Ask Timothy Corrigan about his redesign of a Paul Revere Williams residence in Little Holmby and his voice brims with enthusiasm. He’ll tell you about his passion for renovating and how he loved building houses as a kid. “I’d design contemporaries and Colonials and make them out of balsa wood,” he recalls. Fast forward a few decades, and Corrigan has moved beyond hobby supplies to the real thing, designing houses of all sizes, including an 18th-century chateau in France’s Loire Valley. “But I’d never worked on a Paul Williams home before,” he says of this home. “I loved that I got the opportunity to work with one of his famous staircases.” Dating from the late 1930s, the two-story Colonial Revival offered the globetrotting designer the chance to create a relaxed California getaway for his clients, a couple of avid travelers who are based on the East Coast.
Over the years the house had undergone several renovations and updates, and Corrigan was delighted to contribute to its legacy. “Doing a renovation is so much more interesting than doing new construction because you have to work with what’s there and figure out how to revise it while still maintaining its integrity,” he says. In this go-round, that meant working closely with the clients’ longtime builder, Stephen Bloom, to ensure that the new family room, media room and adjoining office wing would blend seamlessly with the original structure. “The new areas are all a bit larger in scale, so the challenge was to make them feel as if they’d always been a part of the house,” Corrigan notes.
Attracted to the house’s ample windows and generous terraces, the owners asked Corrigan for a casual family retreat that could also accommodate large, more formal gatherings. “The design of the house definitely drew us to it,” says the husband, “especially the way it promotes indoor-outdoor living.” Corrigan responded with a plan that emphasized livability and comfort and provided an elegant backdrop for entertaining. “They wanted it to be clean, bright and cheerful, but not fight for attention,” says the designer.
In addition to artwork and photographs collected by the homeowners on their travels, the interiors display Corrigan’s penchant for making disparate pieces look equally at home, such as the late-18th-century Swedish secretary and abaca rug that coexist happily in the living room, or the photo-on-metal of the Hollywood sign that hangs above an elegantly tufted headboard in the master bedroom. “We consciously mixed different styles of furniture throughout the house,” says Corrigan. “While the house’s architectural style is very traditional, there’s a younger voice to the way it’s decorated.”
The palette ranges from the living room’s crisp neutrals to a burst of red tones in the dining room to the master bedroom’s mix of blues, whites and creams. “People don’t realize how much color impacts the way that you interact in a space,” Corrigan says. “While most of the rooms here are more soothing and tranquil, the bold use of red and gold in the dining room creates an energy that translates to active, alive dinner parties. Who wants to go to a dinner party and fall asleep?”
The addition of the expansive family room created more livable space on the ground floor and improved the flow from the kitchen and breakfast room, which had been combined in a previous renovation. “This wing of the house, which opens to the swimming pool and a courtyard with an outdoor fireplace, has become the true heart of the home,” says Corrigan, who used fabrics that are durable and stain-resistant so that the family and their guests can come in from the pool in wet bathing suits and sit anywhere.
Atop the new garage, Douglas Lindfors and Courtenay Choate Moritz, of Choate Associates Architects, designed a 645-square-foot media room accented by French doors and a Juliet balcony. “They were very sensitive to the pedigree of the house and keeping it within the character of what was there before,” says Bloom. Adds Lindfors, “It’s the first thing you see when you get to the property.
A traditional windowless media room wouldn’t work.” Below the skylit coffered ceiling, Corrigan made the space suitable for watching movies or just “hanging out,” setting the recliners on casters and centering the seating area on an enormous leather-tufted ottoman, while photos from the couple’s visits to Africa grace the walls. Adjacent to the space is a brand-new office, the work of Mason Kirby, of San Francisco- and Truckee-based Architect Mason Kirby.
For Corrigan, comfort is the key to the success of any interior. “But it’s more than physical comfort,” he says. “I’ll use outdoor fabrics or put a marine varnish on an antique to protect from spills. You don’t want to worry about how you live in the house, because that leads to feeling uncomfortable or like you have to be on your best behavior—and no one wants to live in a house where they have to be on their best behavior.”
The couple now have the perfect Southern California retreat, a relaxed environment for both quiet family weekends and large formal events. The renovation went so well, in fact, that they’ve asked Corrigan to take on another design project. “Tim has so much positive energy,” says the husband. “How can you not want to work with someone who loves what they do that much?”
—Kelly Vencill Sanchez