It was the soothing, monumental landscape that ultimately swayed Whitney Cummings to buy her home just outside L.A. “I spent a lot of my childhood in Virginia and West Virginia, where the medicine is the mountain,” recalls the comedian and actor, whose many talents include writing, directing, producing, and podcasting. “I wasn’t anxious or stressed when I was there, and I always had perspective. I want to be in the middle of nowhere.”
The house’s original interiors, which ventured into nightclub territory, according to Cummings, were less engrossing. There was a dark, steampunk aura to them, punctuated by glam gold elements, crystal chandeliers, and a glass fireplace of various colors. These features weren’t “honoring the essence of the house, but I was surrounded by three mountains, and I felt oxygen in my lungs, so I didn’t care. [I figured] I’d just deal with it later,” Cummings says.
That moment drew nearer as Cummings kept encountering the work of AD100 designer Jake Arnold, growing more riveted by his aesthetic with each space she saw. Dan Levy, of Schitt’s Creek fame, connected the two, and Cummings and Arnold immediately hit it off. Soon, Arnold was busy transforming what he describes as Cummings’s faux Tuscan villa into a Santa Fe–meets–monastery–inspired abode layered with plenty of warmth and texture.
“I didn’t grow up with fancy stuff. Everything I have and want looks aged, with a wabi-sabi vibe,” Cummings says. “I’m a maximalist in every other part of my life, but I get so emotionally drained by clutter in my home. I wanted this to feel minimalist, like an old Spanish barn.”
Initially, Cummings thought she just needed a significant furniture upgrade. But Arnold had more ambitious plans. “It was going to be a forever home, and we needed to start from scratch,” he explains. “I wanted to strip the house to its bones because it needed so much love and attention.”
Cummings told Arnold about her passion for horses, her favorite hotels (Amangiri, Auberge Collection’s Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah, the Greenwich Hotel in New York), and how when she wasn’t cringing at the horrors that unfolded in Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, she was ogling the “rustic English countryside” furniture of the sets. After distilling her various tastes, Arnold took command.
“She was very trusting, and I listened to everything she responded to and turned it into something more tactile that she could connect with,” he says. Arnold overhauled “strange moldings and generic finishes,” and rejuvenated rooms “with zero personality” by weaving in salvaged barn beams “to create architectural details.” Fireplaces and stair railings were ripped out, and rooms were redefined by expanses of “rough, organic, and earthy” plaster, according to Arnold.
At the same time, he didn’t stifle Cummings’s “wacky personality.” The library, for example, is stocked with “5,000 of my vintage anatomy, art, and weird horse books,” Cummings says. Then there are the two coffee tables crafted from reclaimed barn wood that bear the imprint of horse nibbles. “I was sobbing. It meant so much to me,” she adds. Singling out the Lewis & Wood wallpaper emblazoned with equine sketches in her office, Cummings notes: “Jake loves finding the needle in the haystack, the one piece no one has.”
At Cummings’s suggestion, her bed is now situated in the middle of her bedroom so that “when you wake up, you see a mountain, the only thing that is going to prevent me from picking up my cell phone first thing,” she says. From the freestanding tub in the bathroom, where custom oak screens serve as shutters, Cummings might even text Arnold to gush about how the light perfectly reflects on the water.
There were certain challenges for Arnold, like the commodious den. “The doors were large and the ceiling heights high, so we played with the scale,” he says. “I wanted the fireplace to look like a little hole in the wall. It feels really good in there now when you sink into the sofa.” Designers often like to go big, Cummings says, but she appreciates how Arnold possesses a reverence for smaller features, such as petite paintings that “are surprising and feel intentional.”
Cummings has four dogs who “run wild,” as Arnold puts it, so he wanted furniture—much of it custom-made—that was slipcovered yet elevated. A palette of rich brown, rust, and greige invites visitors to “sit in every single room.” Of the home in general, Cummings chimes in to add, “It felt flimsy before, and didn’t have a soul. Jake knows when to walk away and let the materials shine. Nothing’s more beautiful than old wood. You can’t compete with Mother Nature.”