It's an unassuming property from the outside, low and hidden behind gates and a long white wall. Step through the gates into a tranquil courtyard and you begin to see what makes it special. There are views of the neighbouring Getty Villa and behind it the mountains, then palm trees and a perfect sea view in the other direction. And there's more, much more.
Built in 1927, it was one of renowned architect Paul R Williams' first commissions and following a stunning interior makeover it's now up for sale. A host of Hollywood stars have viewed it and there's currently a bidding war to own it.
Williams (1894-1980) designed more than 2,500 buildings in his career. Most, like this one, were in and around Los Angeles and many of those have been homes to some of the biggest stars. He built houses for Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant, and, more recently, Ellen DeGeneres, Denzel Washington and Andy Garcia all inhabited properties designed by Williams. His architectural style became synonymous with Southern Californian glamor and his homes are still highly sought after though they rarely come up for sale.
Any one of Paul R Williams' homes would capture the attention and would be right up there among the world's best homes, but this particular Williams creation in Castellammare, Pacific Palisades, has really got people talking. It has also sparked a flurry of celebrity viewings and offers way over the asking price ($3,998,000, since you're asking).
You may not be in a position to put in an offer, but you can still take the tour…its current owner, British-born designer Julia Dempster, MD of Julia Dempster Design (opens in new tab), and herself no stranger to designing for the rich and famous worldwide, shows us round.
Kitchen with farmhouse style
For the past two years this Tuscan-inspired farmhouse has been Julia Dempster's home. She's worked her way through the interiors, updating, refreshing and radically altering in places, where it was needed. The previous owner had lived there for 52 years and the house had been largely untouched in that time. 'We found 8 layers of wallpaper in the bathroom, including 1970s fish in shades of green,' says Julia. 'Everything was under a layer of dust and grease, but I am fortunate that when I enter a space, I can see the potential and I am very grateful for that as I needed to use my imagination to the full extent.'
The kitchen was gutted, though Julia opted to retain the beautiful concrete ceiling. 'It was just so textural and earthy and I was inspired by the 1 hotels,' she says. The cabinets were custom built, though a major setback as a result of the project taking place during lockdown was that the café appliances were out of stock with a lead time of 10 months. In the end, Julia had to choose alternatives to avoid a lengthy wait.
Supply issues notwithstanding, there are plenty of stylish kitchen ideas worth borrowing from this hardworking space. The kitchen was dark and triangular in shape, so Julia wanted to keep it open and light with open shelving with built in lighting. The wall sconces and ceiling lights are from Amber Interiors (opens in new tab).
The walls are lined in Moroccan tadelakt which Julia says is great for wet areas as it is robust but soft to the touch. 'What had been a weird layout and a pantry, we opened up and made a wine cellar. I added a mirror behind the open shelves as I love the fact it makes the rooms appear much larger and adds much-needed light,' she says. The antique rug is from Kier Designs (opens in new tab).
Dining room update
'This dining room was originally a trompe l’oeil and probably too busy for such a small room,' says Julia. 'We went back to basics and I found a beautiful concrete ceiling which I exposed, I loved the earthy warmth it provided the space.
Among the dining room ideas worth borrowing from this compact space are the circular concrete dining table, chosen because it echoed the ceiling and the polished concrete floors. Julia juxtapositioned the table against the rough texture of the sisal rug, the cleanliness of the white walls and RH (opens in new tab) light fixtures. The artwork was from Malibu Market Design (opens in new tab), cushions from Missoni Home (opens in new tab), dining chairs on castors, also from RH.
Living room splendor
'In the living room we changed the flooring, which was in a terrible state – I had not realized the extent of the work when the house had been crammed full of the previous owner’s possessions,' says Julia. 'We replaced the electrics in the whole house, as it still had the old-fashioned round fuses. We added picture lights, ceiling lights to illuminate the beautiful ceiling, and painted the walls. The steel windows were all refurbished and painted black to emphasize their lines. The whole house is extremely private with amazing views, which have been maximized by the original architecture.'
This was the one room where the main elements were left untouched during the renovation, and the living room ideas here are all about enhancing the exisiting architectural beauty of the space. The furniture was curated from South Africa, with the sofa from RH.
One of Julia's favorite additions here is the olive tree, which brings the greenery inside.
Garden room restored
This room on the lower ground floor was the most challenging space in the renovation as it was built into the side of the hill. Terracotta steps with antique glazed tiles lead down from the ground floor to a garden room, which when Julia took over the property was little more than a lean-to. Before she could start to transform it with her garden room ideas, there was a lot of remedial work to be done.
'I had to replace the structure but managed to save the beautiful wood-beamed ceiling. We had to replace all the windows and I specified Pinkys (opens in new tab) custom-made steel doors, one side bi-fold so the whole wall opens up to the terraces,' she explains. 'I wanted this to be a less formal family room, with practical colors as it would basically encompass in-out living. I dressed the room with African artifacts collected on my travels.'
Primary bedroom retreat
For the master bedroom Julia chose a salt and pepper palette, accented with black and natural stripes. They might not be the most obvious color choices for anyone looking for bedroom ideas, but the combination creates a very restful mood that's easy on tired eyes at bedtime. The furniture is from Fragments of Identity (opens in new tab) and RH.
Creating a dressing room
Julia transformed the home's small third bedroom, adjoining the master, into a walk-in dressing room. 'We blocked up the exterior door and added shelves and hanging space along with drawers under the window to be aligned with the existing niches next to the window.'
The second bedroom
The walls in this room had been lined with bookcases, which Julia removed so that the beautiful original corner fireplace could again become the focal point. The flooring was replaced, as elsewhere in the house, with solid grey oak flooring. Wall lights and picture lights from RH were the finishing touches, along with artwork from House of Spoils (opens in new tab).
What makes this home special?
This hidden house couldn't be further removed from the palaces and five-star hotels that Julia designs for her high-end clients but, she says, 'It's an absolute gem of a home that feels a million miles from anywhere. It has the most amazing bones and I am so privileged to have brought this Paul R. Williams architectural treasure back to life. Everyone who visits doesn’t want to leave, it has the most amazing feng shui and energy. I can totally understand why the previous owner stayed for 52 years.'
And though it's already time for Julia to move on, the special house looks set to have another contented owner waiting in the wings.
Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.
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