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Best of Design

From San Francisco to San Diego and all areas beyond and between, the Golden State offers a staggering amount of inspiration for innovative and timeless design. Here, we highlight the best designers, architects, spaces, places and pieces, all of which have one thing in common: a quintessentially Californian point-of-view.

Fisher & Paykel worked with Santa Monica-based interior designer Ginny Capo to create chef Ludo Lefebvre’s ideal kitchen.

The team at Horst Architects transformed an intimate beach cottage in Laguna Beach’s exclusive Three Arch Bay enclave into a family of four’s dream home.

The Apartment by The Line’s new Melrose Place showroom presents contemporary and vintage items in an impeccably lived-in setting.

Take in a bite with a view at The Edge Steakhouse inside The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, designed by SB Architects.


Best Bedroom: Brooke Wagner 
“Our client wanted a coastal, bohemian-style home with lots of white and texture in the form of vintage woods and textiles,” says Corona del Mar-based designer Brooke Wagner. The designer joined the team of Patterson Custom Homes and Brandon Architects in the early stages of construction, which allowed her to collaborate on finishes throughout the home—something the designer and homeowner put to showstopping effect in the master bedroom. “We saw the wood herringbone tile at Famosa while we were selecting stone and tile for the kitchen and bathrooms, and knew we needed to use it somewhere,” she recalls. “It was a perfect accent to the tone-on-tone grays and whites we were working with in her bedroom.” Other touches include custom pieces (the headboard, pillows and nightstands), agate lamps from Bliss Home & Design, a rug from Kravet and restful hues from Farrow & Ball. 2732 E. Coast Highway, Ste. C., Corona
del Mar, 949.612.2716

Best Kitchen: Ginny Capo
With critically acclaimed restaurants like Trois Mec and Petit Trois, chef Ludo Lefebvre has reached superstar status in L.A. But when remodeling his own home, he opted for a clean, functional environment that incorporated touches of his native Burgundy, France. Conceived by Santa Monica-based designer Ginny Capo, the house welcomes guests through a front yard filled with lavender plants and olive trees. Inside, the kitchen “... needed to marry the requirements of a chef with the needs of my family,” Lefebvre says. The home’s standout room features a 12-foot Caesarstone Calacatta Nuvo-topped island complete with two cooktops, and sleek stainless steel appliances by Fisher & Paykel. And in a nod to his beginnings, shelves above the cabinets store his most cherished cookbooks—because even a master had to start somewhere. 1544 Ninth St., Unit 8, Santa Monica, 917.612.6553

Best Bathroom: Erinn Valencich
Perched above Sunset Plaza on one of the most desirable hillsides in all of L.A. is a striking modernist home by architect Hagy Belzberg and interior designer Erinn Valencich. For the master bathroom, the designer created a spa-like experience. “It’s a big, monolithic shower with the toilet rooms hidden in each side,” she explains. “It’s very modern but with a Zen feel as it overlooks the garden.” The designer opted for Kohler fixtures throughout—“the shower includes every feature imaginable: sound, steam, preset preferences, body sprays, hand showers and so on,” she says—and she further customized items like a freestanding tub by wrapping it in walnut. Natural stone slabs were sourced from Daltile, while the walnut and stone vanities are Valencich’s own design. 373 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, 310.247.0080

Best Indoor-Outdoor Space: ID Collaborative
For a remodel in Dana Point, designers Kimberly Campbell, Tyler Crouse and Sonya Derbonne of Laguna Niguel-based Interior Design Collaborative opted for the clean-lined look of white walls enlivened with metals, woods and texture for visual interest. The style extends to the casita, where the trio created a retreat that’s as much for the owners as it is for their guests. “Sliding walls open to the pool and a walkway that leads to the barbecue area and the main house,” explains Crouse. Inside, the firm placed a modular sofa from Innovation, classic LCW Eames chairs from Herman Miller and a media unit from Oly Studio alongside elements that reflect the homeowners’ love of music and surfing. Remote-controlled blackout shades and surround sound allow the space to double as a media room. Not surprisingly, the casita is now one of the clients’ favorite rooms, explains Crouse. “They use it for everything from entertaining to napping, and just enjoying the California sun!” 714.390.3956

Best Interior Designer: Nicole Hollis 
Known for creating glamorously brooding interiors inspired by fashion, art and architecture, Nicole Hollis’ firm has tripled in size over the last three years, warranting an expansive new office in the SOMA district. Now some 40 members strong, the award-winning firm recently completed hotels in Seattle and Carmel Valley, winery and restaurant projects in Napa Valley, and several Bay Area residences. Next up: more California homes, plus hotels in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Miami. “I’m gearing up for a busy 2016,” says Hollis. “I thrive on it and can’t wait.” 1000 Brannan St., Ste. 503, San Francisco, 415.278.9457


Best Traditional Design Firm: Kendall Wilkinson
“My guiding principle is ‘order equals calm’,” says San Francisco-based Kendall Wilkinson. Last year, the designer, who is known for her sophisticated and timeless interiors, completed myriad homes in the Bay Area, while developing her new collection for Fabricut, which debuts this spring. This year, Wilkinson will be taking on more Bay Area commissions; projects in New York City and Hawaii; and vacation homes in Lake Tahoe, Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. Be it a primary or secondary home, or be it city or country, “an uncluttered home makes for a more relaxing retreat.” 3419 Sacramento St., San Francisco, 415.409.2299

Best Architecture Firm: Horst Architects
Whether it’s a modern beach home or an island resort, Laguna Beach-based Horst Architects creates structures that share in a robust dialogue with their surroundings. “This has become my specialty, as we are fortunate to live in this wonderful climate that promotes the integration of interior and exterior living,” says owner Horst Noppenberger, who formed his firm—where he collaborates on projects with his wife, Arianna, of Aria Design—in 1989. Currently on his plate are several new O.C. homes, including a midcentury stunner for Minnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes and a 30-unit live-work facility for artists in Laguna Canyon. He’s also developing two resorts—one in Brazil and another on a private island in the Bahamas. “What we discover in these projects will also be instilled in the work we [do] in Orange County,” he says. “I don’t know what this looks and feels like yet, but I have my face to the wind, and I’m standing at the edge of the precipice.” 241 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, 949.494.9569

Best Landscape Design: Roger’s Gardens 
When it comes to selecting a company to design a gorgeous landscape for your home, look no further than Roger’s Gardens. The O.C.-based nursery prides itself in planting California-friendly gardens which help diminish the effects of the historic drought across the state. 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, 949.640.5806

Best Contemporary Design Firm: Consort 
Besides the obvious star power, what do Jessica Alba, Jimmy Kimmel and Sophia Bush have in common? The celebs have all been clients of Consort, the cutting-edge classic design firm founded by Mat Sanders and Brandon Quattrone. Known for a bold, fashion-forward sensibility, the duo has applied their unique aesthetic to their new, eponymous boutique on Melrose Avenue. “The store is a playfully chic assortment of poppy furnishings and decor that looks great when mixed in with all the vintage and rough hewn finds you’ll find throughout the West Coast,” says Sanders, who along with Quattrone, has his plate full for 2016 with numerous projects, including Revolve’s first L.A. showroom and actress Shay Mitchell’s Spanish-style home. 6918 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323.930.5688

Best Kitchen Showroom: Inplace Studio
Inplace Studio has been designing high-end interiors since 2000, but last December the La Jolla studio unveiled a renovated showroom nearly double the size that boasts five new kitchens, one of which includes a working model for events and demos, as well as a video conferencing area to consult with clients. Founded by trained architect Alison Dorvillier, the award-winning studio represents SieMatic, Wood-Mode and Neff, and, more recently, lighting fixtures from Hubbardton Forge—luxe brands that can translate to everything from Tuscan and Hamptons styles to contemporary looks. “We can elevate the design through the moldings and details,” says Dorvillier. The proof is in the particulars—think highly polished nickel door cabinets from SieMatic and Neff’s high-gloss veneers. “It’s about finding the right item and making it custom,” she says. “If we can think of it and draw it, we can have it made.” 7739 Fay Ave., La Jolla, 858.454.7397


Best Store Expansion: Hudson Grace
When best friends Monelle Totah and Gary McNatton founded Hudson Grace in 2012 with a shop in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood, their current success was nothing shy of a dream. The lifestyle brand—which blends Totah’s eclectic style with McNatton’s love for all-things modern—quickly expanded to Marin County, Palo Alto and Montecito. With Hudson Grace’s growing popularity throughout northern and central California, the design duo set their sights further south, particularly the home goods go-to’s new home: the Brentwood Country Mart. “This has been a fantasy of ours from Day One,” says McNatton, who would often visit the Westside destination when he lived in Los Angeles 25 years ago. So when a rare spot opened up in the former Botany flower shop, the pair jumped at the chance to move in. The jewel-box 500-square-foot space—their fifth California location—is painted a dramatic deep gray and offers the brand’s signature oversize white dinnerware and entertaining pieces ($12 to $295) alongside one-of-a-kind vintage finds like classic Italian silverware sets ($500) and art deco martini shakers ($395). And, in a sweet nod to the shop’s previous tenant, there are also chic bunches of flowers available, culled each morning by the boutique’s resident florist. “It’s almost like you are coming to a cocktail party,” says McNatton of the overall ambience. “[Not only did we want] the store to look and feel as though it was a home, but we [also] wanted to create an atmosphere so that when you come in, you’re seduced.” For 2016, look for the brand’s third signature candle ($65), which features an intoxicating mix of driftwood, coastal cypress and California white oak, and is aptly named the Brentwood, in honor of the brand’s newest outpost. 225 26th St., Santa Monica, 310.458.0200

Best Tables: David Alan Collection 
Duke’s La Jolla is the latest coup for David Alan Collection, San Diego’s go-to source for antique and contemporary furnishings with a primarily Indonesian provenance. Owner David Alan and manager Justin Mans found and re-milled 200-year-old teak beams from Central Java for the Hawaiian-inspired hot spot’s new dining tables. Fans can find similar looks at Alan’s 15,000-square-foot showroom in Solana Beach’s arts district, from primitive table slabs with authentic patinas from centuries of use ($2,500) to David Alan Collection’s latest standout original design, a live-edge Claro walnut table with forged bronze legs cast from a tree branch ($16,000). Also noteworthy: an Alan-designed jewelry collection inspired by antique artifacts ($300 to $900) and a new collection of contemporary paintings from Indonesian artists ($2,500 to $7,000). 241 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, 858.481.8044

Best Decor Destination: Soco
Since opening seven years ago in Costa Mesa, South Coast Collection has become the go-to spot for everything design in O.C. With showrooms by the industry’s hottest brands including HD Buttercup, Farrow & Ball and Design Within Reach, the 300,000-square-foot decor haven also features an array of culinary options like Taco María, Temakira and an award-winning farmers market (Saturdays only). Look out for SOCO Uncorked (from $75) this March with live music, bites by SOCO tenants and wine pairings by LCA Wine. Cheers! 3303 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949.760.9150

Best Tile: clé
Is it tile or is it art? When it comes to the incredible designs and exquisite craftsmanship from Sausalito-based clé, the unequivocal answer is—both. “We work with remarkable artists, and their collections are available exclusively through us,” says founder and Creative Director Deborah Osburn. “The work is functional as tile, however, the unique beauty of it results in installations that are more art than tile.” 2015 welcomed a dynamic graphic cement collection; new additions to San Francisco-based sculptor John Whitmarsh’s Reconstruction Studies; and the release of Osburn’s book, Tile Envy ($25, Cicada Books). Look out for luxe Chinoiserie tiles in porcelain and a new Artists Collection of cement tiles in 2016. 415.887.9011

Best Pieces: The Apartment by The Line
Designed to emulate a chic, minimalist living space, Vanessa Traina Snow and Melanie Glass’ pitch-perfect new showroom, The Apartment by The Line, has an enviable mix of classic and contemporary pieces up for grabs. Here, four of the boutique’s best bets. 8483 Melrose Place, Second Floor, L.A., 323.746.5056

1. Mirror Image Milan-based Studiopepe was inspired by midcentury Italian design when creating this sleek, double-sided brass and green marble tabletop mirror for Menu ($549).

2. White Out Constructed of full-grain white oxhide and satin-brushed stainless steel, the sinuous Poul Kjærholm-designed Hammock chair for Fritz Hansen ($20,703) is masterfully held together by gravity and friction.

3. Curve Appeal Located in the boutique’s dressing room, Atelier De Troupe’s Cigale Twisting sconce ($1,450) would also look stunning bedside or in an entryway. 

4. Ace Accent Gabriel Scott’s marble and brass Prong side table ($2,450) was inspired by jewelry settings.


Best Winery: Hamel Family Wines 
When creating a winemaking facility, Hamel Family Wines set out to construct a modern yet inviting space that highlighted its stunning 124-acre parcel nestled between the mountains and the valley in Sonoma. The resulting structure—designed by renowned architecture firm Gould Evans, with interiors by San Francisco’s Angela Free—incorporates sustainable details like night air cooling and a living green roof, plus a sleek tasting room and commercial kitchen for VIP food pairings. Most impressive of all is the outdoor terrace, where Free installed pieces from Monterey-based Summit Furniture’s Smoothie Collection, all custom-weathered to produce a soft, bleached effect that blends seamlessly into the scenery. 15401 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707.996.5800

Best Lobby: Eighth & Grand
Downtown L.A.’s booming growth, which includes the opening of The Broad and myriad restaurants and high-end retailers, has created an all-new demand for luxury rental units—a need most stylishly met by the just-opened Eighth & Grand. Designed by Carrier Johnson + Culture and architect Daryoush Safai, the seven-story, 700-unit tower offers a variety of floor plans and all the amenities one expects of a five-star hotel (resort-style pools, sculpture garden, sky lounge, cafe and fitness center, plus the area’s only Whole Foods Market). With public spaces by Commune and a model residence and rotating lobby display by Jonathan Adler, the project is at the forefront of this new kind of hospitality-meets-residential design. “Commune has created amazing interior and exterior spaces at our project,” says Neils Cotter, vice president of development at Carmel Partners. “Their aesthetic, combined with Jonathan Adler’s furnishings, has created an atmosphere for our residents that is second to none.” From $2,345, 770 S. Grand Ave., L.A., 213.293.2447

Best Office: DuChâteau
With its top-notch custom wood flooring in L.A.’s Beats by Dre headquarters and NYC’s Saks Fifth Avenue outpost, DuChâteau is quickly becoming one of the hottest resources in the design biz. To keep up with its ever-growing business and high-end clientele, the San Diego-based brand recently opened a stunning new international flagship and corporate office designed in-house. The space is a mix of floor-to-ceiling glass offices and open work spaces chock-full of quirky design elements like colorful artwork by Daniel Maltzman and neon coil light fixtures. Only separated by a two-story wall of glass, offices sit directly opposite from the Atelier manufacturing facility—the home of the brand’s beloved series of the same name, which unveiled three new lines this past January. 8480 Miralani Drive, San Diego, 888.382.4283

Best Hospitality Design: SB Architects 
2015 was a banner year for SB Architects. Not only did the prominent international firm celebrate its 55th anniversary, but it completed a slew of high-profile projects, both in California and beyond. Here in the Golden State, the San Francisco-based office aided in the transformation of the Carmel Valley Ranch; created residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage; oversaw the renovation of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn; and put the finishing touches on Sonoma’s Farmhouse Inn, complete with a charming new equestrian-inspired spa. And it appears that they have no plans to slow down. “We are so pleased to be working on a large number of projects in California, as well as around the world,” says Scott Lee, president and principal of SB Architects. “[This includes] renovations and expansions to iconic properties, new luxury resorts, several multifamily housing projects and urban mixed-use developments.” Next up, look out for the restoration of the historic Freemark Abbey Winery in Napa Valley. 1 Beach St., Ste. 101, San Francisco, 415.673.8990

Best Hotel: The Landsby
For its first-ever hotel project, L.A.-based Studio Collective ( opted for a modern yet cozy vibe at The Landsby. The multimillion-dollar renovation involved a complete overhaul of the property—located a short drive from Santa Barbara in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley’s wine country—which now boasts airy, light-filled guest rooms and public spaces, all adorned with clean-lined Scandinavian-style modern furniture, black-and-white tribal textiles and whimsical artwork—a refreshing contrast to Solvang’s traditional Danish town center. From $280 per night, 1576 Mission Drive, Solvang, 805.688.3121