Thanks to Bollywood and popular movie imports like Monsoon Wedding, Americans have been afforded a peek into the inner workings of Indian culture. Among the takeaways: a penchant for celebrations–Indian weddings can last for days–and an affection for bold hues, as women wrapped in jewel-toned saris make wearing color an art form. But when it came to designing a home in the hills of Glendale for a couple of Indian descent, interior designers Angelica Henry and Michele Logan opted to roll back the expected emeralds, marigolds and fuchsias in favor of a more neutral approach that allowed the quatrefoil and arabesque patterns associated with that part of the world to sing. “We wanted a more timeless feel,” says Henry. “So instead of bright colors we used a variety of patterns to acknowledge their heritage and provide a level of intricacy that holds everything together.”
Smitten with the mountain views at a friend’s home in the same neighborhood, the couple–both doctors with two teenage children–had waited patiently for a similarly sited property to be available. The home they purchased had the right orientation but fell short of their lifestyle needs, which included space for big family gatherings. “It was a small house and we thought we could just add some walls,” the husband recalls. “But when my wife wanted to take off the roof, the builder suggested we just take it down.” Save for the basement and a retaining wall, they agreed to rebuild. In search of inspiration, the couple traveled to Jaipur in their native country to tour the palaces of ancient royalty. “From that trip we got the concept of arches, tall windows and beautiful ceilings,” the wife says.
During early meetings with architect Edward Chavez, the couple shared ideas gleaned from their travels–along with a desire for two kitchens. “Our food is very spicy, so we wanted a separate kitchen where we can cook and the aromas won’t reach the rest of the house,” the wife explains. Having worked with other families of a similar background, Chavez had grown accustomed to such requests and thought nothing of creating layouts to accommodate guest lists that routinely rise into the triple digits. “When they have a party, they start with a hundred people and go from there,” says Chavez, who collaborated with project architect Ernesto Ramirez.
On the outside, the stucco structure, with its tile roof and cantera accents, is characteristic of the Mediterranean homes typical of the area. “The owners wanted it to be compatible with the neighborhood,” Chavez notes. Inside, however, the arabesque-patterned light fixture in the entry and the cappuccino marble floors that run the length of the grand hallway suggest otherwise. “The house is 70 feet long,” the architect notes, “but the inclusion of formal arches and groin vaults make it seem less so.”
Meanwhile, Henry and Logan scoured books and the Internet to speed up their Indian design learning curves. “It was not a style we had worked with before and we were excited to take a unique, modern approach,” says Henry. In lieu of color, intricate rosettes on the living room fireplace, a carved opening over the kitchen vent hood, and fretwork resembling lace that follows the form of the shaped mirror in the powder room became their statement makers. “Everything was meant to be an extension of the established architecture,” says Logan, who credits builder Russell Longo with implementing many of the changes. To embrace the bed in the master suite, for example, Longo executed a recessed alcove featuring its own unique set of undulations.
Finding furnishings in sync with the swirls and flourishes was no easy task, but the contemporary take on a wingback chair with an arched hood in the entry and the wood-framed living room seating with carved backs and throne-like countenances easily clears the bar. “With any design you have to have stars of the show, and these items get noticed,” Henry says. “They were also the perfect way to bring an architectural feature into the home.”
In the dining room, the host chairs sheathed in a brightly patterned fabric are the attention grabbers, and the glass-beaded chandelier, which makes repeat appearances in the living room and master suite, adds a touch of opulence. Framed panels with a mother-of-pearl accent up the ante in the media room on the lower level.
According to Logan, maintaining a balance between simple and more intricate interjections is what the house is all about. “It’s a modern interpretation of Indian design that embodies Indian influences while maintaining a timeless quality,” she sums up. “And it’s uniquely tailored to the people who live there.”