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Californian feeling

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A dramatic Frank Lloyd Wright-style interior takes on quite a different character with close attention to furniture and texture

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An upscale house may be built of substantial materials, along strong architectural lines, but subtlety can still hold sway. Finishes, furnishings, and even material flourishes can emphasise original design lines or allow them to recede.

This large house was created by architect Jung Brannen in response to the clients' appreciation of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. In keeping with Wright's trademark strong, organic feel, the interior was designed with extensive wood millwork, within capacious, simple settings.

However, getting the right feel for a home can be an evolving process. Upon returning from a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, the owners asked interior designers Bierly-Drake Associates to re-think the new home's emphasis. Chris Drake oversaw the project.

"The owners were effusive about the hotel's interior, and asked that we redirect the interior towards that look. It is the epitome of Californian decor – airy and light, with an emphasis on texture, introduced through furniture and fabrics," he says. "Addressing the extensive millwork was the first part of the fit-out. Left as exposed wood, it would have created a dark, masculine decor."

Drake's response to the clients' request was to retain the intricate millwork of the original interior, but paint it white.

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"To follow the light, white Californian feel, the entire interior is painted in a soft cream," says Drake. "In a sense, painting the intricate millwork to blend with other surfaces gave it textural appeal."

The interior's ivory tones provide a suitable backdrop for an array of subtle and exotic textures that further the Californian-style decor.

The central living space is 15.2m in diameter with areas of use demarcated by furniture positioning. A large custom Stark carpet is in ivory tones. The carpet is created in wool and silk – the wool for sheen and the silk for softness, says Drake.

The furniture itself is in similar cream tones. Material treatments range from ivory-coloured Chanel fabrics through to Thai silk. The formal drapery is in a combination of Italian damask and Chinese antique velvet. A Californian style of interior is also signaled by exotic Eastern touches, such as black lacquered pieces, inset with gold leaf.

Texture, intricacy of finish and ivory tones run throughout the house. In the dining area, an antique Venetian glass chandelier hangs over a bleached satin wood dining table, with silver leaf inlay. The dining chairs are upholstered in an ivory-hued leather.

Away from the Stark carpet, much of the interior is floored in French limestone – another Californian-influenced element. This is inset with a brown Emerador marble, for added visual interest. The strips of marble inlay also echo the shapes of the millwork on adjacent pillars. Bleached maple flooring sits alongside the limestone.

Upstairs, the pre-eminence of luxurious materials and textures is continued in the master bedroom. The bed itself, with scrolled headboard and feet, was designed by Syrie Maugham, the wife of author Somerset Maugham. An ivory-toned ottoman is covered in a Ralph Lauren cashmere fabric – fashion fabric reinvented here as upholstery.

Elliptical millwork provides a defining element between the master bedroom and adjacent sunroom. This subtle curved element is repeated in various areas, including the living room and bathroom.

The bedroom floor has a Stark carpet while the sunroom is paved in under-heated stone. Finished in marble, with a palette of white, gray and silver, the bathroom has a steam room, sauna and spa bath, and has the feel of a health spa.

"The owners regularly entertain," says Drake. "Even with the fine materials and finishes running throughout, this house is built to be lived in."

First published date: 17 May 2005

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Credit List

Interior designer Christopher Drake, ASID Bierly-Drake Associates (Boston)
Architect Jung-Brannen Associates
Flooring Stark Carpet; French limestone; Bleached, pickled, white oak
Lighting Halo Lighting
Entrance Table and chairs from J Robert Scott Furniture
Lounge Upholstery; McLaughlin Upholstery; Fireplace; custom design in French limestone
Dining room Table and chairs; J Robert Scott Furniture; Chandelier; Karl Springer
Master bedroom Upholstery; McLaughlin Upholstery; Bed; McLaughlin Upholstery; Lamps; John Boone; Artwork; Raul Dufy
Master bathroom Marble surfaces; Taps; Waterworks; Bathtub and sink; Billy Brenner
Pool room Tiling; American Olean; Furniture; McGuire