Together, Sally Breer and Jake Rodehuth-Harrison are ETC.etera, an interior design practice in Los Angeles.
They met through a mutual friend, and although they were both running successful practices on their own, their instant chemistry made joining forces a no-brainer. Their style, at once laid-back and high design, has endeared them both to young Hollywood stars and to the entrepreneurs-with-good-taste behind some of the city's best hangout spots. We visited them in Sally's own living room, bright and warm even on the rainy afternoon we arrived, looking out through plate-glass windows over the hills of L.A.'s Highland Park.
In the center of the room sits a fine white marble example of Gae Aulenti's "Jumbo" coffee table, a hulking, opulent mass of marble she designed in 1965. It's the first piece you notice upon entering—in a way, it's the centerpiece of the entire house—and its supple geometry and smooth surfaces rendered in cool, unyielding stone, and accented with a Ben Medansky vase, seem to say "don't worry, everything is in its place." Its counterpoint in the room is a whimsical brass 1977 Jeré "Lilypad" floor lamp that lives next to a potted tree and a fur throw rug. It's elegant and substantial and gives off lovely light, but it's just tarnished enough to feel well-loved and unpretentious.
Like much of ETC.etera's work, Sally's entire place is reminiscent of the late-midcentury effortlessness best on display in Woody Allen's 1978 film Interiors (the director's reputation may be in tatters, but the work of his set designers has always been unassailable). Unlike the hard-edged rationality of design that references the 1960s, Sally and Jake reference a later, friendlier modernism that is unafraid of mixing materials—fur, velvet, brass, marble, tapestry, perspex, ceramic and more—with interesting plants, organic shapes, and earthy tones. They reference Gio Ponti, Pierre Paulin, and Jean Royere, along with contemporaries like Dimore Studio, Ashe + Leandro, and Disc Interiors as inspiration.
"I'm a creature of comfort," says Jake. "For me, the essential things in a good living room are a comfortable sofa, a coffee table that can do triple-duty as a game table/impromptu dining table/ottoman, things that make you smile. Living rooms are for living!"
"There should be negative space between furniture for flow, flow of conversations, flow of air," Sally added. "Pieces should be easy to move and rearrange if you're changing the function of the space. I also like room to throw some floor pillows down and be able to sit on the floor. Oh god, do I sound totally crunchy?"
Both designers strongly believe that a good living room is always TV-free. In Jake's view, "keeping the TV elsewhere changes the mood of the room and instantly invites your guests to interact in a new way. Yahtzee, anyone?!" Sally agreed, adding "Yes, TV's make a living room lazy. Also, tall coffee tables make a living room feel like it's set up for TV dinner and they offend me to my core!"
Sally's living room certainly fits the bill, not only thanks to the multi-use Aulenti table, but also because it avoids feeling too precious. Anyone with an Instagram-famous friend knows it is rare to enter any well-curated, deliberately-designed space and feel like you can just comfortably plop down and relax—there can be so much effort in projecting perfection. On the other hand, Sally's living room (and all of ETC.etera's work), is an ideal compromise: it is stylish and elevated yet casual and unselfconscious. By emphasizing durable, enduring investment design pieces, comfy chairs and couches people will want to sit in and not just photograph, plus accents that add warmth and just feel nice to touch, Sally and Jake are bosses at building designer living room that are actually livable.