“My home is my sanctuary,” says designer Nick Berman of his house nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. “It’s the gestation place for many of my designs.” He first purchased the 1970s flat-roofed nondescript structure for its panoramic views and retreat-like setting and then set about transforming the once-ordinary residence into a one-of-a-kind home. “Working on the house compelled me to examine my passions as a designer,” says Berman, who started his career as an interior and architectural designer and now focuses his energies on his distinctive furniture company, Berman Rosetti. “It made me refine my point-of-view and extrapolate that into my furniture. It purified my vision.”
The pieces in his furniture line, which he designs and owns with his business partner Gennaro Rosetti, are made with organic materials and marked by strong architectural lines, contrasting textures and an intrinsic warmth. Similar values—summed up by Berman as “rustic minimalism with a soul”—apply to his redesigned home.
“The old house had no sense of entry, so I created one,” says Berman of the entrance that now opens to an inner courtyard, which he landscaped with queen palms and mondo grass. “The home’s opaque from the street, yet I put little square cutouts in the gate and adjoining fence for intrigue.” Equally important are the exterior’s bold forms and special finishes. For the textured terra-cotta stucco that sheaths the exterior, Berman’s longtime collaborator and builder Ernesto Alonzo notes, “While the concrete was still wet, we embedded it with rock salt and then hosed it off and finished it.”
The dramatic changes continued inside, where Berman remodeled the structure’s principal rooms—kitchen, living, dining—into one powerful living area. “You also encounter a whole wall of windows that face the views,” he says. “The effect is a counterpoint to what you’ve seen from the street or courtyard. It’s a different world.” Berman chose random northern Idaho quartzite for the floors and smooth drywall for the walls. A dated tile fireplace was given its own sleek canted wall and finished in steel-troweled concrete.
Berman’s in-depth knowledge of wood, accumulated over years spent designing furniture, is brought to light with his innovative approach to the kitchen cabinetry. He chose cerused flat-cut oak for the built-ins, but for the island’s base, he opted for rift-cut oak to lend formality.
“I cantilevered the 12-foot-long stainless-steel counter above the barstools for casual dining,” adds Berman, who placed his Ocampo dining table under a nearby window and encircled it with maple Foal chairs covered with Mongolian lambskin. “I love the textural counterpoint of the lambskin juxtaposed with the simplicity of the furniture,” Berman says.
When Berman decided to enlarge the master suite, he also chose to add a series of decks that would reach out into the trees and make the most of the views. “We had to set up scaffolding on the mountainside to insert structural beams for cantilevering the master suite and the outside decks,” Alonzo says. “It was like surgery!”
For the newly expanded master bedroom, Berman designed a 25-foot-wide wenge bookcase to sit across from his Arroyo bed. “Conceptually,” notes Berman, “it defines the length of the space and guides your eye toward the prize—the view.”
In the master bathroom, two vanities flank a shower pan of glass tiles, which steps up to a Japanese soaking tub. Berman wanted the shower’s glass walls to be flush with the ceiling, to keep the space open visually. “We had to install the shower tracks before the drywall was done,” says builder Matt Rogers, who worked with Berman on the master suite. “And the mosaic work was very labor intensive.”
Berman’s quest for craftsmanship pervaded every part of the redesign, including the master’s closet, where he installed Japanese-style chests instead of conventional built-ins. The idea ended up inspiring the Tansu modular storage system now sold through his company. “The relationship became symbiotic as pieces I designed for my house would evolve into some aspect of the collection and vice versa,” says Berman, who found that being his own client proved to be a creatively inspiring endeavor. “I got to see how my ideas worked contextually, instead of in isolation. I became the user as well as creator. Now when people visit my home, they can feel its harmony and cohesiveness.”