Antonio Martins believes every home should tell a story. “When you look at a house you should see a collection of experiences,” says the designer, who was born in Portugal, raised in Brazil and spent 11 years in the hotel business in Asia, all of which contributed to his distinct approach to design. “In Europe, no one cares if the fireplace stone has been chipped for 200 years, while in this country, everything is new. But I believe it’s the imperfections that make a home beautiful.”
With that concept in mind, the designer took on the challenge of transforming the rooms of a crisp, brand-new Los Altos Hills, California, home into spaces with a story line suited to the homeowner. “He’s a young, single attorney who didn’t want a showroom-type house where everything matches,” Martins says. “Luckily, all the surfaces were neutral, so I could just add layers to it.”
The search for things to establish a story with that “found-object feel” began with the jackpot discovery of a vintage Vladimir Kagan sofa. “It had the original mohair upholstery,” enthuses Martins, who allowed the sofa’s seductive lines to establish a sexy vibe in the living room and the russet fabric to inform the home’s color scheme. An equally sensuous black Kagan chair with wing-like arms and two swivel seats swathed in lush velvet complement the aesthetic and establish the room as more of a “stand up with a cocktail place” than a “drink a beer and catch a game space.” Martins explains, “When the homeowner entertains, he wants this to be a cool room to be in, not the place where you lounge and watch TV.”
The mood shifts in the adjacent dining room where his client’s desire for an overall masculine ambience led Martins to choose classic Cab chairs and a round glass table, all by Mario Bellini. “The chair is raw leather that softens and colors with time like a baseball glove,” he says. “It’s incredibly comfortable and I think it is the most masculine of all dining room chairs.” The addition of an antique rug and a spiny urchin chandelier dispels any semblance of being too matchy.
While russet and brown hues tend to dominate most of the home, the media room is intentionally dark, cozy and green. From the pale grass-cloth wallcovering to the hunter tone on the armchair, the layers create a soothing ombre effect. Martins matched the Montauk sofa that’s “so comfortable, when you sit on it you feel like you died and went to heaven,” to the grass cloth. “I think wallpaper makes things cozier, and I love how the greens respond to the views,” says the designer, referencing the home’s location with its enviable 360-degree mountain vistas. In the corner, a pair of Victorian porch posts continue the home’s growing narrative. “They could have been from a previous house that was there before and now they are part of the history of the new house,” the designer muses.
Located across from the kitchen, light floods the family room where another Montauk sofa begs to be lounged on and a pair of high-back metal-framed chairs with reversible covers invite a person to sit down and put his feet up. “The homeowner wanted this coffee table, which has a place for a succulent garden in the middle,” says Martins of the centerpiece that also ties to the outdoors. A mix of side tables–one a marble plinth cube and two others fashioned from cut-pine logs set inside blocks of clear acrylic–are the kind of unexpected interjections that spark conversation in the casual space.
In answer to his client’s request for a “no-nonsense, masculine bedroom,” Martins designed a substantial walnut bed and topped it with a linen bedspread with a leather piping detail that accentuates the message. “Everything right down to the bedspread seam is simple, elegant and of very high quality,” says Martins, who continued that idea in the three remaining bedrooms. In one, a matching monochromatic linen headboard and bedspread and vintage rosewood floating consoles takes a minimalist approach while a second guest room balances a platform bed with an antique teak chest picked up at a New Orleans auction. About the latter Martins says, “It is something that could have been in his family and adds that layer of story.”
A whisper of femininity defines the final guest suite. Here, the four-poster bed with lacquered blue-and-white posts is flanked by an antique chest and a folding traveling chest. The subtle patterns on the drapes and carpet were selected with visits from the client’s mother in mind. Similar to all the rooms in the house, Martins stayed true to his “things don’t have to match” mantra. “I select pieces that are individually beautiful and happen to work with each other,” he says. “If a sofa, a chair and a coffee table are beautiful, together they will create a harmony.”