Tour an Enchanting Santa Monica Idyll Where Historic Design Meets Modern Style
When an East Coast couple was faced with carving out their own LA oasis, AD100 firm Carrier and Company mapped out the perfect plan for success
This project was never going to be business as usual. For the new Santa Monica homeowners, a couple of longtime New Yorkers with three young children, moving to the West Coast was a considerable lifestyle switch. For the designers, the husband-and-wife team behind AD100 firm Carrier and Company, it called for a pivot away from work demands back East—amidst a pandemic no less. The architect, Steve Giannetti, though no stranger to California, was charged with invisibly transforming a historic 1920s house to suit the particular needs of an active, social family. Even the spectacular grounds—which open up to views more reminiscent of a tranquil Mediterranean hillscape than West LA—were slated for a total overhaul.
“It was exciting for us to have the opportunity to travel with these clients to California and experience this type of architecture and landscape, which was new to us,” notes Jesse Carrier, who, along with his coprincipal and spouse, Mara Miller, are the go-to designers for an enviable roster (Jessica Chastain and Jason Wu among it). Having worked on two Manhattan apartments for this particular family within the last decade-plus, by now they have developed “a base level understanding of who they are and how they live,” adds Carrier, “so there’s a shorthand to what we do.”
That working ease notwithstanding, this property came with its own set of unfamiliar mandates for Carrier and Company, who are set to publish their second book this fall with Rizzoli. Chief among them that every aspect of the house should be in service of an indoor-outdoor daily rhythm. And while its proximity to the ocean is apparent and the sunny climate fully embraced, the family was also keen to retain aspects of their urbane, classic aesthetic. “It’s been interesting to see the balance—the modernity as well as a love of tradition,” says Miller, “That balance between something that is warm and lovely, but also very stylish.”
This alluring mix alights in the incorporation of the homeowners’ existing artwork (pieces by the likes of Elizabeth Atterbury, Jim Dine, Mimi Jung, and Angelbert Metoyer) and a careful spread of distinctly un-beachy items (light fixtures by Rose Uniacke, a Deco-inspired blue-lacquer-and-brass bar, Osvaldo Borsani dining chairs). To soften the edges of more cosmopolitan moments, Carrier and Miller looked to the existing Spanish architectural elements in the home for inspiration: exposed-wood beams, hand-plastered archways, wide oak floorboards. In the living room, for example, a single-slab live-edge wood coffee table sits before a modern Vladimir Kagan Serpentine Sofa on a chunky jute rug. Cozy textiles in muted colors mingle with colorful accents throughout.
“They have a wonderful way of listening and interpreting our vision and adding depth and design that we could never layer in or acquire on our own,” the homeowners note of the collaboration.
“Our design philosophy is that balance of high-low,” Carrier explains. “So there’s a little bit of formality mixed with something a little more rusticated that’s also playing off the architecture.”
Giannetti, the project’s architect and landscape designer, was first brought in largely due to his familiarity with the estate, having led its first remodel for the previous owners several years prior. It also didn’t hurt that he is widely considered a master of melding classical and modern architecture—a perfect fit not only for a historic home with beautiful bones but for the clients, whose wish list was topped by those two elements. “One of the ideas was to do something that was timeless,” he notes. “We wanted it so you wouldn’t really even know that anything was done, just something that lived more indoor-outdoor.”
This tall order was achieved, in part, by installing a series of massive arched glass doors—“as big as we could fit them,” the architect recalls—that pivot in the middle; an expansive open outdoor living space below the primary suite; and a reimagined entry sequence for the house that comprises a courtyard and fountain.
Giannetti, whose projects span the globe, further worked with Carrier and Company to reimagine the gardens in a way that felt welcoming and established. Most of the inspiration photos were of overgrown English-style greenspaces, so they set about planting a number of garden “rooms,” a second giant oak, mature sycamore trees and hedges, and rows of lavender. “So it just looked like it had always been there,” says Giannetti, who was ever mindful of crafting a space that little kids could explore. (A chicken coop was also installed out front.)
Though there can often be tension between a designer and architect, that was never an issue here, Giannetti comments, because “everybody was working together to make the owners a house they just love to death.” Carrier concurs, describing any initial concerns about the collaboration, which also involved the venerable Valle Reinis Builders, as fleeting. “We were kind of the new kids on the block,” he says, “but in hindsight, it was such a seamless integration.”
Having had a bit of time and space following the project’s completion, Miller muses on the end result. “What I’m really excited about is seeing that marriage of the place and the owners—and I feel like you can see that evolution,” she says. “And for us to help them grow their aesthetic and family is wonderful.”