Pro Portfolio: DIY expert Jonathan Fong revamps his condo with color and humor


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Every Monday we post a recently built, remodeled or redecorated home with commentary from the designer. This week:

Designer: Jonathan Fong, Style With A Smile


Location: Santa Monica

Project goal: To add color and personality to a cookie-cutter town house without doing any construction or major remodeling. Everything was white when I moved into my condo. Actually, it was worse: The walls were painted Swiss Coffee, which, contrary to its caffeinated namesake, was a real snoozefest for me. So I asked, “What can I do to bring joy to my home, so I’m happy whenever I’m in it?”

Designer’s description: The task seemed simple enough. With just 1,400 square feet that included a combination living/dining room area, two small bedrooms and a pre-fab kitchen, I could have just painted the walls and been done with it. But I got a little ambitious.

Maybe because I grew up as a math and science geek and never got to do fun things like arts and crafts or join the drama club, I’ve overcompensated as an adult. So not only did I want to create a home that was fun, I wanted to have fun transforming it. I wanted to play.

My approach to decorating my home, then, was to make every room an art project. Instead of just painting the walls, I tried out some wall treatments with some unconventional materials. Instead of resurfacing or changing out the kitchen cabinets, I learned how to decoupage. I experimented. I got my hands dirty. I let my imagination run free. I didn’t care if things didn’t match, or even if my home was quickly becoming the adult version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

For the living room, shown above, I chose four different colors, one for each section of the primary wall. The color-blocking makes the bold colors easier on the eyes. On the red soffit, I applied alternating lines of high gloss polyurethane to create subtle striping without introducing another color. On the walls to the left and the right of the fireplace, I stamped designs like swirls and stars in a lighter shade of the wall color. And above the fireplace, I painted a grid of letters to create a giant word puzzle. Words are hidden backward, diagonally, up and down, and zigzagging. For example, my name is backward on the second line, and ‘Grease’ and ‘Xanadu’ are two other words. The street banner on the back wall is from MOCA’s Andy Warhol exhibit. Most people don’t realize that the MOCA Museum Store sells many of its street banners once exhibits are over.

While I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, my home always puts a smile on my face. A big reason for that is it totally reflects who I am, quirks and all. In designing spaces for my clients, I know that a home has to be as individual as each person, almost like a fingerprint. After all, you can’t spell “home” without a “me.”


For a look inside, keep reading…

The kitchen used to be all white laminate. It was boring and sterile. I always knew I wanted to do something to the kitchen, but was never sure what exactly, until I was at the closing day of the Andy Warhol exhibit at MOCA, and all the posters were 40% off. I love a good bargain – and a good jolt of inspiration – so I decided to buy one of each poster and decoupage them to the cabinet fronts.

I consulted the nation’s decoupage expert, Durwin Rice, author of ‘New Decoupage,’ and he told me how to do it. I constantly hear people say, “How can you go into a kitchen that’s so loud?” Or “Doesn’t it ruin your appetite?” (Well, why do you think I’m so skinny?) But seriously, I don’t find the kitchen too loud at all. It just puts me in a good mood.

The artwork of the angel is actually an illuminated headboard I created for the Greystone Mansion Design Showcase a few years ago. The image is an angel wearing sunglasses lounging by the pool. The “little men” cable lighting system is from Blueprint Furniture. The Marshmallow Sofa and Noguchi coffee table are from the Sofa Co. The sofa is a barely used Modernica piece I found at Nick Metropolis on La Brea. The arc lamp is from CB2. And the wall cubes are from West Elm.

For the wall that defines the small dining area, I created a large piece of string art using the nail and yarn technique many of us learned in elementary school. Although it looks like it was hard to do, it was not only easy, but very relaxing. The framed mirror on the right wall, which I bought at Sam’s Club, is actually tilted down so it reflects the dining table rather than the living area. The glass globes hanging above the table are from CB2. The ‘Peanuts’ artwork in the back left is a panel of a billboard for Knott’s Berry Farm, from my days in advertising when I worked on the Knott’s account.

The dining chairs are a combination of IKEA Gilbert Chairs and used Philippe Starck chairs that I decoupaged with fine art posters. The low bookshelves on the right are IKEA Expedit towers that I flipped horizontally, adding legs to them. The frosted glass extension dining table is from Blueprint Furniture.

I turned my second bedroom into a TV den so I wouldn’t have to put a television in the living room. Also, this deters out-of-town guests from thinking my home is a hotel. For this room, I wanted a nightclub feel to offset the couch potato nature of watching television, so I created an industrial look with aluminum roof flashing on the wall. It comes in rolls at Home Depot, and I wove the strips together in a checkerboard pattern. The velvet chaise and rose print are from Z Gallerie.


On the opposite wall, there’s a length of mirrored closet doors. I knew I had to cover the mirrors because they were reflecting all that aluminum. It was just too much metal everywhere. So I softened the room by hanging velvet panels in front of the mirrored closets, opening one section to reveal just a bit of mirror. It fools a lot of people into thinking there’s another room behind there. Because my television is one of those big, black, pre-plasma monstrosities, it is hidden away in an antique armoire I bought at Harry before the store closed for good. The tangerine chair was one I found on the curb. The coffee table is an IKEA mirror I glued to a plant stand. And the glorious ceiling was painted for me by decorative painter Leonard Greco in a mix of rococo, chinoiserie and Pop Art.

Yes, I can do white, too. With all the color and drama throughout the rest of the house, I wanted the master bedroom to be calm and relaxing. The wall treatment behind the bed is a patchwork of different white fabrics and textures. The inspiration came when I was visiting with a friend who was getting married, and I thumbed through her bridal magazines. I fell in love with the fabrics associated with weddings, and thought putting up white fabric would be visually and tactilely so interesting. These are panels of satin, faux fur and quilting, wrapped around foam core and then Velcroed to the wall. That makes for easy removal to switch out fabrics or to clean them. There are also panels of hundreds of white silk roses, which I glued onto foam core. The platform bed is from Blueprint Furniture.

-- Compiled by Lisa Boone

Photo credits: Jason Radspinner of Image Locations Inc.

We welcome Pro Portfolio submissions. Email project summaries (400 words or less) and low-resolution photos.


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