Change is something of a constant in the lives of designers Robin Strickler and Jessica Nutt’s clients. Through the years, they have called a high-rise apartment in New York City, a retreat in Colorado and a Beverly Hills abode home. Most recently, the empty nesters traded a Tuscan-style house in Shady Canyon for a modern two-story dwelling on a rolling green golf course in Newport Beach. “This is such a gorgeous setting,” says Strickler, pointing to the beautifully landscaped grounds featuring swaying palm trees and native succulents around a swimming pool. “It’s like staying in a resort.”
Strickler was no stranger to the area where her clients now reside, having worked on several of the homes, ranging from a minimalist vision with sculptural, low-slung Italian furnishings for one resident to another, glitzier a air for an international executive. “All the homes are unique, but this one feels so much different,” Strickler says. “These clients wanted a very comfortable, timeless and understated interior.”
Although the home’s existing rift-sawn oak flooring and crisp white-lacquer kitchen evoked a casual sensibility that was apropos for the sunny coastal setting, the house also came with gray walls and ceilings that rose to 25 feet in some places. One of Strickler’s solutions to soften and warm up the interiors was to employ a variety of eye-catching wallcoverings. In the entry, she chose an abstract design that resembles squares of gold leaf, which she combined with a metal-and-shagreen console and a mirror composed of stacked beveled-edge glass panels in a brass-tone frame; it creates a dramatic introduction to the residence. “We wanted something really different and special for this space. The wallcovering adds texture, and it has a little bit of a shimmer,” Strickler says, noting that the pairing also creates a more formal feeling.
Another wallcovering, grass cloth this time, lines the shelves of the bespoke cabinetry in the great room, where Strickler designed the system to go around a newly incorporated gel-burning fireplace. “The cabinetry grounds the space,” she says. The fireplace, set in a stone-faced surround that runs all the way to the ceiling, serves the same purpose. Covered with a gray glazed finish, the cabinetry’s restrained antiqued hue is something of an aesthetic departure for the clients. “It’s very soothing and elegant,” Strickler says. “The owners came from a house that had a Tuscan style, so we decided to make the palette here much more light and airy.” The shade makes an ideal backdrop for an occasional chair covered in an overscale floral fabric with a natural-wood base and a pair of oatmeal linen-covered sofas, which the wife loved from the get-go after seeing them on the designers’ website. “They’re formal, elegant and classic,” says Strickler. A modern waterfall-style cocktail table with a clear-silvered finish and a rustic stump-form side table—a found object—yield unexpected layers to shake things up.
In the great room’s dining area, yet another wallcovering, this one a lustrous metallic version made of shimmery squares, distinguishes the space while softly reflecting the light cast by the massive chandelier. “It gave the dining room a feeling of separation from the living room and made the wall feel less bare,” Strickler says. “It’s not a grass cloth, but it has a little bit of texture that’s really pretty.” Surrounding the whitewashed-oak pedestal table, the tall wing chairs with pared-down modern silhouettes— upholstered in silky cotton-velvet on the guest chairs and an embroidered design on the host chairs—ensure comfort during dinner parties.
Tactile materials also bring depth to the second-floor family room, which Strickler and Nutt outfitted with custom white-oak cabinetry and a sectional in another neutral hue. A rich wallcovering again appears behind the plush tufted headboard in the master bedroom. Although the suite is adorned in a palette of neutral shades, a sculptural pendant light fixture, draperies with wide stripes and a pair of oversize bedside tables with a chevron pattern add visual interest. “The patterns and textures sort of mix up the serene palette,” Strickler says. “They make it look so much more interesting.” Finally, the designers employed grass-cloth accent walls in the rest of the bedrooms, opting for varying neutrals in each to differentiate the spaces.
Strickler and Nutt’s clients, who designed and built several of the residences they have called home, allowed the designers great latitude when it came to crafting their newest residence. “Our aesthetics meshed well from the beginning, and the design process was a collaboration of ideas between us and the homeowners,” Strickler says. The result is an understated dwelling that brims with subtle character thanks to the team’s thoughtful use of texture, pattern and color.