Some homes seem like they’ve been around forever, like stately dwellings intended to be lived in generation after generation. Certainly, the classic Shingle-style cottages that dot the shores of seaside destinations like Martha’s Vineyard—the locale that provided the architectural inspiration for a traditional house on the opposite coast—are among these. What’s truly difficult, however, is infusing a new build with that same rich sense of history. But that’s exactly the sort of challenge designer Thomas Callaway thrives on. “Many times, people are surprised to learn that my projects were only recently constructed,” he shares. This traditionally attired home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, envisioned as a nest and gathering place for a family, fits that aged-yet-not description perfectly. What’s not as obvious is that these walls also house the story of a great friendship.
Looking back, the meeting between Callaway and his clients felt like kismet. The couple had purchased a lot where they would build their dream home, and, while they waited to close on the property, they drove around various neighborhoods looking at and discussing houses. One nearby stood out: a Shingle-style abode with white trim. The pair left a note in the mailbox asking the name of its designer and were pointed in Callaway’s direction. A few months later the duo attended a party at a Brentwood home “that knocked our socks off,” recalls the wife. The designer? Callaway, again.
At that point, it felt like fate. “We met Tom, and kind of fell in love with him,” says the wife with a laugh. “He understood immediately that we wanted to build a family home with a sense of permanence– something cozy, a spot that would be a base for our three boys and their friends and for generations.”
The designer put together a collection of photos of Shingle-style homes and details for the clients as suggestions. Ultimately, it was a snapshot of a classic yet unimposing Martha’s Vineyard home torn from Callaway’s idea board that became their jumping-off point. “It didn’t feel like a crazy idea to bring a style that is so New England coast-like to this coast,” says Callaway. “SoCal, and America in general, is such a mishmash of styles that it fit right into the fabric of their neighborhood.”
Family, though, drove the spirit of the design. “From the start, the clients were all about family, celebrations, holidays and guests,” says Callaway, who worked with colleagues James Landres and Jan Word on the project. While there is a slightly heightened sense of formality in the public rooms, every space is thoughtfully proportioned, well-lit, warm and chock-full of character—with the varied use of scroll trim, beadboard, wainscoting, board-and-batten paneling and exposed beams and rafters.
The wife requested elegantly comfortable public spaces, a media/game room for the kids and a highly functional kitchen for herself, an avid cook and baker. Her husband, a classical musician turned attorney, wanted a music room—which Callaway placed just off the living room, designed so that he could perform and guests could watch from the living room. “He had very few wishes other than to make her happy,” recalls Callaway of the pair’s easy dynamic.
The designer plotted each square inch, “down to the underwear drawer,” he jokes. With the structure set, which was built by general contractor Andrew Jagoda, a quiet theme of blues, creams and browns drove the decor. Furnishings bear out the traditional spirit of the house, both antique and antique-inspired, along with the occasional midcentury addition for variety, and generously proportioned upholstered pieces in classic plaid, floral, batik and damask patterns. The artwork ranges from landscapes and botanicals to photography. One of the very few great debates the trio had—whether or not to extend the master bedroom’s wallpaper onto the ceiling between the beams, a Callaway notion—quickly became a favorite feature.
Given the level of detail found throughout the house, “It took a few years to add the right layers to the space in terms of furnishings, artwork and photography, and Tom really stuck with us,” says the wife. Sadly, her husband passed away, but, in his absence, her connection to their home has strengthened. “He’s still so much a part of this house,” she says. “It’s taken care of me as much as I take care of it. Every day, I feel like it just hugs me.” That sentiment is echoed by Callaway. “To visit this house and see it used and lived in is more of a three-dimensional pleasure than just decorating something and saying goodbye,” he says. “It’s like one of my kids.”