Archive for July 2017

This Midcentury-Style California Home Is a Feat of Warm Modernism

July 31st, 2017

A room with a view is one thing, but a house with a view? That’s the dream. So it was with the Watsons, a family of five who traded in their Huntington Beach, California, residence for a hilltop property overlooking the sea in nearby Corona del Mar. But the perfect home it was not. “The house was an original—over 40 years old with small divided rooms that didn’t take advantage of the amazing panorama,” says architect Eric Olsen, whom the wife discovered when she happened upon his home in a magazine. The clients knew they wanted to tear down the existing structure in favor of erecting something more modern, but it took a full two years before they would act on their plans. “The owners are big believers in living in a space to learn about light, view orientation, and how a lot feels,” Olsen says.

Their observations helped the architect create a highly personal four-bedroom home that emphasized the family’s lifestyle while embracing a stylish sensibility. “They wanted an entertaining house that was as open as could be for larger get-togethers, but that also felt intimate, cozy, and able to meet the needs of their daily life,” says Olsen. To take advantage of, in his words, “every inch of the lot,” he designed the 3,450-square-foot structure around a central courtyard that affords public spaces access to a relaxed pool area through floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, all the while adhering to the neighborhood’s height limit so that others could continue to enjoy their own views. Like the more visible rooms, the private spaces reflect a subtle midcentury aesthetic dominated by clean lines and minimalist finishes. “The old house that they originally purchased, much like many of the original homes in the neighborhood, had that vibe,” says Olsen. “I wanted the architecture to relate to that aesthetic but be a fresh, organic take on that modern direction. The house needed to fit into the context of the street but also stand alone.”

While the residence’s midcentury inspiration is palpable, the rooms also represent the luxury and aesthetics of the present day. “Since the architecture of the house was very modern, clean, and bold, I wanted to pull the interiors into a softer yet complementary version of ‘modern organic,’ using natural materials, including leather, oak, and washed textiles,” says designer Raili Clasen, who translated the Watsons’ preference for approachable spaces. In the dining area, a crisp white banquette plays off woven leather chairs and oil-rubbed bronze hardware; two L-shaped sectionals upholstered in durable linen delineate the living room, while textiles in blue stripes add variation and a burst of color to the neutral space. This is a home that effortlessly balances style and comfort—and one that was well worth the wait.

This family love to entertain, so we had a 14-foot table custom-made to seat 16,” says Clasen. “Instead of overhead pendants, we had a light artisan create a row of wall-mounted industrial arm lights that come out of the board-formed concrete. The chairs are by Holly Hunt, and the artwork is by Pierce Meehan.

The minimalist master bath is a study in restraint, with lighting from A+R, chevron-tiled floors, and a picture window overlooking Corona del Mar. Blond wood cabinetry warms up the black and white palette.

In the master suite, a herringbone wall installation backs a custom bed and side tables. The bedding is Matteo and RH; the sconces were purchased from Rejuvenation. A plaid upholstered chair from Schoolhouse Electric is arranged beneath a work by Alex Couwenberg.

For the son’s room, “I wanted a feeling of old-school summer camp and brought in hints of his hobbies,” says Clasen of its occupant’s interests in sports and play. Linens by Schoolhouse Electric cover an RH bed; the rug is a vintage Native American weave.

A nod to one daughter’s love of ballet, this kid’s room features a barre for warm-ups and practice sessions. The bedding if from RH, and the cozy rug is from HD Buttercup.


This article was originally published in Architectural Digest on April 10, 2017.

Danny Moynihan and Katrine Boorman’s Oualidia Getaway

July 28th, 2017

Back in the late 1960s Danny Moynihan, then seven years of age, was traveling in Morocco with his parents, British artists Anne Dunn and Rodrigo Moynihan, when their car hit a cow near the fishing village of Oualidia. It wasn’t the most convenient place for an accident, an isolated rural track skirting an enormous lagoon. “I remember local people stepping out from behind the reeds to see what had happened,” Danny recalls, adding that the ruminant trundled off without a scratch, though the car required a new radiator. More than four decades later, when Dunn came to stay at the villa her son and daughter-in-law, Katrine Boorman, had constructed near that same body of water, she was stunned: “This is exactly where we hit the cow!”

The multi-hyphenate Moynihans—Danny is a painter-curator-writer and cofounder of the Marrakech Biennale; she’s an actress-director known for her extravagant homemade headdresses—were living in London when Oualidia came into their lives. Parents of two teenagers, Kit and Tallulah, the couple spent most school holidays in Marrakech, in an 18th-century riad that they had restored. But Oualidia’s cool breezes turned out to be a perfect antidote to Marrakech’s oppressive summer heat. There’s avian splendor, too: The lagoon, populated with migratory birds, is part of a green zone decreed recently by Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI.

“When Kit was young we used to take him fishing up the lagoon,” Danny says, “and we noticed this thing that looked like an old fort. One afternoon the boatman told us he’d heard it was for sale. An agent showed us the place, we met the farmer who owned it, and we didn’t hesitate to buy it.” The ruin wasn’t an old battlement, but a derelict cowshed. Using its footprint, Danny sketched the house that became Lagoon Lodge, an impressive yet intimate structure that marries Italian modernist architecture from before World War II with Moroccan vernacular.


After driving through a luxuriant grove of olives, one enters the house by walking down golden sandstone steps (think Capri’s Casa Malaparte) that follow the land’s steep descent and terminate in a courtyard crowded with traveler’s palms and rosebushes. The dining room, kitchens, and bed- rooms all open onto this verdant heart. On the lagoon side of the house is a covered terrace with a sublime vista of shimmering water and flocks of birds.

“Lagoon Lodge was always planned as a sanctuary,” Katrine explains, “a place to read and write, where we could be with friends, far from the hubbub of the cities where most of us live.” She and her husband have always been magnets for the erudite and the eccentric, the bohemian and the __blueblood. Artists, photographers, dealers, and the like are sighted, and lm-business folk are usually part of the mix. Katrine, who appeared as an English duchess in So a Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, is a daughter of John Boorman, the director of Deliverance and Hope and Glory and subject of her 2012 documentary, Me and Me Dad

In Oualidia the Moynihans’ relaxed revelry takes place amid Berber wool fabrics and plush Moroccan rugs. Art Deco chairs and writing tables found in various souks furnish rooms hung with paintings by Danny’s father as well as Damien Hirst (a close friend), Rachel Howard, Stanley Spencer, and Michael Wishart (Anne Dunn’s first husband). Tadelakt, the exquisite Moroccan polished plaster, surfaces the walls, and Danny and Marrakech-based architect Fabrizio Bizzarri—who helped with the house—salvaged vintage bathroom fixtures like the master bathroom’s tub. The size of a sarcophagus, it was found in Marrakech’s Bab el Khemis flea market, where it ended up after Jacques Garcia’s 2009 renovation of the famed La Mamounia hotel.

The main gathering place is a large, blocky right-angle space that combines areas for living and dining, each with a replace that merrily blazes all winter long. Back-to-back sofas and a vast banquette offer spots to read, talk, or play games over cocktails or after dinner. Paintings of rocks that Danny makes while in Provence, where his mother has a house, are displayed here, joined by several of his father’s large abstracts.

Meals are a high point, served either at the dining area’s immense table for 16 or on the terrace at an equally accommodating stretch of green-glass mosaic. “We’re always discussing what we’ll have for lunch or dinner,” says Katrine, a Cordon Bleu graduate. “It’s all about getting fantastic fish on the beach and finding the best local produce.” Some of the ingredients are raised in the walled kitchen garden, where tomatoes, potatoes, and squash flourish within hedges of rosemary and lavender, all irrigated with recycled gray water. Fowl is raised on site, too, beehives provide delicious honey, and below the house is what Danny describes as the first “natural” swimming pool in Morocco. “It has a sand filter and a UV light in the filter system,” he explains, “while water plants of various kinds, which clean the water naturally, are planted in the trough that runs the length of the pool.”

The Moynihans’ serene oasis is at one with ancient Oualidia, where life is guided by the steady cycles of earth and sea. “We find it’s a place where we can reconnect,” Katrine observes. “Here you have everything: earth, wind, water, and sun. There are very few places where all those things come together quite so perfectly.”


This article was originally published in Architectural Digest on May 11, 2017.

A 1636 Former Spice Warehouse Turned Family Home in Amsterdam

July 26th, 2017

A former spice warehouse built in 1636 might not be the first thing you picture when you think of a family home. But, located on an almost-too-beautiful-to-be-real tree-lined street in Amsterdam, in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other and canals lay just outside of the front door, that’s exactly what it is for Manon Hanssen — a freelance journalist, life coach, energetic healer and founder of Naramatisho, a Kenyan handicraft label — her husband Michel, their son Micah and their dog Vos.

As the fairytale story goes, Manon decided to see the unit, converted to apartments in 1976, on a whim. Despite the unappealing pictures she had seen, her curiosity had been piqued. And, of course, when she went to have a look at the space she got that feeling; even before stepping foot inside the building she knew it was the one. Her feelings were confirmed inside the apartment where she was instantly enamored with the energy, natural light, and original beams. She immediately called her husband Michel, a senior manager of global compliance solutions, and told him she’d found their new home. Luckily, during the next visit with Michel in attendance, he agreed.

Original beams are found everywhere in the home – even the bathroom. The window above the tub was a lovely plus. At night it’s the perfect place to relax in the bath and stare at the stars.

Over the years, the space above Manon and Michel’s master bedroom, reached by a ladder, has been used as an office, storage room, and walk-in-closet. “It is now a place where I sometimes, on a rare occasion, hang out, read a book or chat to the plants,” Manon says. “We are considering turning it into a bedstead, so we can use the bedroom also as a practice and meditation space. We’ll see.” More of the couple’s travel treasures decorate the space – including the baskets, brought back from Lombok and the Buddha from Bali, where the couple married. The elephant on wheels is from Naramatisho, Manon’s fair label.

Friend and interior architect Rik Alkema designed the almost 10-foot-long table and matching bench made of steel and oak. It’s the perfect spot for Manon, Michel, and Micah to spend time together — without the need to clean up immediately — and to entertain friends and family.

A lover of stones and gemstones, Manon has them spread throughout the house to support positive energy. They often lay a book open on the dining table to reveal the beauty inside – this one, by Peter Beard, is Manon’s favorite. The wooden dolls studded with beads and hand-painted bowls are from Kenya, while the ceramic vase is by Margit Seland.

A glimpse into the redesigned kitchen. The wall, a recent addition, allows for the kitchen (and large closets) on one side and open shelves on the other side. The large white vase, Coral, is from Pols Potten. The ceramic doll sculpture was a wedding gift from Manon’s father.

The Hanssen Family’s 1,237-square-foot home is filled with plants, found everywhere from local organic markets to discarded on the street side, giving it the feel of an urban jungle. “It was Michel’s idea to add a ‘few more plants’ and this is what happened once we started.”

Micah’s room is like an adventure in itself. “We find it important that he has his own sanctuary upstairs that can be just his… now that he is getting older he likes to invite friends over in his room more often.” The wooden “Montessori bed” was handmade by his grandfather – the vintage school map shows Africa.

Manon considers the antique cabinet in Micah’s room, one of the few cabinets in their home, a worthy investment for the authentic touch it adds to the bright space.

The open shelves on the other side of the kitchen wall display the family’s travel treasures, books, and art. “We like to have a fixed place for the things we love, where they can be moved around within that framework,” Manon says. “…I am thinking about decorating it with only books and framed photos from Kenya; we have a huge personal archive.”


To explore more of Manon’s home, visit Design Sponge.