Who wouldn’t want to live in Hancock Park? For architect William Hefner, The question is moot. “It’s a beautiful, historically protected neighborhood with most of its original 1920s architecture intact,” he says of the enclave of Spanish Colonials and English Tudors located in the center of Los Angeles. “You feel as if you’re miles away from everything, yet you’re within walking distance of great restaurants and other city amenities.”
￼￼Determined to make the area their new home, Hefner and his interior designer wife, Kazuko Hoshino, began house hunting and decided on a Spanish Colonial that—according to Hefner, who, along with Hoshino, heads the Los Angeles firm William Hefner Architecture, Interiors and Landscape—ultimately had very little worth preserving. “All the character had been stripped out in previous remodels,” he says. So, after bringing the structure down to its studs, “we essentially had a skeleton we thought would work well as a French Mediterranean.” With the architectural style decided, the couple took an extended trip to the south of France, where the local light, landscape and architecture inspired and informed their design.
Similar to the homes of Provençe, Hefner and Hoshino’s version features a beige stucco exterior with thick French limestone windowsills and wrought-iron balcony railings. A coffee-colored barrel tile roof covers the building, and a border of gray stucco at the bottom grounds the house and gives it distinction. “We’d never seen a base detail like that anywhere else,” says Hoshino.
The main residence and 1,000-square-foot combination pool house/guest quarters and gym were designed to function as a small compound. “We chose to make the house smaller and push some of the program to the pool house to reduce the need for extra hallways and connectors in the main structure,” says Hefner. “That plan created better access to the outdoors.”
The exterior’s simple taupe and gray palette repeats itself inside, where the walls are skim-coated plaster in a pale oyster tone, and the furnish- ings, a mix of comfortable upholstered pieces and antiques, follow suit. “Everything is very neutral because we really want people to notice what’s going on outside,” says Hoshino, who handpicked every piece of furniture, from the 1940s walnut and brass coffee table in the living room to the hand-carved French gesso mirror in the dining room. “We wanted the furnishings to be simple and not too strong.”
Further distinguishing the overall design is an array of meticulously planned details that, says builder Scott Harris, of Building Inc. in Los Angeles, were sometimes painstakingly realized. “Every piece of stone and every plank of wood was handpicked and premeditated,” he says, noting that the 18th-century French limestone living room fireplace was cut and scaled to fit on site, and the hardware for the steel doors and windows in the kitchen was also hand cut. “The custom cast-iron air registers had to have the vibe and patina of a 1920s house, and it took hours to get the shape of the marble around the bathtub just right,” he adds.
In the kitchen, the vertical lines of the oak cabinets add texture, while the pink-hued wood was cerused to create a gray tone more in keeping with the established color scheme. “William doesn’t believe in veneers, so the doors are solid planks of wood,” says Harris. And the contemporary metal stove hood is finished with rivets, says the architect, “to prevent it from looking too austere.”
The commitment to detail continued out into the landscape, which, with the exception of an existing ash tree and an olive tree, was completely redone. “The overall geography of southern France is a lot like southern California, so we used similar garden varieties,” says Hefner, who opted for what he calls a “gray green” palette composed of cypress, sycamore and olive trees. “We didn’t do flowers because we wanted a tranquil garden with no distractions.”
Other quiet, drought-tolerant plantings include French lavender, rosemary and sculpted olive bushes, and central to the patio is a large shade-making sycamore reminiscent of the homeowners’ beloved French countryside. “We ate lunch under a huge sycamore every day at a restaurant in Aix-en-Provençe,”says Hefner.“We knew we had to have one in our own yard.”