After years spent traveling the world, this filmmaking family puts down roots in Pasadena


Filmmakers Sarah Wetherbee and Emre Sahin have traveled the world producing documentaries for Netflix (“Shot in the Dark”), the History Channel (“Cities of the Underworld,” “The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer”) and National Geographic, but their most personal project to date is based in Pasadena.

“So much of our life was spent traveling and not putting down roots,” Wetherbee says. “We were on the road half the year.”

As their family grew to include daughters Leni, 6, and Ruby, 2, their desire for roots prompted them to look for a home in Los Angeles.


“We’ve always felt like we were temporarily staying somewhere,” explains Wetherbee, who is originally from New Hampshire and met husband Sahin, who was born in Istanbul, at Emerson College in Boston.

They began their search with a distinctly California ideal in mind, picturing themselves in a sun-filled Midcentury Modern home with clean lines. They were drawn to Pasadena in the hope that the city’s tree-lined streets would provide their daughters with room to roam.

The stately 1930 Georgian-style home they purchased in 2015 was nothing like what they had envisioned. “It felt old-fashioned and dark,” Wetherbee says. Still, the Pasadena home’s sense of history resonated with two filmmakers whose careers are largely based on documenting the past.

“This home was for all of us and could evolve with us,” Wetherbee says. “We immediately felt like it would be a place we’d want to come back to.”

Black shutters give the house a modern feel.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Working with interior designer Deborah Rhein-Gleiberman, the couple transformed the dark and dated home into something warm and contemporary by mixing old and new: antiques and heirlooms with modern furnishings, art and accessories.

The renovation was about creating a timeless, family-friendly sanctuary. “We didn’t want it to be precious,” Wetherbee adds.

While architect Kevin Oreck gave the home a workable layout in keeping with the history of the home, Rhein-Gleiberman helped to create interiors that are deeply personal and reflect who they are.

The couple, whose Karga 7 production company has an office in Istanbul, has incorporated multiple references to Turkey in decorating their home, including a 1883 oil painting of a Turkish businessman, military caricature paintings and a ceramic Ottoman wrestler.

Small details such as white walls, graphic wallpaper in the powder and laundry rooms, and pink tile in the girls’ bathroom are paired with broad changes such as steel industrial doors that recall a London brownstone and a second-floor skylight that bathes the two floors in light.

To help create better flow, walls were removed and ceilings were exposed. A sun room became a bedroom for the girls and a breezeway was added. Before the remodel, the kitchen was dark and enclosed with cherry cabinets. Now the black and white kitchen opens to a sunny breakfast room overlooking an outdoor patio, garden and pool. Standing at the kitchen’s marble island, the couple can watch their daughters playing outside.

Leni Sahin, 6 and Ruby Sahin, 2, enjoy their Pasadena backyard.
Leni Sahin, 6 and Ruby Sahin, 2, enjoy their Pasadena backyard.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The interiors have a quirky sensibility courtesy of a blue peacock wall mount, industrial trough sinks and a Jonathan Adler lucite hippo sculpture. Even artworks, including antique paintings by unknown artists, a photograph by Slim Aarons and witty bird paintings by writer Dave Eggers, will leave you smiling.

Outside, the home’s brick exterior is greatly improved courtesy of a new door painted Benjamin Moore Seaweed green and by swapping white dentil molding for black. New shutters on either side of the 10 windows, also painted black, are dramatic and give the stately home a modern feel.

The project took two years, but the result is everything the couple had hoped for: an update that honors past, present and future.

“This house is 15 years worth of ideas,” Wetherbee says. “It was truly a labor of love. It’s the house that I want my kids to grow up in.”

Twitter: @lisaboone19

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