Stately Georgian Revival homes have dotted Los Angeles’ finest neighborhoods since the 1920s when Hollywood’s elite began commissioning masterworks from legendary architects like Roland Coate and Paul R. Williams. Fast-forward a century and it’s much the same, but this time around Georgian Transitional, as it’s called, brings added swagger. Like its predecessors, it’s designed for elegant living. What makes it different, though, is a glamour that owes more to midcentury architects–Pierre Koenig’s glass walls, for example–than to English kings. It’s a style that just makes sense in L.A., and especially for the family of former NFL superstar Tony Gonzalez.
“Entertaining is a big part of their lifestyle, so the goal was to create a beautiful and inviting home to welcome friends and relatives,” says designer Lada Webster. The Gonzalezes had been living in Huntington Beach but wanted to be closer to Tony’s workplace (he’s an analyst for Fox Sports) and to his teenage son. “After failing to find a turnkey house, our real estate agent took us to see this amazing property in a neighborhood with walkable tree-lined streets,” recalls Tony’s wife, October. “We knew we could build our dream home.” The couple had fallen for Georgian-style architecture while living in Atlanta, where Tony, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, played for the Atlanta Falcons, and they knew it would fit into their new surroundings comfortably.
“I contacted Lada immediately and she lit up with excitement at the idea of building from the ground up!” says October. (Longtime friends who worked together during their early 20s, the women reconnected in 2007 when Webster joined forces with the couple on their previous home.) “So many designers can’t help but incorporate their own personal flair, and I knew that Lada wasn’t that type.” From there, everything fell into place. A friend recommended general contractor Craig Williams, who in turn suggested architect Philip Vertoch. “Philip understood that we’re a big family with kids ranging from 4 to 17, so functionality was vital,” she adds.
Early on, Vertoch remembers talking with the couple about ease and an open ground floor–“something that could suit 200 guests or just 6 to 8,” he says. The resulting plan includes a two-story main house, expansive back terraces, a swimming pool and a pool house with a gym, plus a sports court. (A basement offers additional living areas and a multilevel garage.) “Tony and October set the parameters and let Lada and me run with ideas,” says Vertoch, who collaborated closely with the Gonzalezes’ project manager, Mike Milot, along the way. “The flow, the circulation–it’s a unique plan. I think Paul R. Williams would walk around and say, ‘This works!’ ” Contractor Williams (no relation to the renowned architect), who’s been building homes with Vertoch for decades, is quick to agree. “It has a traditional-transitional feeling but it’s not over-the-top,” he says. One of the biggest challenges came not from the city, as one might expect, but from the effort to move 15,000 yards of dirt. “It was a huge amount of earthwork,” he recalls, praising his firm’s project manager, Ryan Braun, for guiding the process from beginning to end. Notes Vertoch: “Design and construction should be fun but it isn’t always. This was.”
Webster has high praise for Vertoch. “Philip is the dreamiest architect ever,” she says, noting that homes of this size can often feel cold but he laid this out in a way that feels connected. “From the beginning, there was a clear direction: a Georgian faÃ§ade that becomes a modern oasis in the back.” With the Gonzalezes’ busy schedules, furniture design concepts were discussed online. “Lada listened to us and really helped us discover our own style,” adds October, recalling shared Pinterest boards and schemes that evolved from glam-bohemian to California cool. Webster sourced furnishings from myriad companies but relied heavily on generously proportioned custom pieces. She designed sofas for the living areas and the children’s playroom, the banquette in the bar, and the wingback dining chairs whose shape is reflected in the room’s Art Deco-style wallpaper. A custom bed and lounge chairs, all upholstered in cream, create a cloudlike master suite. “I tried not to be so predictable,” says Webster. “It’s classic Hollywood but youthful.” To give character to the mostly white, high-ceilinged spaces, she opted for lots of black (in the kitchen, Tony’s office, the bar and the outdoor dining area), adding sparkle with metallics and softness with muted gray-greens.
Carrying the look outside, Webster chose light-toned wood and black furnishings, the clean lines of which repeat in the garden. “The architecture really drove the design of the hardscaping and the planting,” says landscape architect Gary Mason. “It’s a little bit formal with a linear quality but it’s not fussy. Their principal concerns were privacy and space for the kids to play, but we also kept a simple palette of whites and greens to match the house,” he explains. “No space goes unused,” adds October. “Our favorite thing to do is host Sunday dinner. We open the doors, turn up the music, cook a big meal and watch the kids play. This was our dream, to build a home that seems like a vacation and where everyone feels welcome. I’d say we nailed it.”