Leanne Ford's Restored 1906 Cottage in LA's Echo Park

Take a photo tour of Leanne Ford's vintage cabin, built in the early 1900s and beautifully (though not too “preciously”) restored more than a century later. The woodsy cottage once belonged to one of Hollywood's great silent film stars.

Photo By: Grant Rivera/Apex Studios

Leanne's L.A. Getaway

Restored by a Ford. Just a stone’s throw from Sunset Boulevard and other heavily trafficked LA thruways, Leanne Ford has created a secluded hideaway that juxtaposes a rustic cottage backdrop with a strong artistic sensibility and, just for fun, some retro-futuristic and 1970s design elements thrown in. Like her other residence — a restored schoolhouse outside Pittsburgh — the Echo Park home melds a straight-out-of-the-past vibe with a modern mix-and-match approach to furnishing. It's a compelling visual palette accented by lots of books, art and collectibles — a carefully curated amalgam but one that’s resolutely non-fussy. And as with most of Leanne’s designs, white is an integral element. In this case, however, it’s a very specific shade of white. More on that later.

In the Wilds of Los Angeles

History Built-In. The four-room house, built in 1906, is reputed to be the first home built in Echo Park and was once owned by silent film star Clara Kimball Young. It was originally used as a hunting cabin and is situated in an area that, at the time the house was built, was remote and undeveloped. Leanne is an avowed tree-lover, and the aged and sprawling rubber tree adjacent to the porch is one of the main reasons she fell in love with the property. For general inspiration she relied on childhood memories of growing up in rural Pennsylvania and summers spent at camp. "I somehow found a summer camp here in Los Angeles," she says. "We really didn't touch the outside. We kept it all nice and old and beat-up."

Did We Mention Leanne Loves White?

Blurring the Lines. The biggest modifications to the structure were part of a deliberate effort to combine indoor and outdoor spaces, as seen here in the open breezeway that serves as entry to the home. The space, painted all in white, is kept simple and natural with gray flagstone floor, rough wood paneling and exposed beams in distressed whitewash.

Living Spaces

Timeworn by Design. The restored home, both inside and out, is both stylized and comfortable but would scarcely be termed opulent in a modern sense. It's just a little rough around some edges, and that's part of the point. "This cabin looks older now than it did when I got my hands on it," says Leanne. An old drop ceiling was removed to expose original beams, and wood salvaged from interior demolition was repurposed to create wood paneling. In some places the cracks and rough textures of the reclaimed wood were left visible, and there are places where the dark wood intentionally shows through the white paint.

Living Spaces

Objets D’art. Leanne uses the coffee table as a staging area to display not only books but also other interesting pieces such as ceramic bowls and vintage paintings. "This is ever-changing, ever-evolving,” she says, “and a fun thing for me to play with."

Living Spaces

Rustic and Retro. Stones found on the premises were used to re-create the traditional stone fireplace surround which now houses a midcentury style Malm fireplace -- in this setting, essentially serving as an insert. That custom touch, along with a mirrored coffee table and modern styled arc floor lamp give rise to Leanne's nickname for her country-home-in-the-city:  "the space cabin."

Details, Details

Vintage Classic. A perfectly weathered and rusted toy jeep is among the artifacts perched atop an antique sideboard in the living room. This Lilliputian off-road vehicle sits alongside vintage paintings and a framed print of Neil Young.

Home Office

Artfully Eclectic. In the office space, a concrete bistro sized table was specially commissioned and is lit by a contemporary chrome Scolari style chandelier. Wraparound open shelving houses an array of books, vinyl LPs and personal treasures.

The Kitchen

Nothing Too Precious. The kitchen sticks with the overall rustic cabin theme and an earthy, utilitarian vibe. The sink is an antique imported from Pittsburgh, and there’s lots of open shelving. “I love kitchen things,” says Leanne, “because they’re all so beautiful, and I just wanted them to be out on display.”

The Kitchen

A Warm White. The paint Leanne chose for the interiors is a creamy off-white, veering from her trademark penchant for stark, bright white. The object here was to help create warm and inviting spaces. “I love white in all shades,” says Leanne, “but bright white would have been too modern in here, and I wanted it to really feel clean, antique and natural.”

The Kitchen

Center Piece. A 12-foot farm table helps ground and define the kitchen space and, illuminated by two large metal chandeliers (painted white, naturally) is the perfect piece for casual dining and entertaining. “Everybody’s welcome at this table,” says Leanne. “Small house; big table.” The unmatched seats at the dining table include two Pierre Jeanneret cane-back chairs.

The Bathroom

Purposefully No-Frills. The home has only one bathroom. “Because it’s little,” Leanne says, “I really wanted to make it pretty and simple.” Leanne had the home’s original clawfoot tub re-porcelained to freshen up the interior, but left the outside rough and rustic with a patina finish. The shower plumbing is new but deliberately made to look old. “I didn’t want anything in this house to be too shiny,” says Leanne.

The Bedroom

Doors and Windows. This bedroom was originally an outdoor space and, in the remodel, was extended and enclosed to make it part of the interior. Two sets of French doors that open to the outside can be left open during good weather to help solidify the indoor/outdoor vibe. Antique exterior windows are mounted on barn slides to serve as doors for the closets located behind the bed.

The Bedroom

Thoughtful Transitions. Throughout the home’s spaces, the stone floors extend from the interior to the outside spaces, contributing further to the unified and nature-inspired feel.

Mr. and Ms.

Leanne shares her cabin home with husband Erik Allen Ford, designer and co-founder of the casual men’s clothing company, Buck Mason.

Summer Camp All the Time

We have inside-outside living. This is what I like. —Leanne Ford

Want a video tour? Let Leanne take you on a guided tour of the Little Cabin in the Big City.

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