September 16, 2018When a film industry couple with a newborn child hired Pamela Shamshiri to renovate and restore a newly acquired weekend hideaway in Southern California, the design principal of Studio Shamshiri embraced the opportunity to flip the script. Instead of going for theatrical drama and Hollywood glamour, she gave the house an elevated version of the curated California-casual elegance she had fostered as a founding member of the much-lauded firm Commune Design, which brought organic modernism and artisan crafts to fashion boutiques and the Ace hotels in Palm Springs and downtown Los Angeles. She also proposed a narrative that would reflect the property’s history and her thespian clients’ personalities.
“What if Wes Anderson bought a Swiss chalet in Southern California and Yves St. Laurent was coming to stay?” Shamshiri asks. “What would that look like?”
The house was, in fact, designed by architect Myron Hunt in what Shamshiri describes as a “California Arts and Crafts–Swiss chalet mash-up” and built in 1906. “Fun fact: Myron Hunt is known for designing the Huntington Library and the Rose Bowl stadium, in Pasadena,” Shamshiri notes. The 3,500-square-foot, two-story residence has three original stone fireplaces, three bedrooms, four baths, a music room and a secret library. Over time, Hunt’s structure has received add-ons, including an entry and a dance hall, constructed in 1922, that Shamshiri transformed into a large music room equipped with a piano and back-to-back sofas that anchor two seating areas for large gatherings. “The property serves as a retreat from the city in which to host family and friends,” she explains.
As is often the case in older homes, the kitchen needed to be “completely demoed,” Shamshiri says. It was reconfigured to flow into a green, mural-wallpapered indoor breakfast room flanked by two outdoor entertaining spaces. “It might be my favorite spot in the house. The scale is so nice, and you sit surrounded by views from windows on three sides,” says the designer, whose client list includes musicians Beck and Kaskade, actor Seth Rogen and jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth.
Considering its age, the structure’s bones were in “amazing condition,” Shamshiri says. “The house is primarily made of walls and woodwork in Douglas fir, which is irreplaceable and has aged beautifully over the years. So, there are a lot of woody moments around the house.” The designer added board and batten to rooms that didn’t have wood paneling and moldings, painting them white along with vibrant colors like dreamy pink and vivid green. “We were honest with the restoration by paying homage to the past but not duplicating it,” she says.
Having worked together on another home, Shamshiri and the couple collaborated comfortably on this second project. “We share common interests, like collecting vintage, as well as a love for fashion and similar values in historical preservation efforts,” says the designer, who lives in R.M. Schindler’s 1947 Lechner house, in the Hollywood Hills. “Our approach was to honor the era that this house was built in, the culture and the architecture. We always start with a heightened sense of a place, then layer in the inhabitants and their collections.”
The couple is “crazy about collecting design,” she says, with a particular fondness for Italian mid-century furniture, the work of Jacques Adnet, Art Deco objets d’art and contemporary art. Shamshiri accommodated this predilection in her decor, also incorporating custom pieces of her own design, made-in-America items from BDDW and Sawkille Co. and antiques and vintage finds sourced online. “I can’t imagine doing a project without 1stdibs,” she says, “and I love that you can localize the search.”
The result is a cozy but thoroughly cosmopolitan mix of Scandinavian, French, English, Viennese and American design. “How objects dialogue is forever a mystery,” Shamshiri says. “You never really know until you see them together. But when the proportions and textures are exactly right, you can have an English leather chair, a Jacques Adnet desk, a Royère-inspired sofa and a Frank Gehry side table all in one room. It’s like a get-together where everyone speaks a different language but they all get along famously.”
“The living room is built for winter weekends, when you can light a big fire that warms the whole house,” says Shamshiri. “It’s such a small room, so we really wanted to keep a balance.” The desk and chair are Jacques Adnet designs that belonged to the couple. Above them hangs a vintage textile from Pat McGann, in Los Angeles. A leather Poul Kjærholm stool adds sleekness to the space, while a sofa in the style of Jean Royère and a free-form mid-century light, both from J.F. Chen, and Gehry’s 1972 Wiggle stool, from Vitra, inject an organic modernism. Next to the sofa is a carved African stool, and the rug is a custom Patagonia goat hide.
“We’ve got furniture from different periods and countries,” the designer says “What makes it all work together is the mix of textures and the continuity of the shapes. I always think curved pieces hug you. I love when a space can console you, and these pieces do that.”
A battered leather chair and a gnarled tree-trunk table, both vintage, nod to the origins of the house. “Many of the homes in this area were built as hunting lodges,” Shamshiri explains. Providing contrast is an Architectural Pottery planter with a classic mid-century profile. On the Studio Shamshiri coffee table is a chess set with acrylic playing pieces belonging to the owners. “It looks good,” the designer says, “and they know how to play.”
The gabled ceiling adds a charming coziness to a seating area in the master bedroom. The Jules chair from George Smith is covered in a silk-wool Rubelli fabric, and the pillow is made from floral velvet by Liberty. Goatskin throws top a jute dhurrie, adding warmth and luxury.
“We were thinking, What would be unexpected, after the dark wood of the downstairs?” Shamshiri says, explaining her use of vibrantly hued paint, which was mixed on-site to play up the room’s second-story light. “We wanted it to be a big pink cloud.” A bronze light fixture that hugs the white ceiling gives the somewhat vertically challenged room a sense of airiness.
Given the stone fireplace, she decided to root the room’s decor in the Arts and Crafts elements of the house. The couple already owned the English chair and sofa in the sitting area. “We looked at four-posters from the Alps and Denmark and were also inspired by Royère,” she says, referring to the handcrafted bed, which is dressed with vintage pillows and a spread from Hollywood at Home. “It feels like a country-house bedroom.”
The vintage brass swing-arm reading lights — “something utilitarian that doesn’t pull focus away from the bed” — are from Obsolete. Accessories include a dish made of rock crystal and a studio pottery vase.
The mantel of the fireplace is embellished simply with antique candlesticks and a bird figurine. Above it hangs a diminutive oil painting of a mountain sunset.
In what was originally a dance hall, Shamshiri created a music room for entertaining divided into two distinct seating areas by a French Art Deco–inspired double-sided sofa upholstered in cotton velvet trimmed with fringe. Above the original tiled hearth is a 1964 oil painting, Portrait of A Young Woman, by A. Kazantstev. The upright black piano and chair with shocking pink tufted seat belonged to the client. So did the smaller tufted chair, which “we were going to reupholster,” says Shamshiri. “However, once it was in the space, it felt good to leave it as is.” An Oushak rug from Mansour unites the space. The Yves Klein coffee table encases gold leaf in a glass box.
“This is a room for the spring and summer,” Shamshiri notes. “And New Year’s Eve. Nothing says New Year’s Eve like an Yves Klein gold table, and there’s a mirrored half-globe Turkish lantern than spins around and creates a moving constellation like a disco ball. The whole vibe of the room feels like young people partying in granny’s house, and those are the parties that are the most fun.”
“This is meant to be a more casual room where the family can read and watch television,” Shamshiri says. “The strong colors feel painterly and somehow mystical to me. And the crescent moon shapes on the 1940s Deco Turkish rug from Galerie Shabab, which I found on 1stdibs, and the owners’ contact sheet photographs of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust — what could be more perfect?”
A Studio Shamshiri custom table with a blazing blue Ashbury Hide leather top and a Tom Greene torch-cut-brass flower-form chandelier add a jolt of modernity. Yet the room also honors the home’s earlier incarnation as a woodsy lodge, with a shearling wing chair; a BDDW sofa in hunter green Castel velvet; and Scalamandre English hunting print curtains. Flanking the sofa are two vintage lamps from Sweden. “They came with Josef Frank floral lampshades,” Shamshiri says with delight. “What a score!”
“It is peculiar,” Shamshiri says of the verdant breakfast room. “It does go against the grain of what you expect.” The clients requested the green paint, and the ceilings were stained celadon to coordinate. “I was looking at books of Swiss interiors,” the designer explains, “and got the details for the banquette bench, which we made for the space.”
Between the battens above and below the windows, Shamshiri added a Susan Harter mural paper depicting the Cotswolds countryside: “We started with a much smaller traditional pattern, but I really liked the larger trees, which pull the view outside the windows into the room.”
The Springsteen table was handmade by Jonah Meyer, of Sawkille, and the wood and leather chairs are a 1940s Italian design. The jewel-like brass pendants are by Michael Anastassiades. “Mixing them all together gives me that little Yves St. Laurent spin we were looking for.”
“This room came from a love for Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums,” says Shamshiri, who holds an MFA in film production design. Eschewing the pink, blue or neutral color scheme one expects in a child’s room, she chose a vibrant teal for the woodwork and the shelving that houses toys and books. “I treat all kids’ rooms like adult rooms,” the designer declares. “Why can’t babies have rich, lush, layered, delicious nurseries? You walk in and see the prancing Scalamandre zebras and striped curtains, and it’s a very happy place.”
“The dining room is one of the most original, untouched parts of the house. We wanted to utilize the woody palette and not get in its way,” Shamshiri says. “But we also wanted to soften it. “That’s how we arrived at the 1945 pendant light by Adolf Loos for Woka, which is draped by what appears to be a doily.”
Beneath a wooden staircase with an unusual bannister sporting Alpine-style cutouts, Shamshiri placed a BDDW credenza. “It’s a go-to piece for us, due to its exquisite fabrication and detail. And it is perfect for buffet service and storage.”
The table is an expandable Borge Mogensen design, partnered with similar but not matched vintage Scandinavian mid-century spindle chairs. Curtains are hung at a height that allows light into the room even when the sheers are drawn, an arrangement that helps illuminate a pair of moody abstract paintings dusted with white to resemble constellations. The purple rug is by Christopher Farr. “As a mother, flat weaves are in my blood,” says Shamshiri. “They’re practical and age easily.”
The main entrance was a recent addition to the house. “It had been finished in sheet rock, and that had to go,” says Shamshiri. She added board-and-batten walls and finished the closet doors on the right with molding and hardware that evokes a stable. The color scheme — a Burgundy brick red and a buff pink “taken from the colors of a Gucci blouse the wife really loves” — complements a Chinese Deco rug.
The leather-wrapped Pretzel sconce is a Studio Shamshiri design, and the vintage Pierre Chareau overhead light is from J.F. Chen.
By the front door, a collection of walking sticks is arranged in an antique umbrella stand. “It’s a great property and area to hike,” says Shamshiri, “so even though this is the front entrance, we also think of it as a mudroom.”
In an acknowledgement of the Alpine architecture, Shamshiri added custom Swiss dot sheers with a pom-pom trim. The Sawkille Co. bench offers a place to sit and remove boots after a walk through the countryside and a happy return home.
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