Jill Young Rosenast and her husband Alex have a thing about buildings – more specifically, beautiful historic structures with character and great bones. Over the years, they’ve acquired them, given them new leases of life, and made them available for the rest of the world to enjoy. It all started in the early Nineties in their hometown of Seattle, with Alex’s ground-breaking grunge club RKCNDY, converted from an abandoned jewelry and metal manufacturing factory. Shortly after that, the couple took an old auto garage with 20ft ceilings, and turned it into a hip pool hall and bowling alley, which they ran for two decades. Meanwhile, they restored other properties (Alex on the business end of things, Jill the design), dabbled in art and entrepreneurial ventures, and had three children.
Five years ago, when they were in Los Angeles visiting Alex’s sister, they happened upon a great home in the canyon community of Topanga. It was too soon to up stakes and move south (as they plan to do one day), but they couldn’t pass it by. After four years of renting out the house to long-term tenants, they recently decided to make it available for short-term rentals. And we’re delighted to have it in our collection.
It’s one of those homes that’s unique to Topanga – an architectural gem tucked into a tiny, winding road you never knew existed, opening up to an extraordinary view of the Santa Monica Mountains. And it’s here, against this backdrop one morning in August, that we had the pleasure of catching up with Jill.
What drew you to this house?
Jill Young Rosenast: “When we came to see the house, walked around the corner and took in the view, we were sold. I remember looking at Alex, knowing he was thinking the same thing I was. We didn’t even need to go inside, but we did. The house had amazing bones, and we knew immediately we couldn’t let it go because it’s such a unique property. It’s really how we’ve found all of our properties – we happened on them, and it just felt like, wow, this is a really cool opportunity, let’s figure it out.”
What condition was it in when you found it?
JYR: “It was in good shape, but it was painted a lot of different colors. We painted the whole house white to get a clean slate. I find at parties everyone sits in the kitchen but you always want your guests to move into the living room, so we opened up the wall between the two rooms, and it really transformed the space. But that really was the only structural change.”
The interiors are like a treasure trove of cool objects. Can you tell us about them?
JYR: “I love to collect things and organize them in interesting ways – Asian boxes, tin toys, orbs. I have a little bit of a chair thing too. I collect chairs and stools, so when I see a great chair somewhere I can’t say no. Then eventually I figure out what to do with them all! I had this vision of doing all different chairs round a dining room table. I thought it would be fun.
“For this home, I had been collecting things knowing I was going to be designing it at some point. So, when we decided to decorate it for short-term rentals, we loaded up a 26ft truck with stuff out of our home in Seattle. I was like, oh my gosh, I filled a 26ft truck! I had accumulated so many great pieces. It was so nice to finally take this house and furnish it because I could breathe again in my Seattle life, and this home finally has its own life.”
What was it like getting a 26ft truck up that steep road?
JYR: “It was a feat! They had to stop it on the street because there’s no coming up at some point. It just gets too narrow.”
The house is also full of your own hand-built ceramic art. On your website, you say, “Working in porcelain forces me to walk a fine line between chaos and control.” Can you explain that?
JYR: “Porcelain is one of those mediums that is very touchy. It’s a very fine clay, and I think a lot of ceramicists avoid it because it just has such a different hand. My mom collected porcelain figurines when I was a little girl, and I remember always being enamored by them – the light, just how pure they were, how the light would pass through them. I took my first porcelain class four years ago, and I connected with it immediately.
“When I’m building, I sometimes take my pieces to the point of ‘Are they going to collapse? Or am I going to make this into something and salvage it?’ I think part of what I love about hand building is that it is imperfect, it’s all by feel. So it is chaos, but there is a certain amount of control as well. You have to know when to stop, or your piece is just going to collapse on you. That’s the beauty of art. You have to find your voice and it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, our imperfections are what make us unique and much more interesting. I’m drawn to that fine line.”
When you travel, what do you look for?
JYR: “We like heat and sun, which is why we love Los Angeles. Living in Seattle, when we go away we want sunny locations. But we also love having an interesting town, city or village nearby, and experiencing that. We spend time in Mexico, France and Italy. I’m also very influenced by Japan. I love the simplicity of their lifestyle, how minimalistic they are. They don’t accumulate things… I’m an accumulator, and I try to fight it. I want to be thoughtful about what I’m putting in my home.
“I also need to connect with a space visually. I love staying in somebody’s life. I want to experience what their existence is like. I feel like BoutiqueHomes is a collection of houses by creative-minded people. When you stay in a home, you’re staying in their creation. You really get to experience what it’s like to live in their shoes. And I love that idea… of seeing how other people exist.”
What do you consider luxury?
JYR: “I don’t need a lot. I need a space that is visually stimulating. Luxury for me is a view. It doesn’t have to be a nature view or water – it can be a city, a church or a valley. I really enjoy my evenings just sitting out and having a glass of wine with my husband and my kids – and having something to take in. We’ve got that here!”
To stay at Jill Young Rosenast’s property, Hillside Drive in Topanga, click here.