By the time Poorna Jagannathan was 24, she had lived in 15 places. Born in Tunisia to an Indian diplomat, she spent her early years moving between homes in India, Ireland, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, and the United States, all pre-furnished. “We slipped into other people’s aesthetics,” reflects the actor, best known for her roles in Netflix’s Never Have I Ever and HBO’s The Night Of. “I never had the chance to figure out my own design sensibility.”
Nor did she have a chance to lay roots. In 2008, however, she and her husband, Azad Oommen, cofounder of the nonprofit Global School Leaders, purchased a home on the Westside of Los Angeles. “The minute we walked in, we knew it was ours,” she recalls. For her, its industrial vibe stirred happy memories of New York City, where she lived for much of her adulthood. For him, the U-shaped plan evoked his family’s nalukettu in Kerala, a traditional residence similarly oriented around a central courtyard. “It was so nostalgic,” says Jagannathan. “We just had this feeling that good things would come here.”
Design-wise, good things certainly did, albeit in time. Work swept the couple and their young son to New York and Mumbai for a number of years. But by the pandemic, the family was back in LA navigating the complexities of close quarters. The couple’s son needed more privacy, his bedroom having doubled as the laundry area. And the cramped galley kitchen fell far short of a welcoming gathering space. Reflects Jagannathan, “We needed the house to grow with us.”
Through a mutual friend, she was introduced to Hema Persad, then a fashion stylist in the midst of a shift to interior design. The two connected over their shared love of color and culture, and together they tweaked the floor plan to suit the family’s daily rhythms. Out went the kitchen’s clunky peninsula and uppers that had blocked the dining room. In went a green-painted island and perimeter of cabinets, plus sylvan expanses of tile. The rear of the house, meanwhile, was reconfigured to accommodate a separate laundry room and a proper bedroom for the son, which they painted in two shades of blue.