Some neighborhoods are synonymous with a certain kind of understated cachet. Rustic Canyon, a verdant nook where Santa Monica meets Pacific Palisades, quietly enjoys an outsize share of architectural acclaim. There, a striking retreat makes its own singular statement. “It’s a contemporary home designed to be transparent and open, thanks to materials like weathered wood, dark plaster and green roofs that relate to the canyon environment,” architect Ron Radziner says. Upon purchasing this abode designed and built by Marmol Radziner, its owners invited the firm back to tailor it to their taste, tapping their longtime designers Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl of Studio Life/Style to customize and furnish the interiors in tandem.
This project is the third that Wollack and Zwickl have tackled with these clients, a couple with two young children. With a good rapport already established, the brief was relatively simple: “They wanted to make it a warm, family-friendly home and refine its aesthetic,” Zwickl explains. And, she and Wollack note, they all wanted these refinements to respect the residence’s existing design and hew to its moody, rich palette of earthy tones—a color scheme reflective of the dramatic canyon backdrop.
With the original team involved, reimagining the home “was definitely a collaborative effort and a partnership,” Wollack says. She and Zwickl helped the owners hone in on the architectural details and finishes for areas they wanted to redo, then worked with Marmol Radziner construction director Mike Patterson, project manager Brian Dassler and landscape architect Amy Smith—all of whom were involved in the initial build—to execute the new vision.
Nearly every room was touched, from small-but-significant changes like adding blackened-brass accents on the entry door to larger renovations such as gutting the primary bathroom. The homeowners wanted more differentiation within the main living spaces, so the interior designers focused on elements they could layer in, as opposed to ripping things out and starting from scratch. A key example is the addition of the living room bar’s striking wood-slat sliding door, which rolls aside to reveal beverages and barware when the couple is entertaining. “We collaborated with Marmol Radziner to determine the best aesthetic and functionality for this feature, gravitating toward a darker finish to complement the coordinating fireplace stone,” Wollack explains.
Throughout the home, the designers selected statement furnishings that convey a certain dignity yet are clearly intended to be used. Seating, in particular, needed to be “comfortable and approachable for the family,” Zwickl says. “The owners wanted to lean into the architecture and find pieces that were a little midcentury, but also very current.” To wit, the living room juxtaposes soft, welcoming chairs with the hard lines of an Arabescato Bianco marble coffee table composed of interlocking triangular forms—an example of what Wollack describes as “functional yet architectural pieces” that make a statement without overpowering the space. And some of the fabrics were inspired by the fashionable elegance of suits, Zwickl adds, pointing out the living room sofa’s flannel hopsack material.
As for the bathrooms, they were transformed with deep-toned stones and surfaces, such as limewash in the subtly dramatic downstairs powder room. And, in the completely remodeled primary bath, the new concept is meant to evoke the tranquility of a luxurious spa, with a vintage rug and chaise lounge bringing in the warmth the owners desired.
The property’s lush enclave and landscaped hillside surroundings were top of mind for Wollack and Zwickl, who took pains to choose colors that would strengthen the connections between indoors and out. “The perspective that they brought to the interiors—the neutral tonality, the materials—very much fits the architecture and ethos of the project,” Patterson comments. The designers also took care to integrate sculptural plants into the home to complement elements like the native and Mediterranean shrubs and grasses incorporated directly into the architecture’s green roofs.
Reflecting on the personality that now permeates this residence, Patterson muses that “a house only gets better when we really understand how someone will use the space.” Wollack concurs, adding, “We’re so pleased that we were able to speak to the beauty of the original design—and enhance it.”