Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Cutest House on the Street

Friends and neighbors all agree that Melissa and Scott Williams' home is hands down one of the most stylish in the Hollywood Riviera. It's easy to understand why since Scott is a general contractor and Melissa, well, she was just born with the design gene.

The Torrance, California ranch house they call home is actually the same house where Scott grew up. When Scott's father was ready to retire and relocate, Scott couldn't think of a better place to live. So a few years back he purchased his childhood home and began planning a remodel. Treading gently, the Williams updated the facade and interiors with deft hands and keen eyes.

Changes started at the entrance, where sidelights were added to the old front door which was transformed via Scott's carpentry skills into a dutch door painted glossy black.

dutch door front entrance

Once inside, the house has a traditional yet beachy vibe with a color palette of white, cream, sand, sea foam, chocolate brown and slate blue. The crown molding and trim were updated and the walls given a fresh coat of paint.

dark floors contrast nicely with the light walls and wood work

Originally a garage, the family room was reconfigured for entertaining by adding exposed beamed ceilings, new floors, built-ins and a comfy sectional sofa.

notice the cute kick pleat on the ottoman

the TV hides inside the built-ins

I asked Melissa how she approaches the design process and here's what she had to say.

Riviera View: When you're working on a room is there a specific piece or element you like to begin with?

Melissa Williams: I always start with color. My home has a cohesive color scheme, but each room has its own distinct palette. In fact, there are 12 different paint colors used throughout our interior. I collect fabric swatches, paint chips and photos from magazines to create the visual palette that will set the mood for each room. After I’ve selected the color scheme for a project I like to focus on a major piece of furniture… usually the couch in a living space and a headboard or dresser in a bedroom. Together, these elements establish the design aesthetic. Collecting accent furniture, textiles and accessories becomes an ongoing treasure hunt from there.

RV: You've got a gift for choosing colors. How did you decide on the palette for your home?

MW: I am very sensitive to my visual environment so I need my home to feel serene and restful. Consequently, I am drawn to cool colors like steely blues, greens and grays. The first thing I did when we purchased our home was create a notebook labeled “Color Scheme”. I filled it anything that spoke to me. I was especially inspired by two magazine photos. One was of a vintage bottle collection while the other displayed a sea urchin and an abalone shell. I literally wrote “I ♥ these colors!” in the margins. I also knew I wanted dark espresso floors and bright white trim. Everything fell into place from there.

inspiration photo

RV: What rooms were more daunting than others?

MW: Undertaking the master suite remodel was definitely an overwhelming project because it involved completely gutting the back portion of our home and redesigning the layout. We demoed the entire space and started from scratch to create a master bedroom with an attached bathroom and a combination walk-in closet/laundry room. I wanted to hire an architect but my husband refused, insisting we could create a great floor plan ourselves using the existing footprint of the house. He was right and we are thrilled with the outcome.

Scott 's vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom creates a more spacious feeling

enlarge this photo to see Melissa's artwork above the bed

master bath limestone counter tops

RV: Was all the framing and millwork done by Scott?

MW: Yes. When we moved into the home I gave Scott a vague description of the trimwork I had in mind. He did a mockup of a single door casing and I loved it. All of the millwork – window and door casings, wainscoting, exterior accents – came from that original design. He routered each piece individually to achieve the custom look I wanted. He also installed oversized crown molding and baseboards throughout the house, which added instant character and created the backdrop I needed for my design concept.


: What about the cabinetry?

MW: Our kitchen cabinetry is still original. (I think I’ve counted five different layers of paint!) When we do ultimately undertake a large-scale kitchen remodel, Scott will custom build the cabinetry to match a beautiful entertainment unit he recently completed for our family room. The unit was the first piece of furniture I designed myself. I prefer simple shaker-style doors hand-joined with floating panels. The woodworking involved is a real art. Just as we did on the entertainment unit, we’ll have the kitchen cabinets lacquered a bright white with a satin sheen. This is going to be a large undertaking, though, so it will easily be a couple of years away…

RV: What is the story behind the vaulted ceilings in the guest bathroom?

MW: As a framing contractor, my husband loves specialty framing… free-floating spiral staircases, barreled ceilings, arches, etc. Our initial plan when we were remodeling our guest bathroom was to have a flat ceiling with crown molding. Once the room was gutted down to the studs Scott suggested adding a groin vault (4 perpendicular arches connected by two diagonal arches). I was very reluctant since architecture typically found in a European cathedral seemed a bit fussy for our 1950’s ranch house, to say the least. But he promised that if I didn’t like it after it was framed in he’d rip it down, no questions asked. In the end, it has turned out to be one of my favorite features in the house. I love the way it looks with my crystal chandelier, pedestal bathtub and carrera marble countertop.

vaulted ceiling

beautiful vanity with carrera marble top

California ranch meets French Chateau

RV: Who are your favorite designers?

MW: Although my home has nothing in common with mid-century design, I am awed by the talent and vision of Charles and Ray Eames. Growing up, my grandfather had an Eames lounge chair and ottoman. I don’t think my grandparents had any idea what an iconic piece of furniture they were allowing six grandchildren to jump and play on. Even still, that chair must have lasted for 20 or 30 years. Maybe someday the Design Fairy will generously drop an ivory leather one on my doorstep…

RV: Where do you shop to find your pieces?

MW: Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel are great local sources for
furniture and accessories. To avoid a cookie-cutter catalog look, I’m careful not to purchase too many pieces from one store and to inject unique finds and heirlooms in all of my spaces.

dining nook

plate collection

RV: What design trend are you over?

MW: OK, I’m probably going to lose all credibility here, but I just don’t understand America’s seemingly endless obsession with The Great Room. The name alone is enough to annoy me. Sure, open floor plans are functional, and if I had one I might be singing a different tune. But I think there is something to be said for the cozy spaces of yesteryear. I like that my old home has admittedly-underused living and dining rooms. No matter what chaos is going on in the rest of my house, I can count on the fact that these rooms will remain beautifully restful. They are a visual reminder that not everything in my life is about function and routine.

That, and vessel sinks.

dining room

guest bedroom/craft room


a gift wrapping zone - on everyone's fantasy design to-do list - which Melissa actually accomplished!

living room

living room fireplace

living room vignette

side yard walking path

a pair of the home's original windows mounted on the back fence.

Melissa in the backyard with her pup, Poco

RV: What's your next project?

MW: We’re designing a new shed for our backyard. Dutch door, divided light windows, flower boxes, the whole shebang. If we’re not careful, it’s going to end up cuter than our house!

Photos: Melissa Williams

Paint resources:

Trim in the entire house is Ultra Pure White from Behr Entry/Living Room/Dining Room/Kitchen: (walls) Silver Sage from Restoration Hardware, (ceiling) Swiss Coffee from Behr Family Room: (walls) Swiss Coffee from Behr, (ceiling) Pensive Sky from Behr Guest Bathroom: (walls and ceiling) Pensive Sky from Behr Hallway: (walls) Homespun from Martha Stewart Everyday Colors ----- DISCONTINUED Craft Room: (walls) Yarmouth Blue, (ceiling) Whithall Brown, both from Benjamin Moore Nursery: (walls) Lambswool, (ceiling) Skylit, both by Pratt & Lambert Master Bedroom: (accent wall) Blue Slate, (walls) Manchester, (ceiling) Titanium, all by Pratt & Lambert Master Bathroom: (walls) Blue Slate, (ceiling) Manchester, both by Pratt & Lambert

Scott Williams Framing Inc., License #904831, 310.750.7980

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pierre Koenig, Case Study House #21

photo from 1st dibs

As the sun sets behind Pierre Koenig's Case Study House #21, another summer weekend comes to an end.

And just in case you're wondering, I believe that's a 356A Porsche Speedster parked in the drive. Both the house and car were designed/released in 1957.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Riviera Views

For those lucky enough to live in the Hollywood Riviera with an ocean view, here's what they see on a day like today. Happy summer.

Northwest view from Calle Miramar

Northwest view from Calle Mayor

 Northwest  view from Paseo de la Playa.  
That's the Santa Monica Mountain Range across the bay.

Above photos from here...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Erin Martin & Michael Duté

Michael Duté- photo Alan Weintraub

So it goes with blogging. Call it design kismet. Write about someone (or something) and you start to see that person's work unexpectedly in other places.

Last week I wrote about the talented Erin Martin (whose work I'd never seen before), and this week, when I opened up the August, 2009 issue of House Beautiful there was an article about another home Ms. Martin had recently finished in Marin County. This new house is a wonderful confection created with tranquil colors and dreamy details.

But actually, that's not what I want to post about. What I want to post about is the artist, Michael Duté, that Ms. Martin hired to hand paint the wall murals in the Marin home. Heralding from San Francisco, Mr. Duté's work is delicate and beautiful.

Here's a snippet about Mr. Duté taken from California Wine Country.

Below are two photos from the HB spread. The first is a dining room where the chinoiserie wallpaper is completely done by hand. The second scan is a detail of the wall. The photo doesn't do the pattern justice but hopefully you'll be able to appreciate the level of skill and patience involved to create the intricate cherry blossom design. It's pure genius.

"In the dining room, a mahogany heirloom was dramatically recast with a glossing of ivory paint...Cushions and seat backs for the Vineyard chairs from Ironies, are covered in Carma, an embroidered fabric by Bergamo. Pipa Bowl chandelier is from Oly." - House Beautiful

Detail of dining room wall executed by Michael Duté.

HB photos - Luca Trovato

You can see more of Michael's work here.

If you get a chance pick up a copy of this month's House Beautiful to see Ms. Martin's Marin home in its entirety.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Virtual Living Room - Part II

Bare with me. I'm still thinking about, and adding to, my virtual living room.

I'd also have to have some version of these linen sheer panels from Romo flanking the windows. Jeez, they're beautiful.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Virtual Living Room

Enough fantasizing.

For those of you who've actually been to my house, you know I'm constantly rearranging my living room. Most of my major furniture pieces have lived in that room for 10 years, give or take. But if I were to win the Lottery tomorrow here's what I'd do.

Starting from the bottom up.

Our floors are those honey colored pine slats from the 50's. There's not much changing them so that's my jumping off point. I'd lay down a jute rug similar to this one. It has that earthy texture with a bit of softness woven in, which can be hard to come by in a natural rug.

Or this amazing cowhide creation from The Rug Company....Imagine how that would feel after a hard day's night.

The sofa would be this eight-way-hand-tied linen beauty from Brooke and Steve Giannetti...

Courtney Sofa from Giannetti Home

Across from the sofa, a pair of these mid-century mod chairs found on Brad Ford's website. While they come from different eras, I think the sofa and chairs work together because both the lines and the colors are similar. Plus, because they're a bit unexpected, they add some humor and lightness to the space.

For a coffee table, I'd use this woven bench from Pottery Barn.
I know, I know, the turned legs are a bit traditional for the mostly modern lines in the room but just wait until you see them together. It works.

Como Bench

Every living room needs a TV console. In this room I'd use this teak Pacifica Buffet from Crate and Barrel.

For side tables, I'd use these little guys next to the sofa or between the chairs.

Rustic side tables from P.B.

For Floor lamps, I'd go to Circa. Two of these flanking the sofa would do nicely.

Column Form Floor Lamp

Toss in this print by Mark Rothko as you're greeted at the front door. All that orange is a lot of color for some people, but with all the neutrals in the room, I'd want a nice pop as I entered.

No. 1 Untitled Royal Red and Blue

Somehow, I'd work in this pattern by Kim Parker. It's shown here as a rug but if I could find it as a print I'd hang it on the wall.

Accessories...I'd pull in the steely blue colors in the Amelie print. Something like this Block Print pillow from Room and Board.

and this Blue Luster Vase from Crate.

For wall paint, I'm leaning towards a warm white. Any suggestions?

You can see all the elements together below.