when Reva Smilkstein

when Reva SmilksteinNever let it be said that Reva Smilkstein shies away from bold moves. For starters, this native New Yorker traveled to California 25 years ago to house-sit in Berkeley, then stayed to pursue a varied career as a fashion stylist, writer, and publicist. Along the way, she has rented houses and apartments in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and indulged a passion for exotic travel, with trips to Bali and Vietnam for work and pleasure. Deciding to put down roots four years ago, Reva bought a 1939 clapboard-and-stucco cottage in a Hollywood Hills neighborhood, and took the same bold approach to decorating. "This is the first house I've owned, and I could do anything I wanted," says Reva.

Wisely, she spent the first six months simply "getting acquainted" with the house. "The structure was great," recalls Reva, who loved its size, natural light, and surroundings from the start. At 1,300 square feet, it was adequate but not overwhelming, with room for her to live and work. Multiple French doors along the back of the house were among her deciding factors in buying it: They pour sunshine into the living, dining, and bedrooms. The house sits on a wooded lot, offering privacy and a connection to nature.

The only problem, Reva found, was that "each room was the result of the previous owner, who used lots of white and soft colors." Enter Reva's creative streak: "I've always had a sense of style, and I wanted to bring it out." With a limited budget, Reva relied on color to make her statement, spending a modest $1,500 to revive her home with paint.

Allowing herself to go bold when that felt right, Reva chose crimson for the dining room, sunburst orange for the office, celadon green for the bedroom, and pale lemony citron for the living room. After all that brushing, she was gratified to find that in every case, her first choice was the right one. "I brought back swatches from the paint store and went with what I thought would work," she says.

The dining rooms red walls are accented by wainscoting with panels painted either gold or black, a bit of daring that took her several months to execute. "In the dining room, I wanted to play and have fun," she says. A Parsons table that she painted bright blue years ago is right at home in the colorful room.

The vivid hue for her office, which doubles as the guest room, was partly the result of advice she received from a feng shui practitioner. "He said I needed a bright color for energy, because I spend so much time in the office," Reva explains. The citron shade on the living room walls blends with Reva's furnishings, including a streamlined sofa upholstered in beige fabric, and a Noguch-inspired wood-and-glass coffee table that she hired a local architecture student to make. Asian accessories enhance the room: a Buddha-base lamp, rattan window blinds, a painted silk image of Buddha, and an antique Chinese chair. "I don't have any religious or spiritual connection to the Buddha or the Asian culture in particular," Reva says. "I really appreciate the feel of the objects and the aesthetic sensibility they add to my home."

The celadon hue in the bedroom provides a calming effect and relates to the greenery outside the room's French doors. A bamboo armoire, teak table, and Indian throw fill out the space. A seating area outside the bedroom beckons each morning, reminding Reva why she made California her home. "The West Coast has an openness I like. For me, it's more loose and less confining than the East Coast," she says.

Putting down roots hasn't lessened Reva's thirst for travel. "It appeals to me to see places that are different from my everyday life," says Reva, who hopes to travel to India and Africa in coming years. After each new adventure, she knows there'll be a welcoming home base upon her return. "My home is a sanctuary for my soul," she says. "It affords me the freedom to relax, rejoice, and recharge."