Greystone: The Designers
As with the staging of an opera, the success of so elaborate an undertaking as the Beverly Hills Garden and Design Showcase represents a collaboration by scores of contributors at all levels of production
The concerted efforts of exceptionally talented professionals make the daz- zling results seem deceptively easy. With this in mind, Art and Living presents a behind-the-scenes showcase of its own, spotlighting a number of this year’s guest designers sharing their thoughts and insights as to what it takes to turn a time-honored classic into an up-to-the-minute masterpiece…
In Southern California the architecture and tastes of the residents differ so much. Spanish and modern homes stand alongside colonial and Tudor examples. Greystone’s formidable history and elegant magnificence atop Beverly Hills, the most legendary, glamorous and romantic of neighborhood names, sets it apart. I try to concentrate on architectural design by incorporating existing elements and enhancing architectural details. It’s exciting to research and reproduce a famous home’s original features which might have been replaced during prior redesign projects. It’s important to preserve the architectural heritage of buildings which represent the finest examples of a given architectural style. This is the viewable basis on which a com- munity’s history is built.
The social history of the Greystone Mansion has much to do with our room, as well as with the technology of the era in which it was built. If you look at the upper kitchen, it was very advanced in its day—the 1920s. It had cutting-edge refrigerators and a dumb waiter to haul up the “kill” from the property after game was shot from the upstairs balcony.This may seem barbaric by today’s standards, but it was a luxury back then. In redoing the kitchen, we wanted to capture the feeling of that moment in local history by recreating its very vibrant, no-nonsense working atmosphere.The stuffed birds and game you see placed on all the walls around the kitchen represent what the room was all about. It was not the flower-cutting room or the butler’s pantry. Its sole purpose was to prepare the venison, game, or fish for the evening’s dishes.The stuffed birds, by the way, originally were used for science classroom studies but recently have found their way into the retail marketplace, and can be seen at such stylish places as Bergdorf’s in New York. How times have changed!
Every century has its gems; great collections of art and architecture. In a historic jewel such as Greystone, I have simply tried to pick up where history left off. I love to offer a stimulating balance between unexpected juxtapositions—modern and traditional, pizzazz with simplicity. Blending old and new, function and flair, drabness and drama, I strove to reinvent the stateliness of Greystone’s main floor kitchen. At the point where the twentieth century meets the new millennium, it’s my intention to affirm the importance and the functionality of the contemporary kitchen. I am satisfied that my designs are successful when they provide clients with homes where they can entertain lavishly and live comfortably.The best results are always stunningly clear: a home that whispers elegance yet screams originality!
The designer acts as a mediator, facilitator and interpreter of style on every level. In a domestic design project, a husband and wife may have different ideas and different styles in mind. It is up to the designer to satisfy both individuals while keeping intact the integrity of the design. In many cases, the designer acts as a mediator especially when it comes to issues of cost. Many people want a specific look. Will the budget be sufficiently realistic to ensure implementation of the desired design? It’s up to the designer to edu- cate clients regarding such matters. In this sense, the designer is a teacher.
When starting a project, it is important to understand the home’s original context and its role in the community. For Greystone, that meant researching pictures of the house as it was originally. My goal was to be true to the concept of the house as it was during the period when it was first built and occupied. To inform myself about Greystone’s architectural heritage, I spoke with a relative of the Doheny family who had spent time in the home. The scale of the rooms was important to consider, with their high ceilings and large, open spaces. For the Second Floor Grand Hallway, we used the original look of the house with a French design influence, with the furniture being understated and using oriental rugs to bring in a sense of comfort and coziness. I knew the space was dark and that presented a major challenge. I used light shades of color with accents of blues and reds to lighten up the space.
In view of Greystone’s distinguished style and imposing histor y, I gave Mr. Doheny’s master suite a very dramatic, sophisticated, Old Hollywood Haute look that is sexy and inviting, characterized by clean lines and one-of-a-kind custom pieces. I kept it very clean and minimal, as well as classical, using sharply-defined patterns in black-and-white and deep, masculine colors in accessories and artwork to set the tone. As a hospitality designer, I like to create spaces and environments that are innovative and visually stunning. I feel that the designer should cut a new path around the icons of the past and strive to leave a fresh footprint, to be part of the next generation in design and play a role in its future.
While designing Mrs. Doheny’s suite, we reflected upon the glamorous 1920s in which her mansion was built and incorporated its grandness by using fine silks, antiques, custom-designed rugs and velvets that she might have picked herself during that period.We have embraced the integrity of the mansion’s architecture and considered the footprint of the area and the furniture layout capabilities.We have entitled our suite “Hollywood Glamour”, considering its social history. Serving as an interpreter of style, the JWI Design Group has used both new and familiar vendors to achieve a beautiful space.
CHRIS FOWLER & SUZY MOORE
For us, inspiration came from visualizing the previous owners as they enjoyed the home, and how they might have made use of each of the rooms.The mansion’s rich architectural details and importance in the community definitely helped us keep our sights clear. Our design philosophy is fairly simple: to help clients define a personal style while making sure that comfort and function are high priorities. A good designer must also be a good listener, and sometimes a mind-reader. Sometimes clients don’t know exactly what they want, so steering them towards a beautiful outcome may take a bit of patience; this, however, is always worth the effort!
I am inspired by the Greystone project because of the grandeur and the history of the building itself. It is as if I am brought back in time as I roam the halls. Oddly enough, I am more energized by the unfinished spaces, where I imagine lives lived there, than by the gorgeously finished rooms! The scale of a room is a vital component in the design planning process.The space must be seen from all angles and each dimension assessed to make sure that every design element is incorporated into the plan.The use of positive and negative space is crucial in the early stages of the design and to ignore the height or any other part of a room does not do justice to the final result. Scale and proportion play a major role in relating content to container. Style is essential but, if the proportion is off, nothing will make that mistake seem right.
The particular excitement about the Greystone project is working in an environ- ment with wonderful scale, proportion, and architectural detail.To take an existing space, color the backgrounds, and fill it with wonderful things—what a dream! The social history of a residence, neighborhood, etc., is factored more or less into any design scheme, depending on one’s brief. If it’s to create a historic interior, obviously it is given more consideration; if it’s to create an everyday living space for the residents, their needs are considered first, with an eye to making the total scheme harmonious with the architecture. When serious design produces a space for someone to live in which is beautiful, comfortable and functional, then that design has certainly fostered a greater enjoyment of life.
I come from the East Coast where preservation is a very strong aspect of culture. Many buildings are older than those found in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is considered to be in its infancy, by European standards. Though a young city, more of its vintage architectural treasures need to be given
attention with respect to their worthiness for preservation so that the future of the area will consist of more to reflect on than a landscape of strip malls. As a prototype house in one of the world’s most exclusive residential neighborhoods, Greystone exemplifies the sorts of landmark edifices in the Los Angeles metroplex that demand continuing efforts at careful cultivation and preservation. When considering Greystone, it’s interesting to think in terms of the people who used to live there and use that to interpret what can be expanded upon to bring the home still honoring the bones of the home. Scale has to be considered every step of the way so you don’t overpower or minimize the space. My particular space— Second Floor West Grand Hallway—is very small. Therefore the size of selected furnishings is of key importance, so that persons passing through the space don’t feel overwhelmed.
When I consider a space such as the Guest Library at Greystone, I attempt to tai- lor the interior design to enhance the function of the space in a fashion that will be comfortable for the client as well as provide visual and intellectual stimulation and recreational diversion. I first look at the architectural detail of the space. At Greystone, there is plenty of great detail to work with and my design takes advantage of the library paneling by applying wall upholstery and faux-painted finishes and by lining the bookcases to create a lush envelope for the room. Window treatments are integrated into the paneling, softening hard edges and framing views to the outside almost like stage sets. As we move into the North Terrace, we bring the comforts of home outdoors in our room without a ceiling. The grand pattern and scale of the textiles used outdoors relate to the scale and the opulence of the residence.This space is the transition from the house to the ter- raced hillside gardens and is intended as a space to relax and enjoy the view.
Art is an extremely important part of an environment.The inclusion of art and antiques in a home creates warmth, depth, and soul. I respond to the structural components of a home when I design. I can create harmony and impact in an interior by designing in the same genre as the surrounding artwork, or create an inte- rior in juxtaposition to the artwork which surrounds it. A wonderful energy is released when one style exists in juxtaposition to another. From this perspective,
the reconfiguring of Greystone’s interiors presents a unique and delightful challenge. Greystone is to California what the Biltmore House is to North Carolina. Both estates were designed to be domiciles for living in a grand manner on a grand scale. The preservation of such monuments is critical. Through them, we experience a part of history; it’s as if we’re in the presence of exposed archaeology.
The history of a socially prominent residence such as Greystone has a strong bearing on the design scheme for the major rooms and common living areas; not so much so in the secondary rooms. Of course, any well-designed space should flow throughout. The Greystone Estate is a spectacular structure with a wonderful architectural style which sits squarely in a fabulous area of Southern California. Preservation of such significant historical entities serves to inspire contemporary architects and designers and acts as a template to put their own ideas in perspective. I consider the highest mission of applied art in general to be the way it brings a sense of history and culture and an elevated sense of style to whomever has the opportunity to see and appreciate it.
While formulating my plan for the Dining Room, I envisioned the pastimes of the Doheny family who entertained guests in the Great Room, which was used as a ballroom where musicians played for their guests so they could dance. I imagined those guests, resplendent in beautiful ball gowns and tuxedos, arriving for an elegantly set dinner in a regally appointed dining room. Here, two round tables con- ducive to intimate conversation are surrounded by luxurious chairs.The dining area contains antique furnishings, accessories and artwork from Asia and Europe—the latest trend at that time. Mrs. Doheny was greatly inspired by having this look in her home. Completing the picture is a comfortable seating area in the window bay where dinner guests could relax with their postprandial drinks before sojourning into the Great Room to dance the night away.