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Simplicity at Play
By Maile Pingel | Photo: by Stephen Busken | April 3, 2018
A brand-new vacation home in the desert gives a young L.A. family space to unwind.
When interior designer Shannon Wollack speaks to the “wow factor” of a La Quinta home she recently completed with firm partner Brittany Zwickl, she isn’t overstating. The home is located in the Madison Club, one of the Coachella Valley’s most exclusive private communities. With its golf course setting and the Santa Rosa Mountains in the distance, the home’s views are outstanding. But the view inside is equally enchanting.
Designed by architect Stephen R. Nieto, who has built a number of residences within the Madison Club, the home centers on a peristyle, a type of ancient Roman interior courtyard that offers a fountain, lush plantings and shade—an alluring entrance to a desert retreat. The 7,000-square-foot home may have been developed in a traditional Mediterranean style, but its spirit is entirely modern.
“The architecture is primarily Spanish but we wanted a more contemporary feel,” explains Wollack, who worked with the architect to bridge the styles. “We cleaned away some of the ornament, like the wrought-iron details that made it feel heavy, and we opted for a neutral palette with white and black accents.” The homeowners are a young family based in Los Angeles (the husband is a commercial real estate entrepreneur and investor), so it was also important that the home have a comfortable and relaxed sensibility. “It had to be kid friendly and livable, but it also had to be unique and interesting,” adds Zwickl. The designers know a thing or two about working with young clients—they recently redesigned the L.A. home of actress Hilary Duff and her 5-year-old son.
Over the course of an astonishingly brief eight months, the designers, whose firm, Studio Life.Style is based in West Hollywood, created a home that is at once elevated and approachable, with lots of playful elements. “This isn’t a house for velvet. It’s a vacation house and the owners were willing to have fun with the design,” Zwickl continues. Key to that spirit are the rear loggia’s swings and a fantastical children’s room with a cactus-print wallpaper and bunk beds. (Those clever furnishings, along with those in the master bedroom, were custom made by PSS Design Cult, one of the designers’ favorite downtown L.A. resources.) “The bunk beds were a surprise for the kids,” recalls Wollack. “They have individual pods with lights and curtains—the bottom bunks even have trundle beds so the room actually sleeps six.”
But there were plenty of practical considerations for the interiors too, like the flooring and how to make that cavernous great room with its 25-foot ceiling feel welcoming. “With those massive sliding doors that look through the house, we didn’t want any transition between indoor and outdoor materials, so we chose a tile that looks like stone and doesn’t get hot on feet,” Wollack continues. To unify the room, the designers employed a sleek white marble that caught their eye: At one end it forms the fireplace’s chimney breast, at the opposite end it defines the kitchen. (“We wanted to add interest and that oven hood is a great feature moment,” she adds.) The symmetry of the marble additions creates a sense of weight and balance while helping to define the two areas.
Scale was also a critical factor when deciding how to furnish the great room. “It’s so massive!” Wollack exclaims. “We had to make custom furnishings that worked with the size of the room,” adds Zwickl, noting the use of a rich navy hue for the sofa to help ground the living area. But custom work was no hesitation for the duo, who frequently collaborate with local artisans. “We like supporting our local vendors, some of them even came to install on site,” explains Zwickl. The designers are fans of the modernist lighting fixtures created by L.A. designer Brendan Ravenhill and they sourced contemporary accessories from some of their favorite local shops, like Garde, Jenni Kayne, Exir and Nickey Kehoe, as well as their own shop inventory. But they also culled specialty pieces from farther afield, like the terracotta-hued leather dining chairs from the family-run Mexican firm Casa Midy.
“Yet nothing overpowers,” adds Wollack. Even the white crib in the master bedroom melds seamlessly with the room’s cool and collected vibe. And while new artworks were purchased for the home, like Kati Ramer’s cactus painting in the dining area, plenty of space was allotted for charming family photos. “The house is so big that you don’t want to do just one collection. If you mix it up, it doesn’t look forced,” says Zwickl.
Outside, teak pool loungers mix with modernist black chairs, and a shaded dining area provides additional entertaining space with a television. The landscape, too, is a collaborative effort. The homeowners sought out LACC International, a bicoastal firm known for their resort work, and Elizabeth Bailey, who doubles as a floral designer.
“It all feels cohesive,” Wollack explains. “The homeowners let us set the tone, and we just kept it simple. It’s such a remarkable setting. We’re really, really pleased.”
Stephen R. Nieto, South West Concepts
Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl, Studio Life.Style
LACC International Inc.
Elizabeth Bailey Designs
Children’s room wallpaper
Front loggia rug
Cedar & Moss
Design Within Reach
Children’s bunk sconces, powder room mirror
Woven round poufs
Entry hallway bells
Entry hallway runner
Entry hallway sconce
Serena & Lily
Guest bedroom lamps; outdoor pillows; rug under swings