L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: HomeTour

Celebrity hair stylist gives English cottage some Hollywood glam

Robert Vetica, left, and Giorgio Vetica in the living room of their Los Angeles home
In the last five months, hair stylist Robert Vetica has traveled to San Francisco, New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro, working with actresses Cate Blanchett, Jessica Simpson, Naomi Watts and Hilary Swank. Fortunately for Vetica, he doesn’t have to go far Sunday, when he preps Salma Hayek for the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Vetica homeBecause he travels more than half the year for work, Vetica treasures his moments at home in Los Angeles. “My home is a retreat for me,” he says of the house he shares with his husband, Giorgio Vetica. “I love beautiful things: shine, glamour. That’s what I do.”

The devotion to Hollywood glamour makes his choice in houses something of a surprise: a 1928 English cottage.

PHOTO GALLERY: The Vetica house

“We realized that yes, maybe it didn’t have everything we wanted at the time, but with time, we can make it our dream home,” says Vetica, who bought the house with Giorgio 10 years ago. “That’s what has happened.”

Subtle alterations have opened the interiors of the traditional house and bring in light. A few walls were taken down, and the kitchen was doubled in size after an adjacent laundry room was turned into a breakfast nook. The den and kitchen open to a patio that extends the living space into a lush landscape.

The couple wanted to maintain the integrity of the house, so new windows reflected the cottage’s original style. The kitchen was updated with amenities for cooking and entertaining but not made too modern, Vetica says. For help with finishing touches, he turned to interior designer Michelle Workman, whom he met last year while they were working with Jennifer Lopez.

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Post-recession, starting over in a Costa Mesa garden

Laura Haskell, Laird Stoneman, Andrew Stoneman
The struggling economy has forced many Americans to ponder, if not live out, their Plan B question: How would I start over? In the case of Andrew Stoneman, the answer sits in his Costa Mesa backyard.

When the structural steel salesman was laid off twice in two years, he and his wife, vintage-textile consultant Laura Haskell, pooled their sales experience and design savvy to create the Haskell Collection, a Midcentury-inspired line of outdoor furniture and patio planters. If he wasn't going to sell steel for others, Stoneman thought, why not manufacture his own furniture using what he had learned during 20 years in the business?

Andrew Stoneman garden“Steel is the most recycled material in the world,” Stoneman says. “I thought, why not take the greenest material there is and create something that will last forever?”

The clean-lined collection has been well received in the press, and Times readers even made Haskell's recycled aluminum and steel planters the top vote-getters in their category a few months ago in a poll to determine the “California look of 2011.” But beyond that, for Stoneman the primary rewards have been working from home alongside Haskell, who sells fabrics to Marc Jacobs, Stüssy and Paul Smith in London, among others, and spending more time with their bubbly 2 1/2-year-old son, Laird.

“It's a stressful time,” Stoneman says. “But we are content. Exercise, painting, gardening, playing with Laird keeps me sane. What's the alternative? Depression. And that gets you nowhere.”

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In Pasadena, Wallace Neff's last remaining 'bubble house'

Wallace Neff Shell House

Wallace Neff Shell ownersWhen we asked L.A. at Home contributor Jeffrey Head to adapt part of his new book on the so-called "bubble houses" of iconic L.A. architect Wallace Neff, Head reminded us that the last remaining bubble house in the United States can be found in Pasadena. The house was the subject of a Times feature back in 2004. Owners Sari and Steve Roden, right, noted at the time that Neff may be best known for Spanish Colonial Revival mansions, but they adored their petite bubble house and likened their experience to living in modern sculpture.

Almost eight years later, are the Rodens still there? Turns out they are, and Steve said he still "can't imagine living anywhere else."

We've posted the full text of the 2004 article below. You also can read Head's adapted excerpt from "No Nails, No Lumber: The Bubble Houses of Wallace Neff" and browse the related photo gallery, which includes more images of bubble houses, past and present.

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Most viewed home galleries of 2011

Top Casasco
L.A. at Home's list of the most viewed home photo galleries of 2011 is an interesting mix: a 495-square-foot house in Echo Park and a 670-square-foot condo in Montecito. The Venice retreat of former Telemundo President Nely Galán, the new Santa Monica digs for TV journalist Lisa Ling and the Carpinteria beach house remodel of TV and film veterans Amy Lippman and Rodman Flender. Designs by icons Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Kappe, Rudolph Schindler and Charles and Ray Eames.

L.A. Times most view home galleries
We usually profile at least one Southern California home or garden every week, and by year's end the numbers inevitably provide some surprises. Because our profiles draw readers for months, often years, we've organized the list by season, so homes that have been collecting clicks since the beginning of the year don't have an unfair advantage over those featured at the end. All of our most recent home and garden galleries are archived on our home tours page or in our Landmark Houses series.

Without further ado, our year-end list of most viewed home photo galleries ...

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Daniel Monti design: A behind-the-screens look

Daniel Monti house exterior
In designing a home for his parents in Venice, architect Daniel Monti wrapped the second story in a sculptural steel screen that mimics the way a majestic Italian stone pine in the backyard filters light, offers privacy and shades the interiors. The screen, made of 4-by-4-foot panels of Cor-ten steel, was bent and perforated by laser-cut circles in six sizes.

Daniel Monti house interior“I liked the idea of using a timeless material,” Monti said. “Cor-ten steel develops a natural rusty patina when exposed to the elements. It’s beautiful today, and it’ll be beautiful 10 and 20 years from now.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Daniel Monti's steel screen in Venice

To prevent the resulting 3,000 steel cut-outs from going to waste, Monti devised an equally stunning indoor feature: a decorative guardrail for the staircase.

The gunmetal-gray circles were welded together in random fashion to form a thin wall. As the sun moves across the sky and throughout the house, the exterior screen and interior guardrail cast shifting shadows that are the negative and positive images of the same circles.

“We have such amazing light here,” said Monti, whose firm is Modal Design. “This was all about bringing light into the house to augment the spaces.”


Good Idea doorPunchouse Ecodesign Group's house in Santa Monica

Good Idea Studio's mini-modern in Echo Park

Homes of the Times: More profiles

-- Emily Young

Photos: Benny Chan / Fotoworks


For Pipes Canyon remodelers, a high desert holiday

Paul Goff Tony Angelotti exterior
Paul Goff and Tony Angelotti had never heard of Pipes Canyon, a butte-studded piece of high desert northwest of Joshua Tree National Park. But now, a dozen years after their introduction to the place, the Santa Monica residents have a part-time home and a life at the center of Pipes Canyon's small but vibrant social circle, hosting dinner parties for the artists and other ex-urbanites who have settled here.

cowboy lampThe house that Goff and Angelotti call the Olive Adobe is, in fact, a stucco building painted a rugged desert rose. Once an undistinguished desert shack, it has been refashioned into a pueblo-style residence, complete with a parapet around the roof deck and a Mediterranean garden filled with olive trees. Generous patio spaces easily accommodate two dozen guests for sit-down holiday dinners in front of a roaring outdoor fireplace. On cold desert nights, guests bundle up in Goff's collection of ponchos from South America and enjoy the liquid warmth of fine wines.

MORE PHOTOS: Rustic retreat by Joshua Tree

“I travel all over the world,” said frequent weekend guest Rhonda Rasmussen, a hotel interior designer with the firm WATG in Irvine, “but Paul and Tony's is the one place where I can really relax.”

The quiet, remote location and magnificent mountain sunsets certainly contribute to the Olive Adobe's charm. Yet perhaps the most enchanting aspect of the property is its Cinderella transformation from what had been a one-room, 500-square-foot structure built in 1947. In the 1960s, a two-bedroom addition nearly doubled the interior of the house, but Goff and Angelotti pushed the footprint even farther starting in 2008, turning screened porches into indoor rooms and adding connected outdoor spaces and a small wing with a laundry room and a bathroom.

Now that the finishing touches are done, the result is a stylishly Western home with interiors that incorporate Arts and Crafts furniture, Mexican saltillo tile floors and cowboy paintings.

The process began impulsively for Goff, a film and TV producer, and Angelotti, a stunt coordinator and vintage furnishings and antiques dealer. In early 1999, a local real estate agent brought them to a 7.5-acre site that had a well. The agent casually mentioned that the house had just been reduced to a price that Goff characterized as less than that of most new cars.

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Lisa Ling house: Modern lines, family circles

Lisa Ling Punchouse kitchen
For 15 years, television journalist Lisa Ling was a nomad. She worked out of New York, Chicago, Miami and Washington, D.C., reporting stories from Colombia, North Korea, Uganda and Russia. "I forgot what 'home' meant," Ling says. "For me, it was United Airlines Seat 4B." After Ling married radiation oncologist Paul Song, the couple settled in Santa Monica with plans to start a family and build a house with room to grow, space for entertaining and a distinctly modern design. Marco DiMaccio of Punchouse Ecodesign Group delivered all that and more, putting the finishing touches this fall on a concrete, wood and glass prism that reflects his clients' heritages and showcases their budding art collection.

Punchouse entrance“Lisa and Paul are comfortable with who they are, and I certainly wasn't blind to their heritage,” DiMaccio says. As a result, the house contains features that reflect its owners in fresh and quirky ways. As he puts it: “I like to surprise people and make them smile.”

Take the hard-to-miss lamp out front. Scaled in proportion to the two-story facade and illuminated to glow at night like a giant paper lantern, the light is fashioned from 2,000 translucent plastic Chinese takeout containers. “It took me, my girlfriend, Lisa and Paul four days to glue them together,” DiMaccio says.

PHOTO GALLERY: Lisa Ling-Paul Song house

Another frontyard attention-getter is the 5 1/2-foot-deep sunken conversation area with steps covered in artificial turf. Hidden from passersby behind a wall, it's proved to be a favorite with young and old alike. “The pit is amazing,” Ling says. “Kids stop crying when we put them inside, and on Sundays, Paul and I read the paper there with a cup of coffee.”

Ling, best known for her stint on “The View” and currently host of “Our America With Lisa Ling” on OWN, is Chinese. Song is Korean. DiMaccio kept their ethnicity in mind throughout the design process, and nowhere is it more evident than at the entrance.

The 9-foot-wide foam-filled wood front door is finished by hand like a surfboard in high-gloss red, a color associated with good luck in China. Next to it is a pond that flows indoors and contains a Plexiglas grate cut in the shape of the Chinese characters for “double happiness.”

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Chef Joachim Splichal's home kitchen

Chef Joachim Splichal's kitchen

Splichal StephaneWith a food empire that spans two coasts and includes more than 60 cafes and restaurants, chef Joachim Splichal spends a lot more time these days filling out paperwork than plating diners’ orders. To do what he loves most -- cook -- the founder of Patina restaurant turns to a kitchen in that most personal of spaces: his home.

The San Marino estate that Splichal shares with his sons, 15-year-old fraternal twins Nicolas and Stephane, has two kitchens. The Monterey-style home opens onto a courtyard with an indoor-outdoor kitchen and poolside dining cabana designed with large-scale entertaining in mind. But the weeknight action happens inside the main house.

PHOTO GALLERY: Joachim Splichal's home kitchen

Compared with the outdoor kitchen, the family space inside is surprisingly minimalist for a chef with a penchant for French farmhouse antiques. But as Splichal prepares dinner for his family, the purpose of the fuss-free design becomes clear: This home kitchen is all about efficiency.

Pictured above: Splichal with sons Nicolas, left, and Stephane. At right, Stephane works by the Kohler vegetable sink. The granite island has 3-foot-wide butcher blocks at both ends to maximize ingredient prep time. 

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495-square-foot house: a bit of smart, modern living

Good Idea Design living
John Oddo once dreamed of having a three-story house with postcard views of downtown Los Angeles. Hamstrung by the recession, he ended up with what designer Louis Molina calls “the smallest new house in Echo Park.” The building is only 495 square feet, but thanks to its creative design, Oddo's tiny gem feels positively inviting.

Good Idea Design kitchenBroad expanses of glass and high ceilings allow natural light to flood the interiors. Doors and windows are framed in warm wood. Splashes of color add a sense of playfulness. Sleek built-in cabinets and wood paneling conceal appliances and clutter, and every room opens enticingly to a view of the garden.

“The drive was not how to make the most affordable house,” Molina says. “The drive was to make the biggest experience in a small amount of space — enriched living, not impoverished living.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Modern living in 495 square feet

In 2002, Oddo bought an 1897 Victorian that, after losing its second floor to a fire, had been converted to a one-story duplex. He remodeled the duplex but decided to tear down and replace the shoddy, termite-ridden 1950s rumpus room grafted on in back.

“I was going to build my wonder space — a split design with a stairway in the middle and rooms on both sides staggered every half floor,” Oddo says. “This was at the top of the building boom before everything got too expensive. When I couldn't get a construction loan, that put the kibosh on the whole thing.”

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Small Schindler house in Inglewood remodeled for a new era

Architect Steven Ehrlich is sitting in the front garden of a 1940 Rudolph M. Schindler home in Inglewood that he recently restored for daughter Onna Ehrlich-Bell and her family. Forty-foot-tall liquidambars line the street of mostly post-World War II houses. It's a real Ozzie and Harriet neighborhood, traditional to its core except for this low-slung piece of modern design. For two years, this is where Ehrlich spent much of his time — “channeling Schindler,” he says with a chuckle.

Schindler-Ehrlich-livingAs Ehrlich tells the story, it was serendipity that he came upon the home by the renowned midcentury architect whose iconic Kings Road House in West Hollywood is often considered the big bang of California Midcentury Modernism. Ehrlich and his wife, Nancy Griffin, had been invited to dinner by friends Kali Nikitas and Richard Shelton.

"I'd never been to their home before," Ehrlich says, "but as soon as I walked through the door, I asked, 'Is this a Schindler?' "

PHOTO GALLERY: Side-by-side Schindler houses in Inglewood

It was. And so was the house next door, and, incredibly, another down the street. As fate would have it, the Schindler next door was the subject of a probate sale the next day. “He built three houses on the same street in 1940 for a developer on spec, which was very unusual for him,” says Kimberli Meyer, director of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Kings Road House, where Schindler explored the relationship of space, light and form, as well as communal living.

Ehrlich toured the Inglewood probate house the following day, then put in the winning bid: $265,000.

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