Clean Lines, Bright Accents Strike The Right Balance


contemporary exterior and landscape

Clean lines, bright accents and simple fabrics strike just the right balance for a Shady Canyon abode.

contemporary living room neutral palette...

For the living room of a Shady Canyon house, designer Denise Morrison chose a Dorothy Shain painting, which serves as the space's inspiration. A Fabricut textile covers the Brownstone Furniture chairs, which face a Robert James Collection coffee table and House of Morrison sofa. Twin Visual Comfort & Co. lamps stand on Alfonso Marina consoles and are reflected by Mirror Image Home mirrors. Underfoot is a Loloi rug. Peter Philips Design conceived the handsome landscape shown on the previous pages.

contemporary hall sculptural console

Morrison ensured that even transitional spaces had arresting visual moments. For a landing, she chose a sculptural console by Ryan Dart of Bones Studio. Above, she placed artwork from Palecek. Rounding out the vignette is a Currey & Company lamp.

contemporary dining room neutral palette

Pravada Floors wide-plank flooring runs throughout much of the house. Morrison surrounded the dining area's Robert James Collection table with chairs, in a Schumacher fabric, from her own House of Morrison collection. Behind are framed papers from Natural Curiosities. Hovering above is a chandelier by Regina Andrew Design.

contemporary kitchen black counter chairs

Architect Cecil Carney and general contractor Jonathan Whitener envisioned an open, expansive home. Four Hands counter chairs are arrayed against the kitchen's island, which is topped with Neolith Calacatta Gold from Ollin Stone. It is illuminated by Visual Comfort & Co. pendants in an antique brass finish. The cabinetry is by Hartmark. The Kohler faucet is from Express Pipe; the hood and range are Thermador.

contemporary dining area

Arranged on a Loloi rug, a Hickory Chair banquette in a Schumacher fabric joins the House of Morrison chairs and Robert James Collection table. Diffusing the light streaming through the Pella windows are Roman shades in Fabricut linen. An étagère by Safavieh offers additional storage.

contemporary family room brown console...

In an additional lounge space off the family room, a Noir console sets the stage for bold artwork, including, a pair from Leftbank Art and the large piece by Elisa Gomez. The plant stands are by Palecek; the succulents are from Ivy Guild.

contemporary family room blue rug

Hickory Chair ottomans with ivory Schumacher fabric are versatile pieces in the family room. Morrison incorporated more furnishings from her own line into the space, such as the sectional. Bold moments include the bright blue vintage overdyed rug, layered over a Loloi rug, and the framed quartet on the wall from Wendover Art Group.

contemporary bedroom neutral palette blue...

Morrison designed a tranquil, minimal master bedroom. The Bolier bed has an elegant presence. Complementing it are a Robert James Collection nightstand and Visual Comfort & Co. lamp. The lounge chair from Hickory Chair in Kravet fabric and the Feizy rug bring a dimension of cozy, plush comfort.

contemporary bathroom brown cabinetry

In the master bath, the wife's side pops with her favorite pink, as seen in the Hickory Chair vanity chair covered in a Peter Dunham Textiles fabric and the vintage Oushak rug from House of Morrison. The vanity sports a quartz top by MSI and is inset with a Brizo faucet.

contemporary bathroom sculptural stools

Geometric forms continue in the master bath, with a pair of Roost stools from House of Morrison adding a sculptural yet functional element to the spare space, which is outfitted with a Kohler tub. The vintage rug imbues the space with a sense of history.

Balancing style with practicality and comfort is an ongoing juggling act for design pros. Make an interior too splendid and a house risks becoming unlivable, more museum than residence. Veer too far in the other direction and it risks losing a distinctive point of view. For a home in the rolling hills of Shady Canyon, California, designer Denise Morrison carefully navigated that fine line. “They wanted something beautiful, but they also wanted it to be comfortable and not particularly fancy,” she says of her clients, a young family, adding, “They wanted all the rooms to be used, and they needed things that were functional.”

Fortunately for the clients, the house itself, by architect Cecil Carney and general contractor Jonathan Whitener, possessed the exact requirements that the clients had sought for nearly five years: The open main floor faced a yard; it had guest bedrooms near the master, and it was on a cul-de-sac. The pie-shaped site, notes Carney, necessitated a home linear in plan, which, he says, “allows for every major room to have a view of the yard and access to it.” In other areas, says Whitener, careful planning granted better use of common space, such as liberating the theater from its typical basement placement. “It sits on top of the garage and doesn’t disturb anyone,” he says.

It was up to Morrison to fulfill the clients’ needs for the interiors. The designer–whose work meshed with the owners’ penchant “for a soft, contemporary look and feel,” says the wife–first and foremost considered their active lifestyle, drawing from personal experience. “I’ve raised four boys,” she says. “Nothing can be too precious.” Secondly, the generously proportioned rooms with high ceilings required appropriately scaled pieces. “The furniture had to be chunky and have weight, or it would look silly,” Morrison points out. And, finally, to highlight the home’s stunning locale, she worked with natural textures to add subtle interest: linens, wool, wood, and leather.

To that end, she anchored the rooms with substantial furniture featuring bold, geometric lines, including some pieces from her own collection, House of Morrison. “They are what I think of as quintessentially California, things I think represent my own style,” she says of her designs. In the living area, for example, a deep, tailored sofa of hers faces a pair of equally distinctive chairs that are supported by a pair of square frames. Nearby, twin cabinets with painted and inlaid doors play off the shape of the triangular ottomans while a subtly patterned rug pulls it all together.

Weighty pieces continue throughout but are always tempered by softer materials, such as a trestle-base table with a rustic finish in the breakfast area that joins gray dining chairs with channel-stitched leather seats; a console inlaid with leather in the family room that backs onto another chunky sofa; and a trio of large-scale, patterned artworks made of plant fibers in the dining room. The minimalist platform bed in the master bedroom is dressed in luxurious Belgian linens and stands atop a contemporary rug in gray, taupe, ivory and blue–quieter iterations of the colors found elsewhere in the house.

The living room’s overall palette was actually driven by a painting Morrison selected to have above the fireplace. Created by South Carolina-based artist Dorothy Shain, the landscape depicts Southern California in lime, turquoise and paler shades. (“It’s her idea of Southern California,” says the designer. “Her interpretation of color is very different.”) The designer also considered the wife’s love of purple–and honored the husband’s request to use it sparingly. “We’ll add it tastefully,” she assured him. Morrison wove the hue in via accessories in the library, living area and master bathroom, where they deliver just the dynamic dose to invigorate the neutrals and blue that predominate.

While the architecture and furnishings read as contemporary, the house wouldn’t feel like a home without a sense of history, says Morrison. So she added touches of the old, like a fabulous Oushak rug, as well as layering in various objects. The open kitchen shelving, for instance, is accessorized with plants and the occasional leaning framed artwork. “Instead of making them just utilitarian, you can make them pretty, as well,” says the designer. It’s a principle she applied throughout the house: Everything is beautiful but nothing is untouchable. “All the pieces are comfortable,” says Morrison. “You could just melt into the sofas and chairs.” And for a young family, that was exactly the intent.