A house never really feels like home unless it’s filled with distinctive furnishings that reflect the personalities of the people who live there. “They’re very bohemian, but they’re also sophisticated and love Tom Ford,” designer Ryan White says, describing his recent clients, a young couple who run a large fashion company in Los Angeles. “I wanted them to walk in their house and feel like there’s a symphony going on, like every room is a different experience but they’re all in tune.”
Although happy in their previous residence in the Hollywood Hills, the family required more space. Their search for new digs took them to Beverly Hills, where they found a just-right property—in a particularly coveted neighborhood—offering plenty of outdoor space for the kids and a Spanish Colonial Revival-style house that brimmed with character and warmth. To be sure their furnishings were just right, too, the husband contacted his childhood friend Doron Silverman, who owns Bespoke Furniture and works with designers to create custom furnishings. Silverman passed along the names of several whose work he admires, including White’s, and the designer’s approach to his work hooked them. “I like to think differently,” White says. “I don’t run off a rule book. For me, it’s about creating something that reflects the residents’ lifestyle and something that will still look good in 20 years.”
The house possessed great charm—smooth stucco, graceful arches, rustic terra-cotta tile and breezy arcades and courtyards. But it was also filled with overwrought and dated elements. “It was dark and drab,” White says. “There was reddish wood cabinetry in the kitchen that was too heavy combined with the terra-cotta tile flooring. And the previous owner had painted some of the fireplaces and exposed-wood beams shiny pearl white.” The designer sanded and stained the ceiling beams,as well as the second-level wood floors, a grayish tone, lightening them to mimic the color of driftwood. He brightened the kitchen with white cabinetry and marble counters and cleaned the terra-cotta tile. “I had to start with the bones,” White says. “I stripped it down so it would be more organic and modern.”
Landscape designer Christine London had the same idea for the gardens. “I used a white and gray palette to freshen them up and make them feel young and light,” she says. “The front gate is teak and will silver over time.” Inside the gate, rows of old-growth olive trees canopy gray limestone pavers, graphite gravel and lavender plants in the entrance courtyard, “where there’s a sitting area, play spaces and a little vegetable garden,” London adds. “I turned the garage into a playroom and made the side yard a place for tricycles and chalk drawing.” In the back, the pool received new coping, a spa and a sitting ledge along its length.
Inside, White dressed the interior architecture with a variety of textures to add interest and a sense of luxury. In many of the rooms, he layered compelling carpet designs atop sisal rugs. He covered the walls of the living and dining rooms and the master bedroom with grass cloth and selected gray herringbone wallpaper for the husband’s bar. “It’s like a tweed jacket,” the designer notes. White finished the fire surrounds with Sydney Harbour metallic paint colors in copper, silver and zinc tones and then countered their stark simplicity with sumptuous upholstery. Director-style chairs in the formal dining room display cranberry hide; the living room sofas feature silvery velvet; and gray suede covers the headboard in the master suite. “If there’s a lack of texture, it can be boring and flat,” White explains. “It’s amazing to have grit with luxury. That’s where sexiness comes from.”
Perhaps the most impressive component of this home is the statement-making furniture pieces white created. Inspired by Cecconi’s—a popular West Hollywood eatery beloved by the clients and noted for its fashionable interiors—he designed a bar using antique glass, marble and brass and customized a large sapphire blue tufted sofa as its counterpart. He created more oversize tufted sofas for the living room, where he placed oxidized-brass custom consoles and low tables crafted with volcanic rock and petrified wood. White’s design for the formal dining table combines copper, slate and blackened metal and is as wonderfully dramatic as the deco-feeling desk made for the office.
“I didn’t want things to be one note,” White says. “That’s not who these clients are.” Like the furnishings, the art the designer hung on the walls is varied and bold. A vibrant work by New York artist Phil Frost hangs in the living room and depicts poignant urban references. A minimalist geometric piece in the entry serves as something of an introduction to two smaller graphic works by street artist Shepard Fairey in the bar, where a large-scale black-and-white photograph of Bob Marley also resides. “The husband is a huge Marley fan,” White says. “The home speaks to what they’re all about. They have this wonderful kind of open energy. And like everyone, they have different mind frames and feelings. These rooms reflect that. They’re like different notes of music. It all comes from the same musician, but the verses and the songs change.”