The Amazing  Technicolor Dream House

Photographs by Justin Maconochie

Sometimes a house is nothing more than a simple structure stocked with functional furniture and all the necessary conveniences and comforts of day-to-day life. But graphic designer John Latin sees his house differently.

“A lot of people want to move into their house, set their furniture up, and be done with it,” he says. “I saw this place and said, ‘OK, I can do something with this.’ I really saw the potential.”

He also saw his Royal Oak ranch’s big windows, appealing layout, and ’50s-era architecture — in addition to limitless possibilities. In short, it was a fixer-upper. “I tried to keep as much of the original stuff as possible,” Latin says. “With a smaller house, you have to be a lot more aware of space.”

The first things to go were the stark white carpet and walls, along with the dated vertical blinds. Then Latin bathed his walls in a brilliant batch of kaleidoscopic color. This, he says, instantly transformed the space and has impressed guests ever since — it also led to being chosen as a finalist in Apartment Therapy’s third-annual fall colors contest. “I often tell people that a room is 95-percent complete when the walls are painted,” he says.

The other 5 percent isn’t as easy, though. Latin had to sacrifice his weekends to refinishing hardwood floors, stripping and painting the interior trim, removing wallpaper, and rebuilding the deck during the five-year renovation. And once the heavy lifting was over, smaller aesthetic upgrades such as shelving, accents, recessed lighting, and renovated closets had to be done.

Now finished, Latin is reaping the rewards of his residential rejuvenation. But he hasn’t stopped refining, rearranging, and replacing art, furniture, and knick-knacks when the season, or occasion, calls for it. An admirer of mid-century design, bold color, and kitschy nuance, Latin cites his Heywood-Wakefield dining room table, Eero Aarnio orange puppy, Eames molded-plastic chair, and the many ’50s figurines as favorites among his rotating collection of kitsch and designer décor.

When combined, he says, these elements give the home personality. “Your house is your biggest investment, so you tend to put all your effort into it,” Latin says. “This place is an expression of me in terms of color and style. That’s what makes it livable.”

Latin always wanted a turquoise kitchen. After ripping up the old floor, he replaced it with checkerboard flooring. He also removed the wallpaper, moved the refrigerator, and installed speakers in the ceiling.
The den houses the TV and other necessities such as this ottoman covered in vintage barkcloth and the couch. “I think people’s houses are an expression of what they like,” Latin says. In the bedroom, Latin matches complementary colors, as well as his Paul Frank monkey and Angela Adams pillows.
A molded Eames chair and Angela Adams pillows rest in the guest bedroom. This figurine was found at the Royal Oak Garage Sale. “I like mixing the kitschy stuff with more sophisticated stuff,” he says. 

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