Instead of buying into the hype that he needs more house, more furnishings he won't use and more security in the form of a gated neighborhood, Togo is happy with something smaller and more personal, he says. Two years ago he bought his first home, a 1,800-square-foot Midcentury pad in the Hollywood Hills, and he asked himself: "What if I got a tiny house and filled it with the best things I love?"
FOR THE RECORD:
Jonathan Togo: In the Sept. 18 Home section, an article profiling actor Jonathan Togo misspelled the first name of boxer Muhammad Ali as Mohammed. —
The question explains what one sees here: an eclectic mix of vintage and new furnishings, an unexpected photography and print collection, and a personal boxing gym in the garage.
Dressed in gym shorts and a T-shirt with a stylized image of Mohammed Ali, Togo leads a tour through the 1958 post-and-beam structure that contains just a few main rooms, including a combined living-dining-kitchen area that occupies more than half the home.
"From my bedroom I can see the Hollywood sign," Togo says. But the Boston native's road here started at Vassar College in upstate New York, where he graduated from the theater program. He then lived for five years in a Brooklyn doll factory-turned loft. After moving to the West Coast, he initially shared apartments with friends in West Hollywood and Manhattan Beach.
By 2008, Togo found the partially renovated Hollywood Hills house despite an agent who tried to discourage the purchase by labeling the property too small. But Togo was captivated by the canyon, live oaks and eucalyptus trees outside the ceiling-to-floor sliding doors.
"This is like a little tree house, and oddly, it fits me," Togo says. "The view is everything — it's like a giant piece of art."
His business manager introduced him to interior designer Lory Johansson, but instead of handing over a check and waiting for the results, Togo has involved himself in the selection of Midcentury chairs, in reviving the original outdoor lights with a coat of pumpkin orange, and in repurposing a length of bowling lane as a swivel desk for his home office.
"I think it's so weird that people on MTV's 'Cribs' don't choose their own things — like a grand piano in the living room," he says.
"What do I need five bedrooms for? I like it when I can say to friends, 'My designer just sent me a picture from a junk yard.' I like being part of the creative process."
Rob Bolger, a friend and former set costumer on "CSI: Miami," has watched as Togo has morphed from a serial renter to a settled homeowner with a keen sense of his own aesthetic.
"Here's a guy who works on one of the No. 1 TV shows in the world, and his whole style is really a lack of pretentiousness," Bolger says. "Jon is built for comfort, and so is his house."
When they met, Johansson asked Togo to show her photos of his previous apartment. By then, the actor had picked up a vintage Arne Jacobsen chair and a few retro lamps.
"We have the same taste, and we discovered we like the same things," he says, citing a flea market. "When I first moved out here, I went to the Pasadena Rose Bowl and bought a vintage credenza."
Given that he was raised by Sheila Togo, a self-described thrift-store shopper who loves "the hunt," it's no surprise that Togo has an eye for vintage deals.
His father, Michael Togo, worked at the Boston Globe as a commercial artist and graphic designer; his mother, a former visual merchandiser for national retailers, now runs Simply Sheila, a custom workshop that sells pillows and textiles at SoWa, an open market in Boston.
"My mom is a fan of Midcentury pottery," says Togo, gesturing to vases that grace his dining table, just a few of the "mom" touches that have shown up during her visits.