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Midcentury Marvelous

High above the city, a modernist home becomes an art-filled oasis in the meticulous hands of interior designer Mary Ann Murphy.

Mary Ann Murphy turned the living room into a gallery-like space, melding contemporary furnishings with paintings by Jason Martin, Toshikatsu Endo and Frederick Hammersley. The cast stainless steel sculpture is by Seth Kaufman.

“Fashion is my background and still my main love, but more and more, nature is becoming a great source of inspiration for me,” says interior designer Mary Ann Murphy. Murphy relocated to Beverly Hills from Chicago in 2008 and, not long after, found herself designing the home of her dreams—a modernist house in hills with sweeping views of her new city.

Since the home was built in the 1950s, Murphy felt strongly about respecting its minimalist and quintessentially Californian feel and was determined to keep its many original features, like the entryway pond and gate, and the terrazzo floors that flow throughout the house. “If you stay within the integrity of the architecture, the home tells you what feels best,” she explains, adding that the entire project was done within just six months—“build-out and everything!”

She began by redesigning the kitchen and a guest room, as well as the master bedroom, which now boasts an enviable closet and a bathroom that features book-matched stone-clad walls; two-way glass for privacy; and a sleek pop-up vanity that’s become something of the designer’s signature. The master also now accesses a private garden with a gazebo. “It’s a perfect meditation spot,” says Murphy. Elsewhere outside, the designer kept the original pool (though she relined it with dazzling silver-speckled navy blue tile from Bisazza), relocated mature plants, created new lighting, designed a golf course up the driveway and laid down artificial grass. “I was ahead of the drought!” she says playfully. “There’s just a drip system along the edge for the flowers.”

Inside the 3,500-square-foot house, Murphy strove to keep the rooms light and airy, and with a minimum of color. “I don’t play in the brights too well,” she jokes. “It’s staged like a gallery, but I mainly wanted to keep the midcentury sensibility,” she adds, noting paintings purchased specifically for the house by such notable artists as Thomas Downing and Frederick Hammersley. The living room, which is centered under double Moooi chandeliers, features black leather chairs from B&B Italia, animal-print seats and a low cabinet from Moura Starr, a custom fire screen by Gary Gibson and a large Holly Hunt coffee table—just big enough to hold the designer’s favorite fashion books. Just off the living room is the all-white dining room, presided over by a Tom Corbin figural sculpture.

The original pool, retiled with glittering new blue tile, fills the rear terrace of the designer’s former home.

Across the foyer is the media room. Electronic shades descend at the push of a button, making the sun-lit space suddenly dark and cozy. There, 1950s chairs brought from the designer’s Chicago office meld with her favorite artworks in the house—Robert Longo prints she snapped up for a song at a fundraiser years ago. Beyond the main living spaces are the master suite and two bedrooms—all equally sophisticated, and equally pet friendly. Murphy is an avid supporter of animal rescue, and counts Twiggy, a Chihuahua; Cookie Dough, a German shepherd; and cat Lucy among her greatest treasures. She is also a passionate supporter of Friendly House LA, a recovery center; and numerous other charitable organizations, as well as her daughter’s school.

“This was my own house,” says Murphy, who has since relocated, “but all clients live in their kitchens, family rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, so give them an amazing experience. That’s what I tried to create here.” With projects throughout the L.A. area, Oklahoma City, Michigan, Chicago and a potential long distance one in Ireland, the designer is as adept at designing contemporary abodes as she is at historic houses. It all comes down to the personalities that fill them. “Every home must have family photos, books and lots of personal touches,” she adds. “Everything needs to make sense to the client, to feel comfortable and to feel right.”



Los Angeles

Interior Design
Mary Ann Murphy Interior Design

B&B Italia
Black leather living room chairs, media room sofa, master bedroom bed and nightstands, dining room bench and outdoor furniture

Living room Moooi chandeliers

Holly Hunt
Living room coffee table, media room end tables and lamps

Cabana fabrics and front patio cushions