Muted Colors Highlight Views In This Urban L.A. Home


Downtown L.A. takes center stage in a penthouse by designer Ryan Brown that balances urban chic with stylish comfort.

For his Downtown L.A. penthouse, designer Ryan Brown's client requested an inviting, contemporary take on an industrial loft. Brown obliged with pieces such as the dining area's felt-covered De Vorm chairs from A+R and the marble, metal and walnut table by La Chance.

The living area features a sofa in Glant fabric from Kneedler-Fauchère; a white oak and travertine coffee table with ottomans from Lawson-Fenning; rugs from Marc Phillips and a Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams swivel chair.

A neutral palette highlights the cinematic views and serves as a backdrop for industrial elements such as the structural columns and expansive windows that speak to the history of Downtown L.A. In the living area, a Studio Machina chandelier from 1stdibs hangs near the staircase.

Hardware was commissioned to accent the office cabinetry painted in Sherwin-Williams' Caviar. The client can work at the custom desk or make music at the Yamaha piano.

Walls and built-in cabinetry in Sherwin-Williams' Anchors Aweigh, brass hardware and a Paul Smith stripe by Maharam on the Lawson-Fenning chairs yield a clubby feel in the whiskey lounge. Added richness comes from the velvet-upholstered Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa, a vintage glass and bronze coffee table by Tom Bennett from Pegaso Gallery Design and a silk and leather rug from Marc Phillips. The artwork is by Robert Moreland from Wilding Cran Gallery.

Brown ramped up the texture in the master bedroom. At its heart is a custom leather and walnut bed set in a walnut-paneled niche. Above the cantilevered night tables are leather and brass Lostine sconces. Suspended from the ceiling is a Lawson-Fenning pendant. Countering the wood and metal are an alpaca rug from Marc Phillips and a Fabrica bench.

Honed Lithoverde tile from Stone Source is on the master shower's walls and ceiling. On the floors is Luchio oak from Old Master Products. General contractor Robert Benvenisti oversaw the penthouse's transformation, including the installation of the custom shower doors and windows.

Silver Smoke quartzite from Walker Zanger tops the master bathroom's counters. Renaissance Design Studio supplied the Watermark faucet, Julien sink and Duravit tub. The bronze sconce is from YLighting. In the master bedroom beyond is a West Elm chair.

Tasked with furnishing the interiors of a Downtown L.A. penthouse boasting 25-foot-tall window walls, designer Ryan Brown knew no decorative element would be as vibrant as the city views that fill the glass. “The space is spectacular,” Brown says. “Your eye goes straight to the windows. It feels like there’s no delineation between the interior and the skyline.”

Brown’s client, who works in finance, was taken with the penthouse’s location and commanding vistas but also liked that it was a blank slate he could tailor to his needs. “When we began this project, the unit was almost completely empty,” recalls general contractor Robert Benvenisti. Brown adds, “It was a concrete and glass shell.” In starting from scratch, the client had just two requests for the interiors: He wanted the rooms to have a warm, contemporary aesthetic, and there had to be a whiskey lounge, where he could enjoy his collection of fine wines and spirits.

The first order of business was to preserve the structural elements that imparted an industrial sensibility. “Initially, we talked about putting drywall over the concrete support columns and the ceilings,” Brown says. “But we wanted to embrace the downtown loft feel, so we left everything exposed and painted all of the ductwork, the plumbing, the electrical and the steel beams black to make it look really clean.” The designer also devised a steel staircase with a glass balustrade that seemingly floats within the double-height living room, and he enclosed the master bedroom and the shower in the master bathroom in blackened steel-framed windows and doors.

To temper the glass, steel and concrete, the designer wove in wood elements that lend warmth and texture. Wide planks of European white oak cover the floors, and in the master bedroom, panels of rich walnut clad a niche behind the woven leather headboard. “The paneling was book-matched,” says the designer, who also created built-in walnut nightstands and shelving for the room. In the kitchen, upper cabinetry and a pantry door fashioned from bleached oak bring a similar feel.

The whiskey lounge received an entirely different treatment, although the overall effect merges clubby coziness with high style. Brown had the walls and built-ins painted a shade of deep blue and lacquered for a sleek effect. Brass sconces and shelving brackets add another dimension, as well as a bit of shine and a timeless quality. “My client wanted a kind of gentlemen’s cigar lounge or bar area because he has this incredible whiskey collection,” the designer says. When it came to furniture, Brown chose classic forms wrapped in soft coverings the homeowner could sink into. Armchairs upholstered in a natty striped fabric sit with their back to the window; opposite is a sofa covered in a plush velvet. A chocolate-hued rug and vintage coffee table mark the center of the space. “This is probably the brightest room in the penthouse,” the designer says.

While color defines the character of the lounge, a muted palette distinguishes the living area’s furnishings. “We didn’t want anything to compete with the views in that room,” Brown says. “But you have to do a little color or pattern, or things will fall flat.” To keep the area understated yet interesting, the designer layered a beige, geometric-patterned rug atop a flatweave. He added more discreet embellishment by upholstering a pair of swivel chairs in an abstract neutral print. The custom sofa–with a bend that orients seating toward the view–is in a cream-colored covering, while a channel-stitched leather daybed is rendered in a rich neutral. “My client wanted to see everything in person before we made selections,” Brown says. “We made a lot of trips around L.A. so he could experience the pieces before living with them. Every fabric makes you feel like you can curl up on it with a great book and not want to move all day.”

The most luxurious aspect of this penthouse may be its panoramic city views, but the subtle, artful way Brown complemented–and didn’t compete with–them is this design’s most impressive quality. “Every little element, down to the pulls on the nightstands, is visually stunning on its own,” he says. “But when they come together, there’s this layering effect and somehow each piece works together as a whole in a really beautiful way.”