But Terrell's treatment — she painted it dill, framed her own drawings of irons and clothespins and added a robin's-egg blue Formica counter — became the unexpected darling of the sprawling Brentwood home.
"Other people would have mailed it in because it was such a small room," says Mark Mayfield, House Beautiful editor in chief. "But Jackie got it. What she did in terms of color was amazing. I was stunned by it."
The fine arts painter reinvented herself as an interior designer half a dozen years ago after divorce left her in financial free fall, and for the third time in two decades she returned to living in one of the towers at Park La Brea. Becoming reacquainted with the notion of a budget didn't just make her more resourceful. It changed her taste.
"When I was married, I had more expensive furniture, but it was formal," says Terrell, 57. "After my divorce, I sold my Sub-Zero and my Eames chairs, and I took half of that money and got the nicest things for the least amount of money. I started over with IKEA."
Today, her three-bedroom apartment works as an airy artist's statement against excess, and as a ringing endorsement for cleverness over cash.
"Living here tells us that we don't really have to have a lot of space or separate rooms for this and that," says Terrell of her 1,440-square-foot apartment, whose 12th floor living room looks out onto the Hollywood Hills and the Pacific Design Center.
When she moved in, she first painted the "landlord beige" walls with her favorite white, a mixture of two shades from Benjamin Moore, and then sketched a floor plan. Starting with IKEA basics — which under Terrell's steady hand look less like graduate-student staples and more like provocative design statements — she mixed in pieces from ceramist Jonathan Adler and midcentury staples from Design Within Reach, Martha Stewart, Urban Outfitters and catalogs such as Garnet Hill, as well as custom pieces of her own design.
Color, light and proportion are carefully controlled, although the result is far from a masterminded series of vignettes. Instead, it's a constantly shifting set that she can strike at any moment. The pair of dining tables she assembled from 1940s movie-camera tripods and birch tabletops, the slipcovered daybed, wooden benches from IKEA — they all glide around the room depending on her mood, or if she's having a dinner party.
In keeping with the apartment's clean, Bauhaus-y architectural lines, Terrell's approach to the décor is also fuss-free. A confirmed "lover of the plain," she keeps things light, using a combination of restraint and a willingness to keep some of her collections in storage (and even, on occasion, crammed into the guest bathroom tub behind a Restoration Hardware canvas shower curtain).
The Eames surfboard coffee table, the square dining tables, her low-slung, plainly dressed bed all conform to a look of pared-down Zen chic, so that composition and color, not clutter, become the focus of every room.
"A lot of the big pieces are white, and that adds to the airiness," Terrell says.
The designer made sure to claim an apartment with fixtures that date to 1948. Those original metal kitchen cabinets and metal countertops satisfy her love for "utilitarian things. The more socialistic, the better."
"They tackify everything in the updated units," says Terrell of the granite countertops, the cabinets she says have a Home Depot pedigree, and the open kitchen/living room plan, conversions that sometimes take place when units turn over.
"We add some bells and whistles like granite countertops to some," says Barbara Barsi, director of marketing for Park La Brea, "but most of them are kept as they are. That's how people want it."
The tower apartments were not included in the original plans for Park La Brea. It was only after the war in 1948, during a housing shortage in Los Angeles, that developers added 18 towers to the garden townhomes.
Laid out in an X shape for optimum views and lots of corner units, the 13-story towers have one- to four-bedroom units that Terrell knows intimately. She has lived in every configuration except the one-bedroom.
In the spacious three-bedroom, Terrell spent as much time selecting the fixtures as the furniture. She added track lighting, hung IKEA panels from hospital curtain tracks mounted on her bedroom ceiling and replaced vertical blinds with Venetians in the living room.
When the air-conditioning unit prevented her from placing the blinds directly in front of the windows, Terrell accommodated the inconvenience with signature wit, hanging them about two feet in front of it. If the result looks more like a spirited design quirk than a concession to a boxy AC unit, that seems to be the lesson of Terrell's life these days. Style can get you out of almost any situation.