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Point of View
Maile Pingel | Photo: James Ray Spahn | January 17, 2014
Overlooking a canyon in the Pacific Palisades, architect William Hefner has built a modernist home with a unified message.
For a national political consultant who spends his days dealing with strategic planning, advertising, the media, public opinion—the list goes on—it’s little wonder that his home must function equally as a place of respite and a place for entertaining. With an enviable lot on one of the most desirable streets in the Pacific Palisades, the owner called on local architect William Hefner, whom he met through a friend, to create just that: a very private retreat that can also host a hundred.
Behind a minimalist and somewhat intimidating facade of custom-fabricated zinc and smooth stucco lies an open and airy home imbued with simplicity. “He wanted something that would take advantage of the wonderful views,” Hefner says of the owner. And that’s precisely what the architect created. Nearly the entire rear facade of the two-story 6,000-square-foot home is glass, affording sweeping views of the canyon, Will Rogers State Historic Park and downtown Los Angeles in the distance.
When it came to the interiors, the owner, a father of grown children and a collector of rare books, wanted a look that the architect describes as “warm contemporary.” As with most of his projects, Hefner worked closely with his wife and design partner, Kazuko Hoshino, and their colleague, Amy Shen.
“The client was pretty involved in the design process,” explains Hoshino. “He had very specific needs that we were trying to fulfill while making the space both beautiful and functional.”
“It was important to the owner that the interior finishes would feel rich,” adds Hefner, who applies “a holistic vision” to all of his projects. Once through the solid-panel front door and around a sleek wood room divider reminiscent of the louvers at Richard Neutra’s VDL house, guests arrive in a double living room that opens onto terraces that lead to the infinity pool and treetops. Hoshino kept the furnishings clean-lined and neutral, using a blend of custom designs, vintage pieces like a 1950s Marco Zanuso armchair and a 1960s Brazilian table, with contemporary pieces including Minotti chairs and a petrified-wood coffee table from DAO.
Because the living room is also double height, Hefner and Hoshino employed subtle tricks to add visual interest and the sense of warmth sought by the client. A tansu-like staircase paneled with zebrawood exudes a rigor and timelessness, while directly opposite, the fireplace wall is covered with custom hand-painted wallpaper by David Bonk. “It is very subtle,” explains Hoshino, “but it gives a nice amount of texture to the room.” To both fill and illuminate the upper portion of the space, Hoshino, a principal at Studio William Hefner since 1999, installed Dutch designer Bertjan Pot’s spherical and gauze-like Random pendants. “We thought the scale of the fixtures filled up the volume of the space very well,” she adds. “They cast beautiful shadows all over the space.”
The homeowner’s office continues the feel of the living room, but on a more intimate scale. Walnut paneling counters the glass walls and provides a cocoon setting for a minimalist desk on one side and a sofa, fireplace and television on the other. A wall of built-in shelving provides ample display for the book collection and framed mementos, many of which reflect the client’s political career.
In keeping with the easy nature of the home, the client didn’t feel the need for a formal dining space. “He felt that he had two kinds of parties: small dinner parties and parties for 50 to 100,” says Hefner. So what the kitchen can’t accommodate moves right outside—it’s easy with all those retractable glass walls and terraces that offer multiple seating areas. (Thank goodness for the glass barriers that provide a layer of invisible protection between a libation and the abyss of the canyon below.)
Upstairs, Hoshino continued the blend of vintage furnishings and contemporary pieces, adding Eastern accents that reinforce the home’s Zen. She also intensified the bedrooms’ neutral palettes with deeper grays and restful shades of blue, melding the interiors with the views and a landscape designed by the firm’s Darren Andre and Hefner himself.
During the day, this quiet sanctuary focuses on the beauty of the outside world. But when evening falls and the house lights come up, it’s nature that gets the dazzling show.