A Contemporary Los Angeles Residence With a Clean Palette


Although a couple’s newly built house might look right at home alongside the traditional 1930s and ’40s homes of its Little Holmby neighborhood in Los Angeles, it was designed decisively with a modern-day lifestyle in mind. “The clients have a large extended family, and they didn’t want the house to feel too formal,” says designer Elizabeth Dinkel. “They wanted a classic-style house befitting the neighborhood, but with updated modern interiors and the ability to entertain a large family both inside and out.”

To address those wishes, residential designer Karen Putman created a structure informed by the elegant houses of architect Paul R. Williams, which are common in the area. “The owners wanted to accomplish an authentic Williams-style feel, and that was an inspiration to the entire design and build team,” says builder Robert Kleiman, who worked with project manager Mark Sapiro.

Starting with the exterior massing and proportions reminiscent of a Williams-designed home, Putman turned to a more modern “open floor plan with large spaces creating an ideal flow for entertaining, with an emphasis on the indoor-outdoor relationship,” she explains. She centered the plan on the living room, which connects to the foyer, dining room, kitchen—through an 8-foot-wide cased opening with pocket doors—and a comfortable loggia. “In order to utilize the entire beautiful site,” Putman says of the grounds, which were designed with new gardens and hardscaping by landscape designer Patricia A. Benner of Patricia Benner Landscape Design, “we oriented the dining room toward the front with a private courtyard and the living room toward the rear yard so the house would have a seamless flow both visually and functionally.”

Architectural elements, such as a sweeping elliptical stair and ceiling coffers, underscore the home’s classic sensibility while playing off more contemporary furnishings. “I love the juxtaposition of more classically inspired architecture with modern amenities,” Dinkel says. “It’s so much more interesting to design with more than one period or one style.” Hence, the pairing of a sleek Michael Berman Limited table with custom chairs in the dining room plays off the space’s crown moldings and wood paneling, which Dinkel designed. In the living room, the designer upholstered vintage Edward Wormley chairs with velvet and paired them with a bronze-and-glass 1960s coffee table and custom contemporary sofas—an eclectic mix quieted by a subtle palette. Her thoughtful selections here and throughout came together with the goal of providing “a timeless backdrop for a young family who would undoubtedly collect and curate over the coming years,” says Dinkel.

The flow of spaces from one to the next influenced Dinkel’s palette in that “it had to be seamless in terms of a color story,” she says of the adjoining rooms. But the copious amounts of light in the spaces, aided by French doors and transom windows, played a role as well. “We took advantage of the light by not using heavy window treatments,” says Dinkel, “and it helped inform our color decisions. We didn’t want shocking color, but more earthy tones from the natural world.”

The upstairs master bedroom follows suit, with its plush furnishings dressed with fabrics in soft cream, gray and taupe hues, as does the spacious family room, where a creamy linen-covered sectional is coupled with a custom sisal rug.

The family room, part of a large great room space containing the kitchen—which is anchored by a massive 8-by-10-foot island—opens onto the loggia. Outside, Dinkel picked up the stylish thread and furnished the alfresco space with classic lantern lighting, a clean Janus et Cie table and stackable outdoor chairs by Kartell. “I love that you can hose them down if you want,” says Dinkel, noting the carefree attitude the space evokes and her design throughout encourages. “I didn’t want anything too precious or intimidating,” she says. “Just a comfortable and easy design for a young family.”

—Liz Arnold