Believe it or not, I became more and more appreciative of Brazilian things after I moved here,” says homeowner and designer Ana Kozak, who is a Sao Paulo native and West Coast representative for Espasso, purveyors of midcentury modern and contemporary furniture from Brazil. “When you are outside of your country, you start to look at it in a different way.” Her passion for the place is apparent in her family’s Santa Monica abode.
While her home is filled with Brazilian treasures, Kozak is quick to point out that it’s not a showroom. “I really wanted to make it look like me and my family and for it to feel like our own house,” she says. “It’s not something for others. It’s for us.” Some Brazilian pieces came with her when she moved to Southern California. Others, though, she acquired here. As her knowledge of Brazilian design deepened, she began adding striking new items by such luminaries as Jorge Zalszupin and Carlos Motta. “I’m more and more in love with Brazilian pieces, especially the midcentury ones, and tried to bring that into our home,” she says.
Kozak emphasizes that despite her deep affinity for the design of her homeland, she’s not wedded to one specific style. “Even when I was single, living in a small apartment, I was always changing things and mixing things around,” she remembers. “I love that. It’s a passion.” As she furnished her home, Kozak focused on finding individual elements that spoke to her and blended them in unexpected and interesting ways. “When I buy something, I really don’t think about the style of it,” she says. “It has to talk to me, I have to like it. If I like it, I’ll find a way to make it fit with the rest of the things I have.” For example, to fill an empty space near the stairs, she patiently searched for the right item without knowing exactly what she was looking for. “I knew I needed something there; it could have been a bench, a chair, a sideboard,” says the designer. But as soon as she saw the antique English chest of drawers, which appears to have been an office cabinet in its previous life, she knew she had discovered the perfect piece. “It was totally unexpected,” she says. “But when I saw it, it was like zoom, that’s it.”
As might be expected in a home belonging to a Brazilian expat, color figures prominently throughout. In the entry, a runner embellished with a peacock feather design in lively hues is joined by some of the family’s art collection, which includes vivid work by Ed Ruscha and Osgemeos. A brown-and-plum floral area rug vibrantly grounds the living room. And in the kitchen, the attention-grabbing island is painted a pleasing grass green. “My husband is from Vienna, and we collect typical green-and-white Austrian porcelain,” Kozak says, adding that when it comes to color, “I like to be a little extravagant and to never play on the safe side.” While neutral floors and curtains are often the go-to option for many interiors, “I need more than that,” she says. “I need a little challenge.” Even in spots like the dining room, where she pulled back on the palette and employed restful shades of gray and caramel, she counterbalanced them with textural moments in the form of silk, wood, straw and linen.
The inviting mix happily exists in a structure reminiscent of New England-style homes, which Kozak tweaked to her specifications, working with general contractor Wayne Moss of Wayne Moss Constructors. “All the changes were minor, but they had a big effect,” says Kozak. Other than painting the beige walls white–to bring in light and showcase the artwork–the duo remodeled the powder room and swapped out some of the white-painted fireplaces with sleeker stone designs. In the family room, a pair of windows flanking the fireplace also were removed and replaced with shelving to display tangible family memories. “Besides the books we have there, we use the space to hold our travel souvenirs, art, objects, and stones that I collect from different locations. Everything there has meaning for us,” says Kozak. “It feels much more modern but still very cozy.” Outside, she turned the garden into a haven for relaxing and entertaining, installing a pool and creating areas for lounging with casual yet chic furniture.
Filled with treasures accumulated throughout her life–from her single days, from the family’s home in SÃ£o Paulo and, more recently, from finds in California–Kozak’s residence is a dynamic blend of styles, shapes, colors and patterns, mixing a distinctive Brazilian aesthetic with American artwork, Danish modern furniture and vintage objets. And while it speaks to her love of her native country’s influential design history, it’s not a showroom. “It’s our lives, our memories,” she says. “Every piece has a story.”