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Edifice Rex

When we set out to bring you the ultimate house tour, we didn’t realize that our ideal residence would actually be 11 different homes.

When we speak of home, we speak as much of a state of mind as of a structure. Each home you own serves a different purpose in your life. When you need a jolt of energy, you tap into the pulse of the city.

To unwind, you drive to your beach house down the coast. In your more expansive moods, you head for your country house to entertain. And when you crave some nighttime stargazing, you fly to your mountain lodge.

Because we understand that each of your homes corresponds to distinct aspects of your own personality, your shifting moods, we approached the task of assembling the Robb Report 2002 Ultimate Home Tour as a fluid sequence of contrasting architectural and interior types. A composite of various residences—some old, some new—our annual home tour encompasses the full spectrum of styles: traditional, contemporary, formal, state of the art, and cutting edge.

Our methodology in gathering the rooms that follow reflects the spirit in which modern tastemakers create environments for themselves. We invited a select group of architects and interior designers to each submit one extraordinary room; from these, we constructed our own ideal edifice, choosing each interior to be included in the issue according to its role in the lifestyle of the inhabitants and how readily the design solution serves that role.

We wanted to demonstrate the various ways in which the artistic powers of the designers could be brought to bear in rendering spaces that adapt to—and underscore—the passions and pastimes of their clients, whether these be art collections, antiques, books, or wine. Where appropriate, these talents have also evoked atmospheres ranging from genial grandeur for entertaining or privacy for moments of quiet retreat.


We make no judgments with respect to style. Your taste may run to steel, glass, and right-angled modernism for the city and voluptuous Spanish Colonial or stately English for your country house; and we have acknowledged this sense of eclecticism in our tour. Our sole guiding principle is how successfully a room’s form follows its function: Each space depicted—living room, dining room, kitchen, master bathroom, or even pool—represents the distillation of what that room should be.

 

 

Façade

First impressions mean everything, especially in Dallas, a town with a reputation for one-upmanship. When Howard Rachofsky decided to build a house, he went straight to the top—he hired architect Richard Meier, who was still immersed in the construction of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. “It’s a wonderful site,” says Meier. “On one side is a creek, which is large enough that it looks like a lake.” Initial plans called for several bedrooms, but as the concept developed and needs changed, public spaces took precedence. “Howard wanted a house with fewer bedrooms and more space for his art, because he has a growing collection…and a very good one,” Meier says.

The exterior’s uncluttered geometry of glass and white aluminum panels is a Meier trademark. Clearly articulated interior spaces visible through the massive glass windows augment the home’s air of elegant sophistication. “I endlessly contemplate the extraordinary properties of the house,” says Rachofsky, “its ingenious spaces, its surprisingly sensible scale and charm, its mutability, and its perfect way of ‘breathing’ light.” A house that inspires endless contemplation is in itself a work of art.

Richard Meier, 212.967.6060

Foyer

A grand, triple-height entrance hall with a gracefully curving staircase sets the stage for grand entrances. The entry of Iris Cantor’s mansion La Belle Vie in Bel-Air, Calif., centers around a 40-foot-high rotunda that is at once majestic and intimate. “It is a palatial space, but it’s still quiet,” says New York interior designer Bebe Winkler, who worked on the residence for five years. “Nothing jumps out and says, ‘Look at me.’ In design I always aim for understated elegance.” With that philosophy in mind, she and Cantor scuttled original plans to clad the entire space, from floor to ceiling, in marble. Instead, they chose a floor of inlaid marble and used plaster paneling, painted pale cream, for the walls. Ten oval windows in the domed ceiling suffuse the hall with light and illuminate The Hand of God, one of many Rodin sculptures in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor collection.

This backdrop allows the iron and gilt balustrade of the limestone staircase and the gilt bronze lantern to stand out. Winkler even had a model of the lantern, which is nearly 6 feet long, hoisted into place to ensure it wouldn’t overwhelm the hall. “There are many simple elements that combine to make the entrance harmonious and peaceful.”

Bebe Winkler, 212.308.5674

Living Room

Addison Mizner’s sumptuous villas were a dazzling combination of Moorish, Spanish Colonial, and Italian architecture, ideally suited to the sultry climate of Palm Beach, Fla. The living room of Casa Bienveneda in Santa Barbara, Calif., Mizner’s only West Coast commission, reveals the master’s sure hand, even though Mizner was in failing health at the time and had lost his fortune in a real estate venture. The living room’s intricate coffered ceiling and massive coral stone mantelpiece and window surround are superb examples of scale and proportion. Mizner, who died in 1933 shortly after Casa Bienveneda was completed for client Alfred Dieterich, wrote to a friend in 1928: “The house I am doing in Santa Barbara is, I think, my very best.”

Mizner prided himself on his skills as a bricklayer, plasterer, carpenter, electrician, and plumber. “One has to know these things; otherwise you cannot get done the thing that you want done, for there is the eternal objection, ‘It can’t be done that way.’ I know enough to say, ‘We will do it that way. I know how to do it.’”

Dining Room

“I’ve always felt that dining rooms should be over the top,” says Marc Thee. “They are a place for memorable moments, candles flickering, music playing. Taste and visual palettes should be on sensory overload.”

When Thee and his partner, Michael J. Abbott, principals of the interior design firm Marc-Michaels, designed their Winter Park, Fla., home, the last thing on their minds was a casual approach to entertaining. Their design inspiration came from Italy, specifically from Venetian palazzi, and the stylistic connection comes through in the Gothic-style windows topped by ogee arches. Antiqued mirrors within a platinum leaf framework and grids in gold leaf cover the walls; the floor consists of inlaid red onyx, black granite, and gold limestone; the hand-carved limestone fireplace features bas relief carving; and the ceiling is painted with frescoes.

As Thee and Abbott assembled their bejeweled room, they felt no pressure to be historically accurate. “I don’t care about periods or matching things,” says Abbott. Thee’s basic credo when designing a dining room: “Create a venue that is a treat for the people you are inviting to your table.”

Marc-Michaels Interior Design, 407.629.2124

Kitchen

Architect Ed Niles relishes risk-taking design. His own house in Malibu, where most of his commissions are located, consists of a series of steel and glass pavilions connected by a long gallery. Even the layout of the kitchen, within a four-sided glass box, is atypical. It fell to Chris Tosdevin, bulthaup’s vice president and design director, to find a balance between maintaining the consistent, spare aesthetic Niles desired and providing a venue for his wife’s culinary skills. “We walk a fine line between designing something architecturally beautiful and ergonomic,” says Tosdevin. “We have an obligation to make sure a kitchen is functional.”

His solution for husband and wife? “We designed two kitchens,” he says. In a secondary space behind the main area, Tosdevin incorporated a large counter space and an additional dishwasher, sink, and pantry. “It’s like a sous-chef prep area,” he says. Further simplifying the design, he concealed Sub-Zero refrigerators and refrigerated drawers behind bulthaup’s system 25 units. Finished in stainless steel, the modular units effortlessly complement Niles’ vision for design and materials. “What gave us the most satisfaction is that the simplicity of the finish and lines is sympathetic to the architecture,” says Tosdevin. Tosdevin proves a chef’s kitchen can also be an elegant gathering spot. “It’s very functional and still a great entertaining space,” he says. “Imagine standing there for cocktails, in a glass box with dramatic ocean views. It’s pretty special.”

Ed Niles, 310.457.3602
bulthaup, 310.288.3875 or 800.bulthaup, www.bulthaup.com

 

Wine Cellar

“A wine room is like a stage set—it’s a place that’s a little more fun and playful,” says Fred Tregaskis of New England Wine Cellars in West Cornwall, Conn. “Clients let me incorporate features they would never allow in their living room.” The medieval dungeon look (à la The Three Musketeers), complete with barrel vaulted ceilings, distressed wood, aged ironware, and hanging tapestries, seems a prerequisite. “Clients come back from France and Italy and want their cellar to look like it came from an old castle,” says regaskis. “They want patina, something that looks weathered.”

The owner of one wine cellar, who had been a diplomat in Europe, fondly remembers wine tastings in Burgundy châteaux, where the floors were frequently covered with pebbles. Tregaskis gave him a pebble floor. The owner of another cellar, who has a first-rate collection of first-growth Bordeaux, carries an ornamental 18-inch key that allows him to open the wrought iron gates that lead into his cellar with a grand flourish.

To achieve the effect of timelessness, Tregaskis uses craftsmen who can hammer copper counters, age ironware, and install crooked doors. He constantly seeks out unusual architectural ornaments. One recent find is a huge wooden door, complete with a small opening at eye level guarded by an iron grate. And he took 12-inch-square limestone tiles, which were being removed from a home’s bathroom, and installed them in the cellar’s ceiling. “Now the ceiling looks like a stone barrel vault with the plaster peeling off,” he says.

New England Wine Cellars, 800.863.4851, www.newcellars.com

Bathroom

“It was an architectural solution,” says interior designer Juan Pablo Molyneux of the deluxe master bathroom he created in a New York City apartment. His clients wanted to get rid of two unused bedrooms and a small bathroom. Molyneux took the old corridor and created a long gallery illuminated by skylights that connects the master bedroom suite with “his” section of the bathroom. Then he began revamping the husband’s bathroom. A large semicircular alcove contains the vanity and washbasins, a steam shower and lavatory occupy niches opposite each other, and a third area contains the mahogany-and-marble-framed tub.

Dark green Italian marble, mahogany paneling, formal pilasters, and opaque glass tie the somber decor to the neoclassical rooms on either side. “We were looking for something masculine, and that led to the idea of dark marble and mahogany,” says Molyneux. “Men love to be at their office. Even if they’re in the bathroom.”

Juan Pablo Molyneux, 212.628.0097

Library

The five-story limestone town house on New York’s Upper East Side had an interesting history. It was converted in the 1970s into offices for architect Edward Durell Stone and then it had been used as a psychiatric outpatient clinic for a decade. “The minute I saw it I knew it was going to have to be a total gut job,” says the current owner. “And that’s what excited me—the prospect of shaping raw space in Manhattan.”


M (Group) partners Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney, who had worked with the client on previous residences, took on the challenge of reconstruction and design. “It’s a landmark 19th-century house that had been broken up into a warren of laboratories and patient rooms,” says Mallea.

Mallea and Maloney placed the double-height library on the fourth and fifth floors. “The living room, dining room, and oval hall are on the second floor,” says Mallea. “You don’t see the library until you’re taken there. It’s a real surprise.” The library, which is at once a private retreat and an entertainment area, opens onto a large terrace with an outdoor fireplace.

“Warm, inviting, and a little unexpected,” is how Mallea describes the bird’s-eye maple paneling, which was burnished, given a honey finish, and then French polished. The furnishings include an 18th-century Delft tile map of the world, Art Deco club chairs, 19th-century Chinese tables, contemporary sofas, and a Napoléon III marble mantel. “The burgundy marble works wonderfully with the color of the paneling,” says Mallea.

M Group, 212.874.0773,www.mgrouponline.com

Media Room

Charles S. Cohen is no stranger to home theaters. His Connecticut house boasts a replica of a Beaux Arts movie palace, complete with ticket booth and concession stand, designed by Theo Kalomirakis. But Cohen also got exactly what he wanted for his Park Avenue apartment’s media room. It looks nothing like a media room. All of the equipment in the French-influenced family room, with its leopard-print rug and an elegant palette of reds and yellows, is artfully concealed. The most significant design element is a series of panels displaying pressed plants. “Jacques Garcia bought a collection of 19th-century dried medi-cinal plants and had them framed and mounted,” says Cohen of his interior designer. Behind those panels lurk a 65-inch high-definition Sony television,a satellite receiver, a digital hard disc music system, and a Linn surround-sound system. “It’s amazing what I’ve had put in behind the walls, above the ceiling, and below the floors,” says Cohen.


Eric Eidelman, owner of Audio Video Interiors, handled the technical details in both the lavish Connecticut home theater and the Park Avenue media room, where discretion was the key. “It’s a small room, but it has excellent sound,” he says. “People are surprised when they come in and don’t see any equipment.” There were a few glitches in the system’s installation.
“When the pressed flowers in the glass plates were put on the wall, they rattled whenever the decibels got too high,” says Eidelman. “The carpenters had to come back and pad the framing.”

Jacques Garcia, +33.1.42.97.48.70
Eric Eidelman, Audio Video Interiors Ltd., 201.358.6421

 

 

Master Bedroom

A John Lautner house is unforgettable, and the master bedroom of the Sheats/Goldstein house is no exception. All of Lautner’s signature elements are there: jutting hyperbolic paraboloid roof, motorized windows, unfinished concrete surfaces, and angular built-in furniture. The dramatic assemblage of materials and design, combined with the vista over Beverly Hills to the Pacific Ocean, give new meaning to “a room with a view.”

The sloping ceiling of the bedroom, which is also the sloping floor of the terrace and pool above it, exemplifies Lautner’s belief that there should be “eight to 10 good reasons to do something.” He explained the slope: “To avoid railings around the terrace perimeter, the edges slope slightly upwards, defining the space in a subtle way and providing security without disturbing the panorama.”

Lautner’s radical designs and concepts belong to the space age yet are timeless. The house was built in 1963 and remodeled for the current owner by Lautner in 1989, five years before his death. A series of windows along the bedroom wall looks directly into the deep end of the adjacent swimming pool. All the better to contemplate life, the universe, and everything.

 

Pool

Pool design has come a long way since the suburban pools of our youth, and that is particularly true in southern California, the Mecca for pool designers and the trendsetter in pool design. “Old-time celebrity pools were boring and plain,” says Don Goldstone, owner of Ultimate Water Creations in Beverly Hills, Calif. “The average pool was rectangular or kidney shaped, aqua colored, and surrounded by cement and mediocre landscaping.” 

While some of his clientele still request rectilinear pools surrounded by minimal plantings, Goldstone’s most frequent request over the last 20 years has been for naturalistic lagoons with lush landscaping. It’s a look achieved primarily with the use of artificial materials. “If it’s done well, it comes out looking better than if it were real,” says Goldstone. “We can create height for waterfalls, water slides, caves, grottoes, and steam rooms behind waterfalls. We can’t do that with real materials.”

Goldstone stresses that it’s rarely possible to salvage a poorly executed pool without a complete remodeling. “A project can take up to a year,” he says, “because it is handcrafted work done meticulously. It’s artwork.” And he doesn’t consider a job complete until his hardscape has been complemented by an appropriate softscape. Goldstone collaborates frequently with landscape designer Mark David Levine. “Without him, I don’t look as good,” says Goldstone.

Ultimate Water Creations, 310.550.6950,
Mark David Levine, 818.793.6000 and 310.275.1445, www.markdavidlevine.com

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