Beach House

For a massive steel, glass, and limestone contemporary home on the beach in Malibu, we were tasked with domesticating a series of breathtaking yet uninviting spaces. The relatively new house was in immaculate condition, so it was decided that any intervention would be fairly light-touch. The client wanted to soften the house’s muscularity, improve the acoustics and create layered, intimate spaces within its cavernous volumes without making structural changes.

Our first move was inspired by the tamboured surface treatments in Gio Ponti’s design for the SS Andrea Doria. We clad a double-height curved volume with tamboured teak doors to conceal dozens of illuminated glass shelves and create necessary out-of-sight storage. This, and the generous addition of teak paneling created much-needed warmth while feeling completely appropriate to the waterfront setting. The sensual teak cabinet pulls were inspired by examples found on case pieces by Giovanni Michelucci. In the entry, we mounted c.1965 carved and gilded Carrara marble panels by Nerone and Gianni Patuzzi to the teak paneling, and in the master bedroom, we commissioned a chromatic, bas-relief mural by legendary California ceramicist Brent Bennett, set within a teak-paneled niche. These elements lend a sense of history and specificity to the otherwise purely contemporary envelope.

A double-sided fireplace was given a new sculptural steel surround, and an angular wrap-around hearth

that creates overflow seating for large gatherings. Dramatic lighting fixtures including a unique chandelier created from a dozen vintage Marco Zanuso pendant lamps, and a massive capiz shell globe lantern take advantage of the scale of the home.

Fleshing out the interiors, we looked North, to Big Sur, and South, to Rio de Janeiro. The double-height glass volume of the main living spaces effectively creates a hothouse environment, so we incorporated built-in planters for monsteras to cascade from, and planted enormous split-leaf philodendrons and large trees in vintage David Cressey pots. All thrive in the full sun, diffused as needed by floor-to-ceiling Jack Lenor Larson open-weave draperies.  Interior furnishings are mostly post-war Italian and American pieces and include important examples by Gio Ponti, Santambrogio & De Berti, Carlo Di Carli, Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames. These are mixed with contemporary designs by B&B Italia, Droog and Promemoria. The extensive outdoor terraces are furnished with Van Keppel Green and Miller Fong.

Vintage African textiles, cowhide, abaca, redwood and matte ceramic add to the tactile environment.

Photography: Dominique Vorillon