“CHALLENGE” IN DESIGN PARLANCE USUALLY MEANS A PROBLEM. Or two. A home with sweeping ocean views to the west and mountain vistas to the east should hardly qualify, but the new owners of this Italianate palazzo soon found its quirks and turned them into jewels of inspiration.
Perched on a ridge on a quietly winding street, the house—a light-filled two-story structure with Palladian influences—was in mid-construction when the current owners acquired it. Which meant take-it-or-leave-it architecture presenting challenge number one: the front door was in the back. “We used landscaping and terraces to entice visitors to keep going,” notes the wife. Intrepid guests are rewarded with their first glimpse of the magic to come—an entrance surrounded with enchanted frescoes by decorative artist Scarlet Abbott. Using emulsions based from natural pigments, Abbott’s design gives a nod to the ocean locale by capping the mural with a shell motif.
Once inside, the aged limestone floors from Exquisite Surfaces, vintage Murano glass chandelier, and wrought iron staircase ooze grandeur with provenance. The home’s owners travel extensively, and, while in France, were inspired by the ironwork at the Musée Rodin, so they engaged the locally based Old World Elegance to reproduce it. “The Rodin museum was my father’s favorite place in all of Paris,” says the wife. “So now I feel like I have a touch of Paris and my father with me.” In fact, family is a strong presence in each and every room, given the treasure trove of cherished—and museum quality—heirloom antique furnishings and lighting fixtures, including 1920s French rock crystal sconces, Empire gilt bronze torchères, and several 19th-century Murano glass chandeliers. Resources such as 1stdibs, eBay, and Santa Barbara Lights filled in.
While the exterior colors were original to the house, the owners’ preference for faded tapestry hues allowed Farrow & Ball’s Vert de Terre, Hay, and Skimming Stone in soft celadon, buttercream, and greige to set the tone for the interiors. St. Croix Collection’s use of the luxe silk damasks, taffetas, and velvets from Schumacher carried the palette throughout the living areas, layering delicious textures against the gray-washed French oak floors.
The overall effect evokes the serenity of a multigenerational palazzo with the sensibilities of southern California living. Think George Washington Smith goes to Florence via Versailles. The owners’ collection of 18th and 19th-century French and Italian antiques infused the space with a real sense of family history. “It’s not all matchy-matchy because I am really against full-on matched anything,” says the wife. That said, the library’s deep espresso walls, leather sofa, and partner’s desk offers the lone dark counterpoint to the home’s pale essence.
Although the residents are a young family with a toddler and the promise of more to come (challenge number two: baby-proof elegance), the wife’s love of grand, formal kitchens held sway, and triple ogee-edge Calcutta marble surrounds the Julie Lloyd-designed space. “Who’s to say living elegantly and child safety cannot live hand in hand?” says the designer. “The island allows for easy family seating at breakfast and transitions to welcoming guests in the evening to sample wines.” Blue and white ceramics and a Kohler farmhouse sink add a touch of country, but the tour de force comes from a custom-designed Scagliola stone hood by François & Co. Cast and finished by hand, it is the soul of warm gatherings en famille. And in what appears to be a rare concession to the husband’s hobbies, the space boasts a professional Thermador wine refrigeration unit. “My husband is an oenophile,” says the wife, “so we had to find space for his bottles.”
For his part, the husband seems content with his wood-burning fireplace and unpolished limestone mantel in the cathedral-beam master suite. A softly patterned handblocked wall covering from Farrow & Ball in pale dove gray graces the walls, punctuated by French doors opening to ocean-view terraces—perfect for a morning’s yoga moment. The same finish carries into the sparkling but narrow walk-in closet. Custom alder wood cabinets painted ivory with a brown glaze are paneled and mitered for a Venetian feel, with mirrored doors ramping up the glamour. “Even though it’s a relatively smaller space, I wanted it to feel like a boutique, dressing room, and living area—a place you feel good in,” says designer Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design. Challenge number three conquered.
But the ultimate dazzle comes from the master bath’s silvered vanity with handpainted trees and flowers. The chinoiserie-infused theme is completed by rock crystal sconces and antique shelves wrought from intertwining gilded vines to hold the couple’s daily toiletries, offering a fantasy-filled start to every day. Turning “challenging” to “charming,” this home marries a romantic vision with a family’s past in the most classic California way.