When this sprawling stucco home in Brentwood, Los Angeles changed hands in 2019, headlines heralded it as one of Dean Martin’s former homes. But the architectural provenance of the building is equally interesting: the 3,256-square-foot ranch house is one of the earliest designs by architect Clifford May who helped promote the concept of indoor/outdoor living.
May, considered by historians to be the father of the ranch house, built the custom low house in the mid-1930s across from his own home. Every aspect of the house points to a courtyard created by its U-shape. At the time, each room also overlooked a lily pond.
Although the house’s plaster walls, wood plank ceilings, rustic beams and low-pitched clay tile roof are intact, the renovations resulted in elements that did not align with the exterior. ‘architecture. Designer Mallory Kaye, who the current owners hired to refresh the home, removed all unnecessary details to better showcase May’s original intent. Kaye then tweaked it to match his customers’ taste.
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Rather than leaning into the home’s Spanish vibes, the owners opted for bright and airy spaces. “They wanted sophisticated finishes paired with functionality that would withstand the wear and tear of young children,” says Kaye. The result is a study in comfortable elegance. Soft curves in furniture and decor, antique pieces, brass finishes, and marble focal points come together in a style that Kaye calls “hacienda French femme.” “It’s a tasteful combination of eras, backgrounds and personalities that suits my clients and works with the architecture,” she explains.
In creating the custom adobe-style plaster hood, Kaye was inspired by architecture. A skylight spans the full width of the room and bathes it in natural light.
For the bar, Kaye designed a grid of wine racks flanked by closed storage.
The antique brass switch covers that Kaye installed throughout the house lend a warm patina.
Kaye designed a shelf that spans the full length of the bookcase. Its choice of material – the same oak used for the floors in the other rooms – helps to visually connect it to the rest of the house. The space functions as a playroom or a place to relax with a book. It is also ideal for entertaining as it is right next to the bar and kitchen. “I love the display of books showcasing their interests mixed with personal photos and memorabilia from their travels,” says Kaye. “It gives you an insight into their history and their lives.”
The owners, who knew artist James Mobley, loved the idea of him painting a mural that echoes the original landscape that surrounds the house. “Her work really transports you,” Kaye says. She found the table turned into a vanity at a vintage store in Santa Monica. “I always look for antique wooden pieces at great prices,” says Kaye.
The subtle colors of the Turkish rug inspired the overall palette, including this neutral clay finish on the walls. A full-length drapery frames the courtyard view and highlights the primitive wooden console table that was one of the designer’s favorite antique finds.
Kaye designed this built-in vanity with open storage at the bottom to replace the one customers purchased before hiring. “I love how the fabric of the roman shade ties in with the color of the vanity,” she says. “It’s the perfect feminine touch.”
Kaye’s trip to Puglia, Italy inspired the soft blue/grey for the girl’s bedroom. “Covering the walls and ceiling made it one of the most peaceful rooms in the house,” she says.
Terracotta floor tiles from Bordeaux, France complement the original Spanish terracotta floor tiles in the adjacent library. “The pink, burgundy and green hues play into the French feminine style that I introduced throughout,” the designer explains. White walls keep the small room airy.
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