When the couple bought their home in Newport Beach in 2006, it was almost perfect. The location, the neighborhood and the space all sang, but the inside fell flat: a tedious exercise in drab. “The walls were a deep terra cotta, so nothing popped,” says the wife. “It all just blended.”
After years of collecting antiques, vintage furniture and Asian sculpture—not to mention vast amounts of art from the husband’s skateboard company—the couple entreated Melissa Palazzo, of Costa Mesa-based design firm Pal + Smith, to help mesh these disparate elements into their dream home.
“After four years of living there, we were ready for a new style,” says the wife. “The kids were older and could appreciate nicer furniture—and be trusted not to ruin it!” Their goal was to create something fun and family friendly that didn’t shy away from the homeowners’ favorite shades: deep oranges, purples and greens. “She was really open to doing crazy things,” says Palazzo of her client. “She has no fear of color.”
The key was to place those punches of color just so, and to form a dialogue among them. So persimmon drapes from Osborne & Little pop in the living and dining rooms, and the color repeats in a blown-glass pendant lamp from Pierre Anthony Antiques at 1stdibs in the powder room. In the family room, bright green drapes by Christopher Farr speak to the lime accents in just about every other space: throw pillows in the living room, chair cushions in the kitchen, vintage glass vases in the dining room and the electric Cole & Son wall- covering from Lee Jofa in the powder room. In the dining room, teal-and-gold wall- paper—even on the ceiling—calls out the blue in kitchen glasses.
“From a palette standpoint, it sounds like a disaster, but it works,” says Palazzo, noting that painting the walls white allowed the color to do its work without overwhelming the senses. “All the colors really brought the house to life.”
The designer and her clients chose surprising fabrics like vinyl—“amazing vinyls in the coolest patterns and colors,” says the wife—that work in a kid-centric household. “It was really important that we get furniture that we could live with and not just look at,” says the mom of two. “It’s not going to work unless I know that I can spill something on it.”
The most challenging task was integrating the old and the new: pieces ranging from a childhood mirror to a 3-foot-high Buddha. Palazzo and her client engaged in a kind of scavenger hunt, sorting through the collection to find what would fit. “We really focused on the most meaningful pieces,” says the wife. “And we made a lot of friends very happy by giving away some of the things we didn’t use.”
In each room, they chose one piece as a foundation on which to build. So the Pal + Smith Azore rug is the focal point in the living room, with softer, color- coordinated pieces set around it. In the dining room, the wallpaper dominates, and the set pieces are subtler. And, in the family room, wild green curtains take the gaze, but the space is grounded with the dark shag rug and the sofa upholstered in Lulu DK’s Chant.
With the help of general contractor Steve Christiano, of Newport Beach-based Christiano Homes, some structural changes were made as well: Limestone floors were placed in the kitchen, family and living rooms, and old wooden windows were replaced with Fleetwood sliders that bring in waves of light. “Those small changes made a huge difference,” says Christiano.
The resulting look, says Palazzo, is officially eclectic modern, but it’s more eclectic and less modern than anything that’s come before, with layers of Asian, contemporary, vintage and skateboard, set against all that bright color. “If the bones are contemporary and clean, then you can get away with this look without feeling cluttered,” says Palazzo. “It has a glam factor but feels earthy, too.” Her client puts it another way, using a bit of skateboarder vernacular. “Every day, we wake up and say we love it here,” she says. “It all just vibes.”