Nancy and Bruce Newberg had been eyeing the property near their family’s Los Angeles home for several years before the for sale sign finally went up. With views out over the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains, it was the perfect site for their dream project, a house that would redefine Southern California style—which is to say, a home that would marry the more minimalist aesthetic Nancy had seen on trips to Europe with the handcrafted feel of historic L.A. homes by such iconic local architects as Wallace Neff and George Washington Smith.
“It was a new chapter for us,” says Newberg, a jewelry designer whose delicate Art Deco–inspired oxidized silver–and-diamond pieces are a favorite of celebrities like Reese Witherspoon. “Our kids were out of the house, and I was envisioning something much more pared-down—what I like to call an adult home, where we could entertain friends and host our kids when they are in town.”
For years, Newberg had worked with Los Angeles–based interior designer Kathryn M. Ireland, whose signature paisley prints and bold colors filled her family’s first home. But that was a very different, darker space with many bedrooms. “And we have both evolved in our taste,” says Ireland, a native of England who is known for her restorations of Spanish Colonial homes in Ojai, Santa Monica, and Palos Verdes Estates. “Nancy still wanted fabulous textiles and beautiful steel-framed windows and doors to allow lots of light into the space, but she was ready for a simpler, almost monastic kind of interior.”
She arranged for Newberg to visit the Belgian château and Kanaal gallery of designer Axel Vervoordt. Newberg was instantly taken with the elegance and simplicity of Vervoordt’s influential style. “That was her ‘aha!’ moment,” says Ireland. “And then I had to channel myself into that style.”
Another revelation came when Newberg and Ireland were searching for the right architect to help realize this dream. Driving around the neighborhood, Ireland spotted a recent Marmol Radziner project, which then triggered an idea: Why not enlist the modernist architect Ron Radziner to execute their vision? They would combine Radziner’s signature streamlined style with Spanish Colonial details such as plaster walls and tiled roofs to create a light-filled structure with large rooms, indoors and out, for entertaining. A creamy, natural interior palette punctuated with subtle blues and greens would join the modernist architecture and the exterior landscape.
One thing Ireland knew for certain was that anything minimalistic had to be of the highest quality. “John Pawson once told me that, and I’ve always believed that it’s better to make things locally,” she says. She tapped several Los Angeles artisans for furniture, lanterns, ceramics, fabrics, and rugs. Christopher Farr designed many of the rugs, and the pottery was custom made by a professor of ceramics at the University of California, Los Angeles, whom Ireland had discovered at the Santa Monica flea market. Larger pieces, such as the cherry-and–brass inlay library table and the wrought-iron canopy bed, come from Ireland’s newest resource—and latest project—, a website she launched last fall offering users complete rooms designed by such A-List decorators as Jeffrey Bilhuber, Jeffrey Alan Marks, and Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Users of the site can browse rooms by designer and buy curated design packages that range from floor plans and mood boards to accessories or even entire spaces.
Ireland and Newberg traveled together to Stockholm, France, and Italy, shopping the flea markets of Paris and the antiques fair in Parma for artworks, ceramics, and furniture. They also relied on their favorite local dealers such as Obsolete, where they found the French haberdashery table in the front hallway, and Galerie Half, where they bought a 1940s Swedish floor lamp and the 1968 brass FontanaArte ceiling pendant in the library.
Ireland added touches of color to the creamy palette, from the tie-dyed pillows in the living room, which were handmade in Suffolk, England, to the atmospheric greenish-blue palette of the library. “You do need some color,” she says. “Even if it’s just pops.”
Landscape designer Stephen Block of brought in mature olive and oak trees, lending a sense of history to the house. “People are still not sure if the house is new or not,” Newberg says, “which is just what I wanted.”
This story originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Siweb.