For any designer, trust is freedom. So when your client just so happens to be Joe Russo, the mastermind director and one half of the Russo Brothers duo, behind movies like Captain America and Avengers, trust is not only freedom, it’s imperative. “When your client isn’t always around, the design process becomes very interesting,” says , interior designer and founder of her namesake firm, whose projects span the country and whose expertise earned her an A-list clientele.
Russo, who lives with his wife and four kids, enlisted Doherty to take his new Los Angeles house and make it a space for his family to grow, entertain, and most importantly, live. To make the home mature and kid-friendly all at once meant sourcing inventive materials, brainstorming a smart floor plan, and opting for durable and stylish finishes. Given his busy schedule, Russo would be away filming for many months out of the year, leaving Doherty with much of the creative freedom. But that isn't to say that Joe and his wife were not active in the process. Despite the physical distance that was often present between the Russo family and their home, both Joe and his wife kept in close with Doherty throughout the almost decade-long renovation. From big picture planning to the meticulous details, they were engaged. "There were times where I would show Joe and his wife three materials, they'd give me the OK, and we'd move forward," Doherty says. "They really understood the importance of trust in the creative process."
The house—sleek, modern, and “a bit like a boring box”—would be a hub for entertaining both adults and children, with a floor plan that flowed like the conversations within it. To say that comfort is key is not to suggest that style comes second, however. “They wanted to make sure every portion of the house was usable, but also very stylish,” Doherty says. Russo’s style leaned toward traditional; his wife preferred modern, so it was up to Doherty to strike a balance of opposing aesthetics that, in the end, felt harmonious. With a blank canvas in front of them and a “TBD” attitude regarding timeframe and budget, Doherty, Russo, and his wife devised a plan.
The first order of business was to warm things up. Wood-paneled ceilings, grey marble floors, new moldings, a glass-and-marble staircase, and an antique stacked-brick facade set the groundwork for additional layering. By weaving in traditional elements like warm wood, stone, and brick, but using them in a modern application, Doherty conjured a space that was contemporarily cozy, refined yet inviting.
Because this project was, as Doherty describes it, “eight years of starting and stopping,” downtime was an asset; a place to take a moment and breathe. Eight years might sound like a lot to the average homeowner, but these loose deadlines allowed for a design evolution that a firm end date simply couldn't support. "Joe and his wife are both creative people, and were open to things changing along the way. This allowed us to come up with new ideas as the project progressed," Doherty says. Once the metaphorical paint from the first round of design dried, the home was ready for a second coat, and Doherty began to source materials. A generous and expansive mix, driven by ultra-custom detail (oversized bronze mirrors, ink-dyed walls, double-lined sheer drapery, hypoallergenic silk rugs, to name a few) made for a space that quietly vacillates between sleek modernism and a cozy, family-friendly haven.
“We really wanted to make sure that the fabrics were comfortable and durable, but also pieces that would grow with the family and not go out of style,” Doherty says. “Despite how starkly modern the home is, it has a lot of heart.” Eight years of heart, to be exact.