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Photography by Peden + Munk

Noir-Raising

by By Audrey Davidow | Modern Luxury Interiors California magazine | April 7, 2011

We all have our share of outrageous design fantasies—a show-stopping geometric print on the sofa, a garishly flocked fuchsia wallpaper, maybe even a glowing Lucite deer head over the mantel. But such over-the-top, high-design flourishes generally remain tucked in our imaginations, only to be played out in the lobbies of chic hotels and design magazines, for a reason—the thought of living with them day to day is a commitment most of us just aren’t willing to make.

Which is why Chris Ward—creative director of Neversoft, the gaming company behind PlayStation mainstays like Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk—decided to live out his offbeat design dreams in a home away from his more traditional Venice home, a pied-à-terre in downtown’s Eastern Columbia building.

For Ward, the one-bedroom loft is part retreat, part showcase—a mix of bold colors, contemporary art, and modern and vintage furniture—where he can let his quirky design vision run wild. Throughout the 800-square-foot pad, traditional pieces (a leather sofa, wingback chairs) mix easily with unconventional finds like a glass octopus chandelier and illuminated wooden deer heads, for an overall effect that’s both hunter’s den and under-the-sea fantasy.

To accomplish his over-the-top vision, Ward called on Marjorie Skouras, an L.A. designer who’s known for turning traditional on its head with her no-holds-barred use of color, texture and pattern.

“I’ve never been one for chintz, but this project really let the rebel in me run wild,” says Skouras, who admits to spending many a late night obsessively perusing the Internet for unusual treasures, like the arctic timber wolf rug that anchors the seating nook off the living room and the lacquered goatskin Aldo Tura bar. 

When she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted, Skouras went to work and made it herself. That Swarovski crystal scorpion chandelier in the bathroom, for example, is Skouras’ own creation, one she beaded by hand over the course of several weeks. “How stupid was that?” laughs the designer. “I was a bit overenthusiastic.” 

But her enthusiasm is evident throughout, in all the special touches that elevate many of the pieces from mere furniture to works of art. In the living room, Skouras filled a clear Lucite coffee table with taxidermy rattlesnakes, a Gila monster, scorpions, tarantulas and a chipmunk to create a striking desert scene—and great conversation piece. She also burned the kitchen cabinets with a blowtorch for a moody, charred effect, then embellished them with silver beetle knobs of her own design. 

“It’s essentially a folly, and since it’s not his primary residence, we were able to take it to a level that transcends the norm,” explains the designer, who accepted Ward’s challenge to use as many prints from bold British fabric designer Tricia Guild as possible. She ended up using nine different patterns in all, which is impressive given the size of the space. “They lend it a tremendous richness, a jewel-like quality,” says Skouras.

The living room drapes, for example, are a sophisticated display of mix-and-match. Each panel—a red brocade damask here, a turquoise and green silk there—is different from the next. And playing off Ward’s sense of humor, nothing in the place takes itself too seriously. In the bathroom, hand towels are embroidered with obscure hunting terms. (A framed glossary of terms on the counter helps explain.) And in the bedroom, Skouras punched up the black and white color scheme with a pair of chartreuse octopus sconces and a matching shag rug.

For Skouras, the project was one of those rare gems that allows a designer to operate without boundaries. “Normally, I might have to try to convince a client to try something new and different,” says Skouras, “but Chris pushed my creative envelope and we were able to create something wonderful together.”