- The Hamptons
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Maile Pingel | Photo: Robert Benson | October 10, 2014
Atop the Bird Streets, designers Joshua Rose and Rafael Kalichstein of FORM create the ultimate nest for American heiress Whitney Kroenke.
“This project is such a direct representation of our client; she was in a place to put her stamp on the house and reclaim her life,” says interior designer Joshua Rose, who recently completed the Hollywood Hills home of Whitney Kroenke, the granddaughter of a Wal-Mart co-founder, with his design partner and husband, Rafael Kalichstein. “Whitney was referred to us through a friend,” adds Kalichstein. “She just didn’t feel adequately represented by the house anymore.” Kroenke, who purchased the home about eight years ago, originally worked with Los Angeles architect Scott Joyce and Seattle-based designer Susan Young to renovate the late-‘50s/early-‘60s house, located in the Bird Streets in the Hollywood Hills. “It was fabulous,” continues Kalichstein, “but there were some spaces that we knew could flow a little better, be more cohesive. We were really inspired by Whitney herself, but also the house and the potential.”
“I’d always loved the Bird Streets, how they epitomized L.A., the romance of the Hollywood Hills, The Beatles history,” explains Kroenke, who not only co-founded Playing For Change, a foundation that connects communities through music, but is a partner with 9 Banded Whiskey and Engine 7 Media, all of which keep her on the road. “The whole house was closed off to the view,” she says of the original floor plan. “Scott cleaned it all out—now you walk in, and it’s open to the views. It was more about subtraction than addition.”
Today, the roughly 4,200-square-foot home is entered via minimalist but grandly scaled wood doors (flanked by equally dramatic lanterns) that open to a courtyard designed by Tory Polone and a glass entrance that offers views straight through the house to the city beyond. “We had a lot of intellectual similarities,” Kroenke recalls of first meeting with Rose and Kalichstein. “They really understood me from the beginning, so I trusted them to bring in ideas.” And bring in ideas they did! To make better use of the open-plan main level, the designers created custom pieces like a wraparound banquette and swivel chairs that unite the dining/bar area with the living room. “It was sort of a no man’s land,” says Kalichstein. “Now it’s where everybody goes.”
“Whitney’s friends and family are incredibly important to her,” adds Rose, noting that she wants everyone, including her beloved dogs, to feel comfortable. “We didn’t want to do anything that took away from the openness that Scott, the architect, had created—instead, we wanted to capitalize on it.” The designers were also able to capitalize on their client’s adventurous spirit. For example, Kroenke had no intention of redoing the bar, yet when asked about its dramatic wallpaper and stone redo, she says, “It’s a revelation!” But perhaps the sweetest note of camaraderie in the house is sounded by some of the special furnishings the designers created just for Kroenke, namely the malachite and bronze coffee table that now anchors the living room. “We chose it because malachite represents inner growth, blossoming and fulfilling destiny,” explains Kalichstein, who admits he and Rose “have a mineral obsession.” The duo also designed a suite of end tables named for Kroenke’s canines, bulldogs George and Margot, and her late pug, Zoe.
The collaborative effort extended right up the walls, with Rose and Kalichstein helping to identify new works for Kroenke’s collection. The entrepreneur started collecting years ago (it was “part of my maturing process,” she says) and has works by Bert Stern, Kelsey Brookes, Banksy, Tod Papageorge and Jack Milroy, among many others. “It’s worldly, like she is,” Rose notes of the collection. “Once the art was hung, the entire space just clicked into place—there was a shift in energy.” That energy of space is something for which the designers are recognized: Kalichstein studied Eastern medicine and is a certified practitioner of Black Hat feng shui. Each project is about “balancing voices—ours, the client’s, the architecture’s,” continues Rose. “This project is entirely individual yet is really representative of what we do.” As for the home now being true to Kroenke, perhaps her friends said it best upon seeing the final product: “This place is so you!”
“Whitney just has an incredible sense of adventure,” says Kalichstein. To which Rose adds, almost finishing his sentence, “It made the project exciting.” And how does Kroenke feel about the whole process? “It was fun!” she says. So much so, she’s asked the designers to do her new home in Austin, Texas. “They’re beautiful human beings,” she explains. “They’ve given me my home.”
Boco do Lobo
Living room end-table lamps
Custom-size living room rug
Stone end-table on patio