By Alexandria Abramian Mott
27 Images

Home tour: A cheery bit of old England in modern L.A.

By Alexandria Abramian Mott
In thoroughly modern Los Angeles, artist Lisa Borgnes Giramonti is dedicated to old England. “I’m a huge Anglophile,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to go back to England, but it’s not going to happen, so this is how I’m re-creating that.” And by “this,” she means almost every aspect of her life: her much-followed blog; her art, which involves presenting old-fashioned embroidery as a modern-day form of social commentary; and perhaps most of all, her Los Feliz house, which exudes British gentility and the elegance of a bygone era with a contemporary sensibility. A show of her artwork runs through May 29 at the Acme Gallery in Los Angeles, but for a taste of her personality, one need only step inside her house. ... (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti decided against major architectural surgery when she and her husband, Piero Giramonti, purchased their 2,500-square-foot house five years ago. Instead, she focused on blending English past with Los Angeles present. “This house is like a little eccentric manor house. It feels like a Lilliputian version of Gosford Park,” says Borgnes Giramonti, 46, who calls herself a “domestic explorer.” An American born in Belgium, she has lived in Norway, Sweden, New York and Los Angeles. But it was her time in London, as a child for two years and later as an adult with her husband, that have left the most lasting impressions. Here, the stairwell with a surprise at the bottom. ... (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
A sheep sculpture grazes at the bottom of the stairs. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
A table by the entrance to the house. The wallpaper is Flowering Quince by Clarence House(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti, pictured here in her living room, blogs about her travels, about the Liberty of London collection coming to Target, and about downloading the writings of the late Brit Lytton Strachey onto her iPad. Then there’s the blog’s namesake, Bloomsbury Group -- writers, artists and intellectuals who figure prominently in the posts. “I’ve always had a lifelong fascination with the group and how they devoted their lives to art, friendship, literature and a well-lived life,” she says. “I’m trying to go back in the past, to Edwardian and Victorian times for the graciousness and civilized life. I’m exploring how to bring those forward so that we don’t lose the elegance and simplicity of life.” (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
The living room, with its witty mix of vintage flavor and contemporary furniture. Note the embroidery artwork on the back wall. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti’s art riffs on the centuries of craft of embroidery. With meticulous cross-stitching on burlap, her pieces look like they’d convey biblical verses or quaint homilies. But take a moment to read the text, and one discovers her reflections on a culture that genuflects to TMZ, “it” handbags and the quest for eternal youth. After reading about “The Hills” star Heidi Montag‘s plastic surgeries, Borgnes Giramonti wrote in one of her pieces: “When you grow up, who will you be? A plastic, smooth divinity? Or choosing age and softened grace, reveal your life upon your face?” (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti has a similar Botox-free attitude toward houses. “The same way a cast-iron pan has traces of all meals, a house has a sense memory of everything that’s happened to it,” she says. “You want to layer it with not just furniture, but with experiences.” She has imported those cherished influences throughout the house. Living room shelves include this prominently displayed book on British punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Another view of the living room. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
A door to the dining area is wrapped in paisley vinyl. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti wanted more bookshelves in the dining room, but she worried they might crowd her parents’ midcentury Danish table. Her solution? Wallpaper with a bookshelf design made by London-based Deborah Bowness. A horseshoe bench completes the space. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Writing on the wall. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti’s beloved Aga stove in the kitchen. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
An iPad on the kitchen counter is propped up by an intricately carved wooden bookstand, a bit of the old mixed with the new.  (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
A portrait of Picasso shares counter space with the espresso machine. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

The kitchen and breakfast nook have the Scottish company Timorous Beasties’ Thistle HS wallpaper, which is complemented with a bench upholstered in a Tartan and a Union Jack pillow. “I was thinking of the Sex Pistols meets Vivienne Westwood meets country manor for this room,” she says. “I can be here even in July and feel like I’m in the north of England. I find a palette, and then I don’t worry too much about all of the pattern matching.”

 (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti hung a brass hourglass next to the TV in the breakfast area. “It’s a half-hour glass, perfect for timing TV shows for Luca,” she says, referring to her 8-year-old son. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Her grandfather’s medicine cabinet, now used to store liquor. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Some monkey business in the dining room. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
In the study: English oil painting hung on a dark wall, Union Jack pillow set on a light couch. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Borgnes Giramonti’s desk and wall of inspirations in the study. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Although each room seems to have its own collection of objects and colors, the visual through-line is literary. “Books are my lifeblood,” the artist says. “I have to have them in every room.” Here in the study, they’re arranged horizontally and vertically. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
On the second-floor balcony: a string chair that Borgnes Giramonti purchased at Liberty of London when she lived in England in the 1990s, topped with a Peter Dunham pillow from his Hollywood at Home store. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Completing the mix of designer pieces and budget-friendly buys: a newly purchased runner from Pottery Barn, and elephants ($19 each) from HomeGoods(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
She has documented her previous homes with an anthropological passion. Photographs on her blog detail past residences, and the artist even has completed embroidery depicting rooms of previous homes. “I specifically wanted to record pieces of furniture that I knew were iconic,” she says, “that people would look at it 30 years later and say, ‘That’s an Arco lamp, that’s a Jonathan Adler pillow.’ ”

But as for preserving her current house, Borgnes Giramonti isn’t in a rush. “I’ve lived here for five years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult,” she says. “And I don’t plan on moving any time soon.” (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
The brass door knocker welcomes visitors. Borgnes Giramonti earned a guest blogging gig for W magazine, where she made weekly style picks for must-have objects. “We knew our readers would be interested in what she had to say simply because several of us in the office are completely addicted to her blog,” W senior editor Jenny Comita says. For more information on Borgnes Giramonti’s show, “Stitching Up the Noughties,” check out the Acme Gallery website.

For more tours of Southern California homes, go to home tour central. You also can bookmark our L.A. at Home blog for design news, sales alerts, event notices and more. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
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