L.A. house fits family heirlooms into vintage-modern design mix

When Mark Fay heard that the F.P. Fay Building was about to be demolished, the "True Blood" sound engineer drove to downtown Los Angeles to see the building named for his great-grandfather. That day, Easter Sunday, he discovered the building had already been knocked down, with little left but some ironwork and Fay Building signage on a piece of marble.

Twenty-three years and one trip to the welder later, the silver F-A-Y lettering now hangs above a treasured turntable, standing out against a living room wall's matte black chalkboard paint. In the Eagle Rock home where Mark and Melinda Fay live with their two boys, Boon and Haskell, the rescued sign represents not only a piece of salvaged family history but also the decorating mix of the moment: a playful blend of vintage and contemporary.


"I have great nostalgia for things and an appreciation for vintage," said Melinda, a psychotherapist who specializes in art therapy. "I love Midcentury, but I believe in comfort. I like to mix it up."

The heirlooms go beyond inherited pieces (those Emmy Awards on the shelf belonged to Mark's father, Sheldon, a cameraman). For these regulars at the Rose Bowl and Pasadena City College flea markets and aficionados of Etsy and EBay, possessions have been amassed through a combination of kismet and determination.

Case in point: After his grandparents' house in the Hollywood Hills was demolished, Mark jumped the fence and found "The Archer," a large stone relief originally mounted outside the pool house. He snagged it from the junk pile and hung it on the exterior of the brick fireplace at the Eagle Rock house. "The Archer" now oversees his children at play, just as it did when he was a child.

The Fays' surplus of artworks, including outsider art and thrift store finds, chronicles the couple's life together. In the master bedroom hangs a painting by street artist Becca that Mark bought to woo Melinda. Over the couch in the family room, a snake is rendered on a vintage map by Lynn Hanson. "Our house is right on the bottom above the artist's signature," Melinda said.

The artwork is as diverse as the home's decor. Melinda, who is launching a gallery show May 11 at Curve Line Space in Eagle Rock, called it "such an emotional and personal thing." But the couple also have had to be pragmatic, adapting the rooms of the 1948 home to accommodate their growing family.

During the last two years, the couple worked with South Pasadena interior decorator Tamara Kaye-Honey to add layers of texture and color and to create separate gathering places inside and out. What used to be a large, difficult-to-arrange living room has been divided into a central area with couch, a more intimate nook by the fireplace and a station for spinning LPs. The family room for kids inside is balanced with a "chill space" for grown-ups outside.

"I'm into creating a space for my kids where they can be free and have memories," Melinda said. "As a therapist, I think I wanted to create intimacy by establishing both grown-up spaces and kid spaces."

High-end furnishings are paired with budget finds. In that fireside nook, an antique settee covered in floral Schumacher fabric sits alongside chartreuse chairs from a thrift store. A dining table — bought from Goodwill and refinished — is surrounded by classic chairs from Midcentury L.A., a North Hollywood importer of vintage design. And in a surprising move, decorator Honey chose a patterned black Christian Lacroix wallpaper as a backdrop for a Salvation Army dresser reborn with a pickled finish.

Adding to the sentimentality that permeates the home is a ceramic whippet statue, once belonging to Melinda's aunt. Placed next to the fireplace, it is one of the first things you see as you enter the house.

"It always greeted me when I went to her house," Melinda said. "Nostalgia plays a big role in both of our lives and our memories growing up with the things that surrounded us. We have tried to infuse those elements into our home and imprint those memories onto the next generation."

For an easy way to follow the L.A. scene, bookmark L.A. at Home and join us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.