After 10 years and one brownstone restoration in Brooklyn, Salad for President’s Julia Sherman returned to Pasadena, where she and her family took on their next big project: a mid-century modern house hidden in the trees.
Photography by Yoshihiro Makino
Words by Julie Vadnal
Styling by Kate Berry
Julia Sherman and her husband, Adam Katz, never planned to leave California for so long. “It was supposed to be a brief sojourn back to New York—then we ended up staying for 10 years,” says the founder of the addictive food site Salad for President and author of the upcoming cookbook, Arty Parties: An Entertaining Cookbook. After establishing her brand; renovating a Brooklyn brownstone; and having their now 2-year-old daughter, Red, however, the family was craving the great outdoors.
Direct access to green space is what drew them to their Pasadena fixer-upper in the first place. When the couple started looking for a potential West Coast nest, Sherman was hoping for something lush. “As an East Coaster, the desert landscape feels mortally threatening to me,” she says. “I’m much more of a deciduous-tree-canopy, dappled-light kind of person. So when I walked into the house for the first time and realized it had a Northern California treehouse vibe, I thought: We’re moving back.”
Top image: Soderhamn Sectional, IKEA; Svea Sofa Legs, Pretty Pegs; Custom Coffee Table, Julia Sherman and WP Thatcher; Sculpture, Molly Lowe; Vintage Chair in Gainsborough Velvet Fabric, F. Schumacher. Above: Sommer Dining Table and Side Chairs with Cushions, Design Within Reach; Concrete Fluted Planters, Pottery Barn.
In the newly restored 1960s home—originally designed by nature loving architect Boyd Georgi—trees peek into the floor to ceiling living room windows, a stream runs through the property, and the back porch is both a place to entertain and the walkway to her impressive garden. (Those salads don’t become president all on
Before they even touched the actual structure, though, Sherman and Katz, CEO of creative agency Imprint Projects, hired landscaping studio Terremoto to tackle the yard—“I knew we’d run out of money if we didn’t do it first,” says Sherman. The hill out back was overgrown and unusable, so they did some trimming and dug a zigzag pattern (“We call it our Zorro cut”) to terrace the land and make space for fruit trees and an A-frame office.
Above, from left: On Sherman: Vintage Dress, The Frippery; Melvina Rug, Revival Rugs; Eave Desk by MSDS Studio for Dims, Dims; Gregg Table Lamp by Roberto and Ludovica Palomba for Foscarini and Terho Pendant Lamp by Mater Design, Lightology; DIY A-Frame Kit, Den Outdoors.
The rest of the budget went to giving the three-bedroom, three-bath some TLC. For inspiration, the home’s first owners gave Sherman and Katz photos of what it looked like when it was built. One surprising discovery: The main bedroom was split so that the couple could sleep apart, but later the smaller space was turned into a dressing room, where Sherman temporarily set up her laptop for work. With pictures in hand and Emily Farnham Architecture at their side, the couple kept as much of the original architecture as they could (including floor-to-ceiling mitered windows; brickwork; and parquet flooring, which they restored and bleached to a milky white) and made subtle tweaks to the rest, like dividing another large bedroom into two to accommodate their growing family. (Sherman is due with their second child in July.)
Vintage Counter Stools, Kartell; Robin’s Egg Tile, Clé Tile.
Instead of changing the footprint of the house, Sherman and Katz focused on replacing outdated, run-down elements with ones that paid homage to its mid-century origins. “Even though you want to update everything, you don’t want to go too earthy, because it’s definitely not a farmhouse. But then on the other hand, anything that feels at all glitzy or glam is antithetical to the original design and architecture, which is supposed to be very accessible,” explains Sherman.
Clockwise from top right: Custom Dining Table, Liam Montano. Soft Edge 12 Side Chairs, Hay; Brass X4 Pendant Lamp, Allied Maker; Ceramic Tumblers, Zakka Bakka; Cake Sculpture, Will Cotton; Mini Orb Sconces, Allied Maker; Range, Monogram; Quartz Countertops in Blizzard, Caesar Stone; Custom Cabinetry with Cabinet Edge Pull, Emtek.
So they reined it all in with natural materials and sleek lines. In the living room, blue-green IKEA sofa gets a boost from a new set of bleached wood legs,while a sisal rug, great for high-traffic areas, rests underneath. In the main bathroom, Clé tiles in a shade called Rice Paper scale the shower walls. “We wanted this house to be really serene, and too much color inside would compete with the presence
of the trees outside,” says Sherman.
Below: Rice Paper Tile, Clé Tile; Sconce, Joan Sherman; 3-Drawer Dresser, Oeuf; Pax Wardrobe System, IKEA; Basis Cabinet Fronts, Reform.
Above: Vintage Freestanding Fireplace; Jevgenijs Rug, Revival Rugs; Flax Linen Bedding Set and Euro Shams, Bed Threads; Striped Lumbar Pillow by Christina Lundsteen, Lost & Found; Wall Sconce 2B, Entler; Curtains, Hunter Douglas; Sommer Adjustable Chaise, Design Within Reach.
We wanted this house to be really serene, and too much color inside would compete with the presence
of the trees.”
They had the most fun with the rainbow in the granny flat, a downstairs suite for guests with its own entrance—and frankly its own personality. Salmon-colored metal shelves float above mint green cabinets, and a cane bookshelf Sherman found at a Pasadena estate sale for $30 acts as a room divider between the bedroom and living area, which has the only TV in the house. The mini kitchen and bar is where she has taken to setting out food buffet-style—sometimes rotisserie chicken, other times grilled fish, but always with a salad, of course—when they have their pod over for dinner alfresco.
Above, from left: Terracotta Footed Planters, Hawkins New York; Matte Black Plant Stands, Terrain; Custom Cabinetry with Globe Knobs, Emtek; Terrazzo Countertop, Concrete Collaborative. Cement Solid Floor Tile, Clé Tile; Tara Shower System, Dorn Bracht; Zellige Tile, Cle Tile; Air Waffle Bath Towels by Uchino, ABC Carpet & Home.
Vintage Counter Stools, Kartell; Quartz Countertops in Frozen Terra, Caesar Stone; Basis Cabinet Fronts, Reform; Custom Shelf System, WP Thatcher.
Looking back at the past year, Sherman is grateful that the renovation gave them multiple open-air places to safely host close friends and relatives. On the deck (a sturdier remake of the original, which included a bridge to the back garden), they grill and chill. And if Sherman is lucky, she can take a nap or read a book on the patio outside her bedroom.
Throughout the summer and fall, the treehouse has also been the site for smaller projects, from making a coffee table herself to turning a bronze cast of Red’s foot into a light dimmer. “All these things that were a huge headache and took an enormous amount of time were how I was spending my excess energy, in the same way other people were baking bread,” she says. “We just wanted to find joy in those small moments that made us really happy to be here.”
Concrete Fluted Planter, Pottery Barn (from $99)
DIY A-Frame Kit Deposit,
Den Outdoors ($2,000)
Custom Drapery, Hunter Douglas