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By AnnaMaria Stephens | Photo: Robert Benson | April 22, 2015
International designer Kris Lajeskie is reinvigorating country-club living in Rancho Santa Fe with global flair.
Behind the protected gates of the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, the residents tend to get a little restless. It’s not that homeowners have grown weary of the lush scenery surrounding their exclusive enclave, which could’ve been plucked from the northern Tuscan countryside. Nor is their issue with the world-class private golf course in their backyard. It’s more like a simple case of neighborhood wanderlust.
“They play musical homes,” laughs interior designer Kris Lajeskie. “Once you’re in the Bridges, you stay in the Bridges. You just reinvent.”
She should know. Even before Lajeskie relocated her official headquarters to Rancho Santa Fe, she was on her way to boldface success with the tightknit Bridges community. Her blanket strategy for the area’s massive, Mediterranean-style homes? Go lighter and brighter, from bespoke furnishings and artwork to layers of texture and eye-catching sparkle.
“It’s challenging to create intimacy in large-scaled spaces,” explains Lajeskie. “They can feel empty and cold, especially when filled with dark items. I work with the architecture to bring in the light. Lately I’m drawn to washed woods and beautiful natural linens—looks that are not stuffy at all, but played down, casual and comfortable.”
Less formal and more livable was exactly what Tim and Mary Beth Blansett were seeking when they tapped Lajeskie to design their second home in the Bridges, not far from their first. “We were delighted with the updates Kris did to our former home,” says Tim, an avid golfer and the reigning club champ. “When we bought our current home—a project that’s 25 times bigger than the first—it was only natural that we reached for her.”
It didn’t hurt that Lajeskie knows her clients particularly well. Since meeting the Blansetts three years ago when she was working on a neighbor’s home, the three have become close friends. In November, Lajeskie and Mary Beth even traveled to Peru together to visit Machu Picchu.
“All I do is travel around the world,” says Lajeskie, who also maintains offices in New Mexico and New York. “And I bring all of it with me.”
Lajeskie’s globe-trotting-gone-luxe aesthetic is on full display at her retail showroom in Rancho Santa Fe. The 2,200-square-foot treasure box, replete with 13 bay windows, is even open to the public. “I had my artists touch literally every inch of it,” says the designer, who recently returned from buying trips to Paris and Venice, as well as a two-month sabbatical spent touring Jordan, Israel and Egypt.
For the Blansetts, Lajeskie focused on carving out comfortable spaces throughout the home, alternating between soft and soothing, and vivaciously saturated with color. The Explorers Room, once a traditional library lined entirely in wood, is now Mary Beth’s space to relax and dream about her next travel adventure. Lajeskie hid the heavy-feeling wall panels with bright ikat fabrics and antique mirrors. She also gave new life to familiar pieces, wrapping a handsome pair of chairs in zebra hides and side tables in on-trend shagreen.
And she frequently collaborates with master artist Kaveri Singh, an expert at everything from Venetian plaster to murals. For the Blansetts, Singh created an ethereal chinoiserie-style painting of a white peacock that softly glows with an iridescent sheen. “I wanted a really nice backdrop for that large living space,” says Lajeskie.
What she doesn’t give a dramatic makeover, Lajeskie makes from scratch. “Custom is all I’ve ever done,” explains Lajeskie, whose current projects range from a 200-acre gentleman’s buffalo ranch to a boutique hotel in Albuquerque with iconic architecture firm Gensler. “I want just the right vibe and scale, and it’s easier to make it than buy it. It also means I have cultivated incredible artisans in my sphere.”
The Blansetts, who share their home with a pair of applehead Chihuahuas named Sugar and Angel, particularly admire the wine presentation room Lajeskie designed for their collection of California cabs and pinots. “But it’s hard to believe the difference in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of every part of the house,” says Tim.
While Lajeskie completed the house in her “blitz” style, finishing in mere months with a push at the end, the Blansetts decided to augment Lajeskie’s big reveal with a New Year’s Eve party for their friends at the Bridges—about 150 people in all.
The Bridges, Rancho Santa Fe
Mark Radford Architecture
Kris Lajeskie Design
Shades of Green
Custom hide rugs
H&M Ironworks/Iron Maiden
Custom furniture and lighting
Custom iron patinas
Custom onyx furniture and countertops
Shagreen and shell inlaid furniture and accessories