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Beyond the Pale
By Kathryn Romeyn | Photo: Home Photography by Jessica Claire // Portrait by Jay Reilly | April 3, 2018
VIP event planner and design lover Sunny Ravanbach is unapologetic about her overtly feminine, pastel-hued Eden by the beach.
It’s fair to say it took a bit of foresight on the part of Orange County–based VIP event planner Sunny Ravanbach to turn an overwhelmingly brown 1958 Dana Point house into a light-as-a-feather home that would feel just as appropriate sitting up in the clouds. She even purchased it sight unseen. But the founder of event company White Lilac Inc. and a recently launched shop-the-look online store—which features furniture, decor and art in the vein of her event decor—had instincts that were spot on.
After an 18-month renovation, the overwhelming vibe of the midcentury modern-meets-beach cottage abode is a breath of fresh air. “I wanted my home to feel like a respite, a place I can come to after long days of work and literally catch my breath in comfort,” says Ravanbach, who nests in the three-bedroom, almost 2,000-square-foot house with her cat and Siberian husky. One of the selling points was the land. On a nearly 8,000-square-foot lot, there is plenty of room for outdoor living, a nonnegotiable for Ravanbach. In fact, next up is building a second-story ocean-view roof deck, “without disrupting the original nuts and bolts of this place I call home,” she says. “Most of my neighboring properties have demolished the original homes and built mini mansions, exercising maximum use of land. This is something I was opposed to from the beginning.”
Instead she set out to open the space with as much light as possible, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor via floor-to-ceiling living room windows. Furthermore, she concentrated on bright, neutral “colors that allow you to breathe,” Ravanbach explains. The whitewash avoids appearing fussy, thanks in part to splashes of subdued accessories and original artwork. “I chose the soft tones because psychologically they soothe me, and noncolor, for me, feels free,” says the event-mastermind (Louis Vuitton, Harry Winston and the royal family of Abu Dhabi are clients.).
The resulting look is pretty, chic and vintage-infused, a pure expression of her style, which she describes as wearing “flip-flops to work to meet even the highest-end clients.”
To that end, the way Ravanbach pairs and positions her well-curated global finds means nothing comes off precious, even if it is. Her favorite piece is an 1890 oversize gilded French mirror, extremely rare and in beautiful condition. Though on the surface, something so opulent may seem counterintuitive to her relaxed style, she explains that in the environment “it looks effortless and nondescript, meaning no one will know how much it really cost.” Restraint is her modus operandi, for not only her own home, but for her clients’ events. “More is not more. I always leave negative space to demolish the look of clutter,” she says.
The effect is quite Zen, especially in Ravanbach’s bedroom, which she designed to foster sleep. Dressing her bed in down with lace-covered pillowcases plus light blue Currey and Co. sconces is soothing to her soul, she says. But Ravanbach’s beloved collection of artwork is the purest expression of her taste. She’s “doused the walls” with Norwegian artist Jorunn Mulen’s “impeccable depictions of female faces in the most sublime colors;” abstract ballet dresses painted by Laurence Amélie; and a pair of large yet minimal works by her “right hand” and friend Dodie Sy, whose “abstract and modern paintings bring a touch of feminine” to her bedroom and living room.
The planner thanks her mother, an artist and interior designer of television sets in Iran, for her aesthetic eye. “I was in awe of how her hand-drawn sketches would suddenly turn the real world into absolute fantasy. I thought, one day I will make real life a fantasy.” After decades of displacement—she was smuggled out of Iran in the cockpit of an airplane during the revolution, then lived in Germany, Wisconsin, Seattle and California—Ravanbach finally finds her roots firmly fixed in Dana Point’s sand.
“California style, as I interpret it, is deeply meshed with my sense of freedom, and hence my style of designing should and must feel nonrestrictive, open, airy and say ‘freedom,’” she says. Indeed, Ravanbach truly uses her outdoor living room. It’s where she drinks her morning coffee, practices yoga by the fire pit, enjoys pinot noir at sunset, and hosts dinners and monthly work parties. “The backyard is definitely my favorite spot,” she says. “I can smell the ocean and hear the waves.” It doesn’t get more open than that.