The casual dining room features Alison Berger lighting fixtures. Photograph by Ethan Pines

Estate of Grace

by Alexandria Abramian-Mott | magazine | April 12, 2012

Jane Buckingham is paid to know where hemlines are currently hitting, where they hit last year and where they’re going to land next season; she’s intimately acquainted with what kind of microbrews the 35-to-44 demographic will deign to drink; and she’s happy to discuss the reasons why flash robberies and Occupy Wall Street suggest a major shift in the next generation’s way of thinking—and purchasing. Clients for her company, Trendera, include Hilton Hotels, Fox TV and Gap. But even if Jane is laser-attuned to the latest in fashion, technology and culture, home life is a different story.

“I study trends, but I don’t always want to live them,” says the New York transplant. “In fact, sometimes I want to escape them.” That might explain her 1928 home, where she lives with her husband, Marcus, and two children. The two-story Mediterranean, located smack in the middle of Beverly Hills, is the ultimate escape from a life spent following fads. “Trends change so much, it’s like a losing battle, and then I think about design trends—like avocado green when I was growing up or those scenting sticks that everybody seemed to have a while ago—and I don’t think home is the right place for that kind of thing,” says Jane.

So the Buckinghams hired L.A.-based British designer Antonia Hutt to make some visual magic happen in a way that wouldn’t look dated a week—or a decade—later. “I wanted to avoid anything that wasn’t kid-friendly, anything that was screaming, ‘I’m a trend and I’m trying hard!’” Jane says. “But I also wanted to push myself, too. I’m probably more drawn to browns and neutrals. Antonia helped make this a great, vibrant place.”

Hutt sprinkled a quiet kind of vibrancy throughout. The term “pastel palette” might evoke The Golden Girls school of decorating, but in the formal living room, Hutt was able to create a space where shifting shades of soft greens, pinks and creams look simultaneously timeless and stylish—just the sweet spot of design that the Buckinghams were looking for.

“I wanted a house where, when you walk in, you don’t get attacked by the furniture,” says Marcus. “Some furniture is like an assault on the senses, but here the house itself is so beautifully designed with those Moorish arches and classical proportions. I didn’t want the furniture to go, ‘Shut up. I’m going to get your attention.’”

Even so, Marcus does concede that some of Hutt’s choices are exactly that: attention-getting. In the formal dining room, she selected chairs that are pink—a shade of bright fuchsia that matches the garden’s camellias to a T—and surround a black-and-white parchment dining table. “I’ll admit when I first saw the dining table, I thought, ‘Really?’” says Marcus. “But this is a northeast-facing room, and you either go with it or against it. We went with it and now it’s a sexy room with a table that is beautiful to look at and very functional but doesn’t take away from the whole.”

For Jane, the dining room represented an experiment in pushing herself beyond her color comfort zone. “I don’t know if I’m going to love hot pink dining room chairs forever but that’s OK. I’m definitely enjoying them now,” she says. And while she admits that the formal and dramatic dining room gets infrequent use—mostly for the big holiday meals—the home’s more casual, off-the-kitchen dining space is in constant use. “It looks onto the backyard, which more than anything was the selling point for both of us here,” she says. “It’s so peaceful back there, like you could be in Europe and not in the middle of the city.”

When it came to decorating her kids’ rooms, Jane hired interior designer Carla Lane to overhaul the spaces. For daughter Lilia, 8, Lane created a room that would transition from little girl to tween to teenager by keeping the look free of any overly specific cultural references. “She loves the TV show H2O, which is about three mermaid friends,” says Lane. “I wanted to reference that without being too specific. So we went with a turquoise headboard, seahorse pillows and a beachy hanging chair to make it feel more mermaidy.” A passing TV show trend not worth hitting on the head too hard? Sounds like just the ticket.