A Renaissance couple. That’s how designers Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl describe their clients–he, an aerospace engineer, she, an artist and creative director–who hired the pair to renovate their Tuscan-style Santa Monica home. And it’s the sophisticated and worldly inclinations of the duo that served as the driving inspiration for Wollack and Zwickl, who were tasked with updating the house while maintaining its European feel. “Our goal was to make it very artful,” says Zwickl. “We wanted a balance of interesting materials, design and texture.”
In the living room this meant playing off the stone fireplace that exudes the old-world aesthetic the wife loves. So Wollack and Zwickl added classic touches such as an antique rug and the clients’ gracious grand piano, which, Wollack is quick to point out, doesn’t gather any dust. “They play that piano,” she says. “Nothing is just for show.” To kick the room up a notch and contribute a modern edge, the designers added a funky, angular light fixture plus steel-and-glass doors and windows, which frame stunning views of the home’s lush landscape. Emphasizing the home’s indoor-outdoor connection was also an important aspect of the concept and an olive tree placed in the corner of the room amplifies that feeling. “We always envisioned having a really beautiful tree inside,” muses Zwickl.
The designers saw the dining room as another chance to usher in the outdoors, once again installing steel-and-glass doors that open to the gardens. A live-edge dining table, vibrant green upholstery on the chairs and a feature wall that refers to the faÃ§ade’s stonework links exterior to interior without sacrificing sophistication. “It’s definitely more formal,” observes Wollack. “They have formal dinners often, with friends and clients. Their goal was for the room to be used.” A cigar bar offers an additional spot for entertaining, albeit in a more casual way. “We wanted something a little bit masculine,” says Zwickl of the cigar area. Guests can also indulge in a wine room. “It was always an important part of the plan,” she adds. “The wife is a sommelier, and they’re very into food and wine.”
For this reason, the kitchen was a big priority. “It originally had one long island,” says Zwickl. “We tore everything out.” The designers, who worked with project manager Michael Baker of New Mgmt. Design & Construction on the
home, instead fashioned a pair of islands–one forwork and one for dining. They chose a show-stopping brass hood as the centerpiece of the room and planned the rest of the space around it using painted cabinetry, stained wood and a backsplash in tile more textural than the standard subway variety. The steel-and-glass doors that enclose two sides of the adjacent breakfast room make for a sun-drenched space that feels like it exists outside rather than inside the house.
In addition to crafting spaces for socializing, the designers also accommodated the husband’s professional requirements, creating a place where he could meet with clients. “It had to look good,” says Wollack, “but we had to be realistic about it being a working office.” Earthy yet urbane, “It’s the perfect backdrop for a rocket scientist’s work,” observes Wollack. Light wood, a stone fireplace and black leather chairs lend a masculine air without a “man cave” feel. (The office isn’t the only area in which the husband’s career played a role in the design: The children’s playroom is dedicated to learning, with a wall covered in scientific equations and diagrams.)
Given the family’s active schedules, the designers considered it logical to imbue the master bedroom with a sense of tranquility. “We wanted to keep it really serene and calm,” says Zwickl. “The whole concept keeps everything tonal and plays with texture.” Soft white, gray and beige allow the views outside to take precedence. “The grounds are playful without being overrun,” adds Wollack of the surrounding landscape, which includes spots for entertaining (complete with a pizza oven, barbecue and refrigerator) as well as solitude. “I call it the secret garden. Everywhere you turn there’s a new secret area. It really has all these private moments.”
Ultimately, what Wollack and Zwickl provided was a place that celebrated the family and their passions, while remaining faithful to the beauty of the home’s architecture and grounds. “We wanted to keep the vibe of the old-world house and give it some TLC,” says Wollack. “Everything that was done was very personal to the family.”