Achieving simplicity can be complicated. Just ask designer Jan Turner Hering, who recently created marvelously minimalist interiors for a house in a coveted Newport Beach neighborhood. “Less is more,” says the designer, who methodically plotted each component of the home, omitting pattern and bright color as a way to create a classical and restrained look that focuses attention on art, antiques and refined details. “But when it’s less, it has to be wow.” Take the creamy white paint on the walls. “It’s a special blend that I mixed very carefully,” she explains. “It’s like velvet.”
After living in the area for 35 years, Turner Hering’s clients—a professional couple who travel and entertain often—were poised to create the home they had always dreamed of. But they had no interest in leaving their beloved neighborhood. “It’s paradise,” the wife says. “It’s forested with mature pines, so you feel like you’re in the country.” Rather than do a complete remodel of their existing residence, the couple opted to tear it down and start fresh. “Our house was quite old,” the wife adds. “Jan convinced us it would be better to start with a blank piece of paper.”
The clients wanted a new house that would relate to the surrounding landscape but that would also seem just as fitting in the French countryside. Architect David Pierce Hohmann helped to deliver just that by collaborating with Turner Hering to craft a structure that’s uncomplicated in form and features stone veneer and stucco cladding. “There are other French- inspired details,” Hohmann says, “such as carriage-style oak-paneled garage doors, and the slate roof has a split-pitch that’s steep at the top, then breaks into a more gentle pitch near the eaves.” The house’s layout includes an open-plan kitchen and dining and living areas on the first level, where there’s also a master suite, a guest room and a library.
“The second level has two guest rooms and a large playroom,” says Robert D. McCarthy, the project builder who, with project managers Chris Lindsay and Scott Morgan, worked closely with Turner Hering to make sure the interior’s architectural details were just right. “We did large masonry fireplaces with antique bricks in a herringbone pattern,” McCarthy says. “There are 10-foot-tall arched windows with steel frames that are slender, making the house more open and connected to the outdoors thanks to less view blockage.”
As the team designed and developed the architecture, Turner Hering began to thoughtfully and rigorously select finishes and furnishings that were as fine as they were understated. “I wanted to give my clients a clean, timeless background that would showcase their collection of contemporary art and antique porcelain,” the designer says. Like the ceiling beams, the wide-plank wood floors are reclaimed oak. Turner Hering stained them a coffee color, a medium tone that offsets the crisp white upholstery that covers much of the simple-silhouette furniture in each room, as well as the white cabinetry and Calacatta marble counters in the kitchen and the white paint on the walls. The subdued interior landscape lets the vibrant contemporary art and the Chinese blue-and-white porcelain from the 19th century emerge as standout elements of the design. An ethereal handblown glass sculpture by a Venetian artist practically glows on the living room console, while the sinuous form of a limestone sculpture by a Tanzanian artist on the coffee table is equally eye-catching. Small groupings of the antique porcelain and an abstract blue painting by Wayne Forte delight in the dining room; a magnetic James Verbicky painting with blues, hot pinks, acid greens and yellows draws attention just outside the library.
Turner Hering also oversaw the landscape design created by landscape architect Erik Katzmaier, and her attention to detail was as meticulous for the exterior as it was for the interior. “We drove all the way to Santa Clarita so Jan could select the right mature oak for the front yard,” says Katzmaier, who also planted a row of white iceberg roses in the front. On the rear slope, he maintained some of the pine trees for privacy and brought in olive trees that, like the house, give a feeling of the French countryside. Katzmaier then developed a flat area between the house and the slope as a space for entertaining, complemented by Santa Maria stone paving and an outdoor fireplace, along with citrus trees and a low-maintenance herb garden.
Turner Hering’s clients love to entertain family and friends indoors, too. “The house has so many places to dine,” the designer says. “There’s the breakfast room, the kitchen or beside the fireplace in the dining room. They can set up another table or two in the living room for a larger party. I did pocket doors that close off the kitchen for when they do something formal with caterers.”
But when the doors pocket and the rooms are open to one another, the symmetry of Turner Hering’s design shines through. The dining and breakfast room tables— reminiscent of work by legendary designer Michael Taylor—are of a similar form. “The iron light fixture in the kitchen is a replica of the one above the dining table, and they’re on an axis,” the designer says. “The kitchen’s limestone hood and the living room fireplace are also in alignment. This is typical of French interiors. I wanted everything to be spatially perfect because that’s what makes a successful design. It looks simple, but it’s an orchestra. Every piece needs to perform the way it should.”