Egan Gauntt began her career in on a movie set of a little film called The Pelican Brief. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?!) The Southern gal immediately fell in love with the industry and headed west for college in California. Years later, she’s got a resume touting impressive art departments and a focus on set design. Today, she combines her experience with something a little more personal – interior design.
Photographer Michele Andersen took us on a tour of Egan’s beautiful Venice Beach home. The neighborhood is filled with many mid-century abodes, so Egan’s Spanish-style bungalow was a breath of fresh air. It’s eclectic and warm with style looming around every corner. From a California-cool dining room to a cozy and classic master suite, it was love at first sight. We chatted with Egan about Hollywood, the home’s rich history, and everything in between:
You began your career in set design. Tell us how you first got started in that field!
I worked as an extra on the set of The Pelican Brief in New Orleans when I was in high school and fell in love with the film industry. When I came to college at USC, I got an internship as an Art Department PA on the film, Alien Resurrection. It was a pretty amazing opportunity because those are some of the best artists in the industry and it was a great experience for me. I continued to work with a lot of those artists throughout my film career and slowly shifted into Set Decorating. I also met my husband on the Paul Thomas Anderson film, Magnolia.
Set design seems like it’s a little different from interiors. When did you first discover your love of interior design?
My mom has an innate sense of style and I think I can safely say we had one of the most beautiful homes in Montgomery, Alabama. I used to remember friends coming over in high school and shaking their heads at the velvet leopard print chairs in the foyer, but that was gorgeous fabric and it was nice to have a home that wasn’t playing it safe. My first “project” was painting my girly pink bedroom white with a black ceiling and decorating with black and white photography and one bright yellow chair. Most of my friends had butterfly wallpaper type rooms until they left for college.
We’d love to see that Alabama home!! Has the South influenced your aesthetic, or do you find yourself leaning more towards a California’s design sense?
I love good Southern design. A beautifully designed Southern house is about the most comfortable place on earth. I love a good mix of antiques and beautiful fabrics because I think it really adds warmth that some California modern design is missing. But what I love about California design are the clean lines and wide, light-filled, open spaces. I think a combination of the two is pretty great.
Los Angeles is filled with unique neighborhoods. What do you love most about Venice?
There is a lot to love about Venice. Both my husband and I are artists, so this area really makes us feel at home. People are always taking risks here – for better or worse – and everyone is too busy doing their thing to judge you. Having grown up in the South, I really appreciate that my neighbors wouldn’t even register me walking the dog in my rattiest sweats and unkempt hair.
I also love the food – we are so fortunate to have so many amazing restaurants in our neighborhood. AND we can walk to them!
Let’s talk about the home itself. What was your initial inspiration for the space?
This was our first Spanish style house, so a lot of our furniture from our last house was sold, donated, or moved into friend’s houses. We knew it was a great house when we walked in to the living room and saw the high ceilings. This house had been owned by the same family for a million years, so it was in pretty bad shape, but we knew it had great bones and with a little TLC could be a really special house.
I’m mildly obsessed with those gorgeous Parisian apartments with their buttery white walls and herringbone floors, so even though the herringbone wasn’t right for this house, I think that simplicity of material and color palette was an early inspiration. We also looked at a lot of modernized Spanish bungalow images – I mean, I would be lost without Pinterest! We thought it would be fun to play around with cement tile and I think that adding that in the kitchen makes it feel a little more fun and modern, while the rest of the house is pretty authentic to the original design.
Most of the house is bright & airy. What inspired you to do such a dark wall color in the bedroom?
I absolutely love a dark bedroom. Our last house had the master suite on the second floor and I swear it was like sleeping on the surface of the sun. We put a lot of big windows in and clerestory windows in the hallway outside the bedroom. It was hot and bright and awful. This current bedroom is so tiny that I knew a dark color would make it look bigger- my contractor was actually stunned that I was right on this! And it makes the room feel so cozy – it’s like a little cocoon.
Did you encounter any challenges in the design process?
It’s funny because my husband has a masters in architecture, so the agreement is that he can do the construction, but I get to do the decorating. Of course, it’s never that cut and dry and it’s all intersects at certain places any ways. He doesn’t know the first thing about a kitchen, for example, so I get really involved in the space planning and functionality of a house. There were places where we just could not get on the same page – the tile in the bathroom was one of them. I wanted one thing, he wanted another and we’d go around and around. Meanwhile, construction kicked off in a major way when I was away with the kids for our annual month in Asheville, NC. He was really having to deal with a lot and I was just frantically ordering tiles and appliances and tubs on the computer. I ended up finding a bathroom image that a friend in Asheville had pinned that had the perfect tile for our bathrooms and we were able to set that behind us. Having two strong willed designer types with not entirely similar taste has it’s challenges, but we ultimately ended up with a home that we both love and really embraces both of our personalities.
The entire space turned out beautifully, but we have to ask – what is your favorite spot in the home?
I love our bedroom, but I spend most of my time in the kitchen. I have a little office set up in there, the puppy is pretty much cordoned off in there until she gets a little bigger, and the breakfast nook is an absolute hub for our family. When we’re not eating in there, we’re playing boards games or my daughter is drawing.
The daughter (who is in her 60s by the way – the dad lived here until his mid-90s!) of the previous owner stopped by a few weeks ago out of the blue. She was stunned by the transformation of the house. But she was stopped in her tracks by the fact that we put a built-in bench seat in the nook. She said her dad moved a little cot in there when their mother died because he didn’t want to sleep in their bedroom alone. She said he really would have loved all the changes that we made and that was a great seal of approval.
It is so special to have so many pieces of history within your new design. Thank you for sharing, Egan!
To follow Egan’s interior inspirations, click here.