With designer Kishani Perera, the couple at the heart of an irreverent sitcom shape a warm family home.

By Sally Finder Weepie and Darra Baker
May 08, 2020
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Welcoming gorgeous Southern California views, warm sunshine, and soft breezes are reasons enough to design an open-plan home with spectacular walls of windows and glass doors that erase all lines. But Kaitlin Olson had ulterior motives. "I need to keep an eye on my kids," she says with a laugh. "Forever."

Homeowners Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson relax with canine companions Simon and Luke.
| Credit: Victoria Pearson

She and husband Rob McElhinney, costars of the long-running It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, have two boys, Axel and Leo, who are growing up faster than the drinks go down in Paddy's Pub. "In building this house, we wanted to create spaces that would encourage our boys and their friends to want to hang out here," Kaitlin says.

The couple enlisted another power duo, designer Kishani Perera and architect Steve Giannetti, to bring their vision to life.

Axel and Leo lounge in the shade of mature trees that architect Steve Giannetti preserved when building the new home.
| Credit: Victoria Pearson

"It was important to make the landscape part of the house," Giannetti says. Rather than creating one big house, he designed a series of structures, including a guesthouse/office and a pool house, that flow organically through the outdoor spaces and spark a feeling of being added over time.

Credit: Victoria Pearson

Wood siding gives the exteriors a warm, rustic vibe, thanks to help from the design team. "It looked too new," says Perera, who brought in a decorative painter to go over the siding board by board to conjure a slightly distressed look. "Each board has its own character," Perera says. "It's one example of the thought and love that went into this house."

Giannetti achieved his magic (making walls disappear) with the help of long steel beams. The structural steel was left exposed, giving the home a modern industrial edge. "It's cool to see how things are actually built," the architect says. "In old farmhouses, you could see the craft. It gives a feeling of authenticity. It feels solid; it's here to stay."

And no one ever wants to leave, thanks to Perera's interior design. "It's earthy with lots of warm woods and a touch of industrial style. It's rustic with a little bit of a farm element that makes it very inviting," she says. "It's a cozy, cozy home for a family with young boys and two dogs."

Perera's commitment to sustainability is evident in her furnishing choices, including a new eco-friendly sofa from L.A.'s Cisco Home and an array of repurposed vintage finds.
| Credit: Victoria Pearson

Perera's melding of old and new, rustic and refined, smooth and nubby is evident from the first step through the foyer and into the character-rich living room. "It feels lived in even though it’s a brand-new house," she says. Wing chairs introduce a subdued teal hue that threads through the home, easily meshing with celestial blues that pour in through seemingly big-as-the-sky door openings. Ottomans wear a complementary sunbaked orange hue that mirrors the warmth emanating from the painted-brick fireplace.

Credit: Victoria Pearson

Texture stars in the dining room, alongside an ensemble cast of shapely forms. "Kaitlin wanted mismatched chairs," Perera says.

"This image of Friends flew into my brain." But Kaitlin wasn't really encouraging a re-creation of the famously discordant chairs ringing Monica's kitchen table in 1990s sitcom land. She and Perera's picks, gathered around a vintage wood-and-steel table like friends sharing a meal, are thoughtfully curated. Different heights, shapes, and styles, united by neutral upholstery, convivially come together, inspiring conversation that continues long after dessert.

Similarly, Perera married a mélange of metal-mesh encased glass pendants to form a singular light fixture "It makes the space eclectic and fun, just like Rob and Kaitlin," the designer says. "It's authentic to who they are."

Left: Credit: Victoria Pearson
Right: Credit: Victoria Pearson

Everyday dining takes place in Kaitlin's favorite room: the kitchen. A natural-wood island juxtaposes simple white-painted Shaker cabinets in a space that forgoes fuss while still piquing interest with an amalgamation of glass, stone, and metal. Copper fixtures from Newport Brass mesh with the orange tones that Perera threaded throughout the house in furnishings, rugs, and accents to warm up neutral interiors.

"The kitchen has my heart because, as is the case in every other home in the world, that's where everybody gathers," Kaitlin says. "My favorite part of the day is cooking dinner while the boys do homework at the counter."

The breakfast room's metal-base table, one of Perera's many treasures from Big Daddy's Antiques, nods to the steel used in the home's exposed structural beams.

Credit: Victoria Pearson

After-dinner TV time switches on in the family room, dressed primarily in shades of gray to let nature take the spotlight through a soaring glass wall that opens to a teak deck and bucolic views. A 20-foot-tall built-in houses a TV, books, and mementos while the sofa holds the whole family on movie night.

Another patio sprawls comfortably off the living room, coaxing family and friends to lounge in seating areas with shared DNA yet distinct personalities. Vintage and industrial edge pieces blend with an array of cushy seats. Rob's favorite, though, is a rattan rocker with sleek contemporary lines. "Rob told me, 'I want an old-man rocking chair so I can sit and stare out at the yard,'" Kishani recalls with a laugh. "I said, 'Can it be a good-looking old-man rocking chair?'" It is, and it has become one of Rob's havens, along with his office tucked in a cozy cottage that doubles as the couple's guesthouse.

Left: Credit: Victoria Pearson
Right: Credit: Victoria Pearson

"Rob is from Pennsylvania, and he wanted his office to feel like an old Pennsylvania log cabin," Perera says. To capture that vibe, the designer employed rustic wood paneling aged by the same decorative painters who perfected the home's exterior. An old-fashioned stove further cozies the masculine space furnished with a tufted leather sofa, an industrial look coffee table, and one of the many warm antique rugs that Perera used throughout the home. Hollywood headaches dissolve among the restful views and the beauty of nature.

"My favorite thing about Rob and Kaitlin's home is its wonderful indoor-outdoor feel," Perera says. "This home captures that ideal more than any house I've ever seen. You feel like you're outside all day. It really is a dream come true."

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