Years before she and her partners Michele Trout and Jill Hall completed the dramatic transformation of this Pacific Palisades home, designer Heidi Bonesteel would attend gatherings there. “We are friends with the owners—our kids went to school together,” shares Bonesteel. Little did she expect that the team would eventually have a chance to put their own stamp on the residence. In fact, it looked like the couple would be decamping to Santa Barbara for the foreseeable future. “They had no intention of returning, but they missed the energy of Los Angeles, so they decided to come back to this home, which they had never sold,” Bonesteel says.
But things had changed for the family, and they wanted a dwelling that reflected their new aesthetic and lifestyle. “The homeowners bought the house in the 1990s and raised their family here,” says Trout. “With their children away at school, they wanted to shift from a cozy home for a young family to something more sophisticated and geared toward entertaining.”
To that end, the project became all about the flow and embracing a light atmosphere. “Early on, the clients told us that no one was using the living room when they entertained,” says Trout. “By rethinking the rooms and creating a better flow, we were able to give them a more accessible and usable space—and a living room that’s lived in.” They worked with general contractor Mitchell Dean Collins to open up the compartmentalized areas—the living room, family room, dining room and kitchen—and to put a bar between the family room and dining room. “We removed all of the casements and made the doors higher and wider, too” explains Trout. “Not only does it improve the flow, it also allows the spaces to share the light.”
The contrast between the original interiors and the remodeled rooms could be characterized as the difference between night and day. “Before, the inside of the house felt dark and heavy,” says Bonesteel. “It was lovely, but it had a lot of hefty wood beams and moldings that had become dated. The owners wanted something fresh and modern, an almost Scandinavian look.”
While pale colors and light woods rule on the inside, another transformation was occurring on the outside of the house, where the designers selected a charcoal gray color for a contemporary note of gravitas. The darker hue replaced a palette of chocolate brown and white and is complemented by a black metal roof and windows. “The amount of ‘oomph’ the paint provides is mind blowing,” notes Bonesteel.
That color inspired gardens by landscape designer Peter Eberhard that are tightly knit to the interior and include an outdoor living room, a fire pit lounge area and bubbling fountains. “The exterior color drove the muted plant palette of subtle greens and grays with touches of blue,” he says of the mix comprising hydrangeas, salvias and Westringias, among others. “The house opens itself to the outside, and the landscape uses a vocabulary similar to the interior.”
Inside, those dark woods and finishes are replaced by white walls, complex textures and light woods. “The beautiful oak floor we selected was the jumping-off point for the interior,” says Bonesteel. “We carried it throughout, and then used the same oak for the exterior doors and gates.”
Perhaps the space that best encapsulates the home’s new dynamic is the dining room. “This was a very formal room,” says Trout. “It had a long table that was surrounded by chairs covered with cowhide. The clients wanted something that would work for a crowd but would also feel comfortable for just the two of them.” The answer was to reinvent the room with a pair of custom-designed tables that span the width of the room and, though they can be pushed together for a lot of guests, they are usually separated to make two cozy dining spots. A tailored banquette along the wall defines the space. In front of the dining area, a quartet of armchairs surrounds a circular ottoman, making a natural spot to relax pre- or post-dinner with a drink from the adjacent bar. “This is a fun couple—and cocktail hour is not to be missed,” says Bonesteel.
Shortly after the designers finished the home, they were invited to a party and got to see their handiwork in action. “About 80 people hung out outside until late, and then we went inside and mingled in the living and dining spaces until early morning,” says Trout. For the team, this was the affirmation that they had successfully ushered the home into the family’s next phase. “There is so much love and family history here,” says Bonesteel. “Now, the owners are ready to make more good memories in the years to come.”