When author Rachel Kondo, pictured, and her husband swapped an ultramodern home for a mid-century modern masterpiece, their design aesthetic followed suit. The dining table and credenza are both vintage finds and many items in their home are now thrifted or snapped up from estate sales and antique stores. Rachel also harbors a penchant for vintage Asian dishware; the stacking mug above— part of her prolific collection — is from Japan.

At Home in Northeast Los Angeles

A powerful gut feeling backed by a strong bid netted two professional writers a mid-century gem in Eagle Rock — right on the cusp of their fifth wedding anniversary.

Images: Alexa Miller

Home is a sacred space for author Rachel Kondo and her husband, Hollywood screenwriter Justin Marks. Neither are nine-to-fivers and both write from in-house offices, so home is, quite frankly, their own little universe. For these creatives to do their best work, a house has to feel right — on an emotional level.

“We’ve always had a deeply personal connection to our homes because we spend all our time there,” says Justin. “We’re very, very, very particular about our spaces. It usually takes us years of searching to find the right one.”

Take their previous home in Los Feliz, an ultramodern Steven Hill-designed cube with floor-to-ceiling mitered window and white terrazzo floors. “We looked for two years and nothing struck us quite like that house,” says Rachel. “It looks like the gallery of a museum.” The couple remained there for six years and even married in the living room. By then they were ready for something else. “We longed for wood. For something warmer,” Rachel recalls. “I think aesthetically I had moved on. I was ready for something along the lines of mid-century.”

That desire led directly to their current home at 5015 Eagle View Circle, a 1947 mid-century haven neatly tucked atop a hilly cul-de-sac in Eagle Rock. Unlike their previous home, this one is rich in historic character, with stunning exposed wood beams in the living room, built-in cabinetry, and a fireplace with an extended mantle. Plus it boasts 360-degree views of East LA, and had a backyard that thrilled their dogs, Frankie and Paco (who has since passed away).

The home’s multiple decks and hilltop position provide plenty of places to take in 360-degree views of East Los Angeles; a dual-level backyard became the favorite haunt of the couple’s dogs, Frankie and Paco.

It took six months of searching for Rachel to spot it, but when she did, the couple didn’t waste a second. “We went to the first open house, walked through the front door, looked at each other and said, ‘Okay. What can we do to get this?’” Rachel says.

In LA’s hot, hyper-competitive housing market where one third of homes sell above the asking price, making a strategic bid — fast — was paramount. That’s where their Compass agent Joe Reichling of Bryant/Reichling stepped in, paving the way to an incredibly happy ending. “We closed on our fifth wedding anniversary, and we spent it on this floor with Chinese takeout — and nothing else,” laughs Rachel.

Touches of greenery, warm woods, and other natural materials bring warmth and life to the couple’s home.

What was it about this house that you two really connected with?

Rachel: The sellers and renovators [Urban Dweller LA’s Ryan Sarkissian, also a Compass agent, and partner Peter Missaghi] have really understated, subtle taste, and we loved what they did with this house. It’s really hard to find something that’s renovated to your liking. They preserved features such as the long mantle and built-in shelves — they’re original to the house.

A generous number of large glass windows fill the main living spaces with a stunning amount of natural light.

This mid-century home is completely different than the modern house you previously lived in. How did you modify your style to fit?

Rachel: The only thing that remains from our old home is maybe a rug downstairs; everything else had to be reimagined. And it took awhile—this whole living room was just storage and furniture for the first year while I completed a fellowship in Austin [at the Michener Center for Writers].

I evolved as a design enthusiast while I was there, because Austin has amazing thrift stores and estate sales. I don’t subscribe to any particular design sensibility, but if something catches my eye and I have an emotional response to it, then I simply believe it will work. I’m Asian, and I have a penchant for collecting — vintage Asian dishes, kokeshi dolls, little stacking cups from Japan, pineapples, mini brooms—all things I have an emotional connection with.

I also worked with Platform Experiment on the design of the living room, and it was a seamless experience. I tend to be a clutter freak, so this room is thanks to them.

Serene vignettes that include dishware, books, plants, and more are everywhere within the house.

How did connect with your Compass agent, Joe Reichling of Bryant/Reichling, when buying your home?

Rachel: We worked with Joe when we sold our Los Feliz house — which was not an easy house to sell. It’s so hyper-modern that we needed a very specific buyer, and Joe was great during that process. For this house, we initially just came right over, then returned a day or two later with Joe. That’s the day we put our offer in. Joe loved it too when he saw it with us, and that reaffirmed our feelings. My main memory is of Joe standing in the living room with his face all lit up, saying, “This is a great house.”

You two weren’t new to real estate, having previously owned a home in Los Feliz. What was different about the process this time around?

Rachel: We didn’t go into our previous buying experience with confidence, we just knew we liked the house. But there were a lot of problems with it that we encountered while owning it, and ultimately I think we took on more than we had bargained for. This time, we had Joe. He felt this house had been renovated by people who paid attention and chose the best — down to the littlest things, like quality hardware. He gave us confidence.

Rachel converted one of the home’s four bedrooms into a light-filled office, kitting out an entire wall with shelving for her book collection.

What sort of tactics did Joe and team employ that ultimately resulted in your purchase of this house?

Rachel: Joe really strategized on our behalf. According to Joe and his team, when you know this is the place you want to dwell in, you throw all your cards on the table and make a strong, fast move. He worked really hard at making sure we didn’t have any missteps, and he knew the right price point, too. We offered more than $100K over asking — we came in strong. There were other offers, but only one as competitive as ours, for the same dollar amount and more money down. It was actually a better offer. But the sellers chose us.

Justin: Joe personalized the process of going about getting the house, and that made the biggest difference.

Rachel: That’s exactly it. Joe’s as personable as he is professional. He encouraged us to write a letter to the sellers, to put our hearts into it, and to be really honest—which I think tipped it. My husband and I are writers, so we really milked that. We talked about how we wanted to create a relationship with the house, for it to contribute to our creative lives and speak to us, and we praised the vision implemented here.

Of course there are sellers who just want the most money for their home — and I get it — but I do think you create an edge for yourself when you’re human about it. And after the offer was accepted there were no hiccups, no stress, nothing. Joe and his team took care of everything. We really felt like we should be stressed, because buying a home is stressful! But we just weren’t.

Want to work with agents like Joe Reichling of Bryant/Reichling? Compass partners with you throughout your home search and sell experience, providing deep knowledge of LA’s real estate market to help you find your place in the world.

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