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Andrew Myers | Photo: Derrick Ray and Melissa Valladares | April 9, 2013
A Hollywood power couple joins forces with a dynamic design duo to create the iconic beach house.
Bringing the beach indoors poses much inspiration (the positive ions!) and many aesthetic opportunities (the blues of sea and sky!). Then there are the mixed blessings, drop-ins that in starry Malibu might mean a well-fed seagull perched aggressively atop pricey woven acrylic patio furniture.
For Los Angeles designers Elizabeth Barondes and Kelly Morris, who launched Barondes Morris Design in 2008, it’s all part of riding creativity’s great wave, navigating a project’s particular riptides while ensuring that a client’s needs and wants aren’t merely met, but exceeded.
The duo’s most recent walk on the beach took them to modern oceanfront digs designed in 1969 by noted SoCal architects Conrad Buff and Donald Hensman, contributors to the famed Case Study Houses. This house—4,300 square feet of post-and-beam paradise facing the Pacific, replete with an interior open-air courtyard—boasted banks of the architects’ signature rectangular windows, a forest of comely and resilient California redwood planks, and an interesting provenance. In the early 1970s, the house belonged to Berry Gordy, the record producer, Motown founder and ex-hubby of Diana Ross, as well as the frequent host of the Jackson Five, who would reportedly play on the beach with the neighborhood kids.
The house now features new entertainment industry owners: film, TV and musical producer Eric Gold and Marcy Kaplan, his actress, writer and producer wife, who had long aspired to produce a dream home—Kaplan’s passion for design stretches back to her early days waitressing in L.A., when she formed a fast friendship with designer and TV personality Kelly Wearstler. “I will never forget the feeling that came over me, walking through this home,” remembers Kaplan. “I turned to Eric and said, ‘This is the perfect beach house.’”
Having happily collaborated with Barondes and Morris on smaller projects such as their young twin girls’ bedrooms in their Beverly Hills house, Gold and Kaplan were eager to cast the designers as beach home co-producers, and to address the big picture. “The prior renovation did not meet the style of architecture or the period,” says Barondes, explaining that while she and Morris looked forward to restoring the house’s original assets, neither Kaplan nor Gold were interested in midcentury orthodoxy. “We took the house down to its studs, gutting the kitchen, bathrooms and damaged tiled floors.” Likewise, a long series of French doors facing the beach in the main floor’s large multipurpose space was replaced by a massive sliding Fleetwood telescoping system—“to bring the outside in, naturally,” says Barondes. “We wanted to play up the biggest visual asset, the art in the backyard: the ocean.”
As for the original paneling covering the walls and ceilings throughout the house? Not only was it salvaged and restored, it was also augmented—literally in the guesthouse, where paneling was extended to the closet doors to make them “essentially disappear,” says Morris; and figuratively on the floor of the main level, composed of new, hand-selected bleached walnut. “Our intention was to mirror their width with the wall paneling to create a seamless box effect,” says Barondes, explaining that in terms of color and finish the goal was “an effortless tone mimicking the sandy beach. Location integration!”
That seamless box was also a perfect platform for the home’s fine and decorative arts, such as the metal sculpture by Curtis Jere in the dining area, the whimsical folded palm-leaf flamingos flanking doors to the courtyard and the Austrian pendant lights from the 1930s near the Jere. It was also an ideal backdrop to set off their contemporary furniture: Gold’s beloved chaise floating in the main room, its shape mimicking a wave; the dining room’s driftwood-evoking table from Dao; and the sofa and armchairs surrounding the fireplace, pieces previously owned by Kaplan and Gold that Barondes and Morris modified in league with their network of local artisans. “Our goal was to allow the shapes and textures to play amongst themselves—we like the sun-bleached colors punctuated with pigmented bursts,” says Morris, noting that while the fabrics might look like fine cottons and linens, they’re actually durable indoor-outdoor synthetics like Sunbrella.
The end result for Kaplan and Gold? A blockbuster abode that reflects their taste and lifestyle. “We have a physical reaction to the house,” says Kaplan. “It sort of slows down our heart rates upon entry.”