile, the master suite was a mess, with a narrow, elongated bedroom and what Kelly remembers as a “teeny, disgusting bathroom with a tan, rubber floor.”
To fix these quirks, Helgerson suggested transforming one end of the excessively long master bedroom into a luxurious master bath and then downgrading the former bathroom into a more appropriately scaled walk-in closet. The kitchen could be flipped 45 degrees so that it would hug the adjacent (west) exterior wall of the house and flow directly into the great room. Consequently, the home’s front (north) wall would open up, allowing Helgerson to install windows there that would let in more light and look out onto a new deck, outfitted with built-in planter boxes, that Helgerson’s husband, architect Yanni Doulis, agreed to design.