When shopping for a new home, buyers are often encouraged to look past the décor and focus on the structure’s bones. But when Lisa Hudson and Joe Preston found the house of their dreams, an airy Mediterranean-style residence in Laguna Beach, they loved the colorful, funky interior design so much that it helped seal the deal. Not only did the couple purchase some of the pieces from the seller, but they got the name of their designer, Ohara Davies-Gaetano, and called her immediately. While the couple’s previous home leaned toward neutral tones and clean lines, they fell for the energy of Davies-Gaetano’s design. “It had much more pop and flare to it, and they loved that,” says the designer. “So we wanted to maintain that feeling, but make it more geared toward them.”
The couple—he’s a physician, she works for a global tech company— are parents and wanted to create a casual family home that would also be suitable for entertaining. “They’re down-to-earth people, and they’re very eclectic,” Davies-Gaetano says. “They’ve been all over the world and have visited some interesting locales. I wanted their home to represent their love and appreciation for design, travel and family. They granted me carte blanche to interpret the interiors, and to create a personal and traveled story for their home.”
To tell the tale, the designer began by selecting fabrics, and let the colors dictate the look and feel of the various spaces. She chose a bold turmeric velvet—“the color exudes warmth, happiness and sunlight,” she says—to cover a custom sofa and chaise in the great room and a hand-blocked botanical print to highlight the family room. A bright Tibetan wool rug grounds the dining room, and a jewel-toned suzani-inspired fabric upholsters the master bed’s headboard. The kitchen even got a dash of color to enliven the existing wood cabinetry. “I thought it would be fun to go in and paint it a fresh steely blue-gray with a bit of a green undertone,” Davies-Gaetano says. “There’s an incredible view up the coast. From the window, you can see the hills and the ocean, so I wanted to give the cabinets a little bit of a sheen.”
Davies-Gaetano also let objects the couple had picked up during their travels inspire the interior’s put-together-over-time feel. “They have an incredible collection of art, and I wanted that to be featured,” Davies-Gaetano says. “I wanted the home to be full of curiosities, where there’s a sense of wonder and a desire to learn the story behind each piece.” The designer pieced together pillows and blankets from textiles the couple had collected abroad, and worked in African masks as well as a chair from India.
Giving the house another singular layer were the unique objects that Davies-Gaetano incorporated into the home. Pieces of petrified wood lend sculptural accents, an antique globe she found in Belgium rests on an antique French stand, and she fashioned graceful European architectural scrolls into oversize lamps. The designer also wove in some of the couple’s own well-loved pieces, including a small desk and a rocking chair that three generations of Prestons have used.
While the structure, originally designed by architect Tim Nicol, has a Mediterranean vibe, with wood beams and ironwork, Davies-Gaetano wasn’t shy about mixing those rustic elements with sparkly chandeliers and other glamorous touches. “Even though a home is one style, that shouldn’t limit you,” she says. “When I’m given creative license, I cross those boundaries. I feel design should be holistic and should embrace periods of time both past and present, as well as being representative of the passions of life, including travel, exploration and a constant appreciation for beauty.