Friday, May 17, 2013

Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design





Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Michael Smith lecture about his new book, Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design. Prior to the event, I knew of the premise of the book, which chronicles the evolution of a house from conception to reality.  But until I heard Michael speak, I had not realized how truly special this home really was.

Built to evoke a Palladian villa, this Malibu, California house was a labor of love, one seen through to fruition by the homeowners, the designer, the architect (Oscar Shamamian), the contractor, and various artisans.  The tales that they share are the heart of this book, and they give much insight into what makes a spectacular home.  But what I find to be most remarkable about this story- and what intrigued the most about Smith's lecture- is both the care and the detail that was lavished on this house.  From imported stone to mosaics to a smattering of furniture once owned by Bill Blass, nothing but the best would do for this house, although there was nothing ostentatious in the result.  It all worked well together splendidly.

As most of you know, the house has since been sold to new owners and the contents of the home were auctioned off by Christie's last month.  Thank goodness that we have this fascinating book that documents this one-of-a-kind house.











© Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design by Michael S Smith, Rizzoli publishers, 2013.

14 comments:

  1. I got news of the book and checked it out at a local bookstore. It is absolutely great. It's a pity the the house was sold and the items collected for the interior are now scattered to the four winds; such an amazing assemblage by a group of like-minded talents. It is almost reminiscent of the history of the building of Vaux-le-Vicomte in the completeness of its vision, all accomplished within so relatively short a span of time, as opposed to most great houses, who's collections accrete over years.

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    1. Quatorze, Smith also mentioned in his lecture that the new owner of the house plans to decorate it with movie posters. It's hard to imagine them hanging on the walls of such an elegant, dreamy house.

      Just thought you might appreciate that tidbit!

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    2. OUCH! Old movie posters are fun per se, but in that house, it will be a sacrilege akin to the moneylenders in the Temple; and we all know what happened to them...

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  2. I just leafed through the book at a garden store and was tempted but prudence, bank balances and comments from partner about buying too many books danced together in my head ...

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    1. Blue, You are welcome to borrow my copy anytime.

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  3. Movie Posters? I know that they are very "hot" at the moment.....but really? That is Californian taste for you: from the best to the questionable.
    Mary

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    1. Yes, it's hard to believe, isn't it? I love an old movie poster as much as the next person, but there are few homes that could pull off a large display of them.

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  4. What drives me crazy is wondering why the original owner would ever want to sell this wonderful house and its contents. After googling for 15 minutes, I came up with zip. Gggrrrr. Would you happen to know?

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    1. Patsy Ann, I believe (but am not certain) that the original owners received an offer that they couldn't refuse. Also, I think they were living most of the year somewhere along the East Coast, so they were not living at this house full-time. Take this with a grain of salt, though, because this info might not be correct!

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  5. It's a shame that beautifully designed and decorated homes can often be purchased by people with questionable taste who many times tear out the wonderful only to put in the awful.

    After cringing over a few homes I decorated, then sold, and then re-visited, I think of it thus: we raise our children with the best of intentions, but whom they marry is up to them. One hopes it's a prince/princess...but sometimes it's a frog. (Frog-ess?)

    It's some consolation to know that more houses are bought up and restored to their former glory than not. (Please, Jennifer, tell me it's so!!!)

    Have a lovely weekend, dear heart.

    April, Just Verte Style


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  6. What a beautiful house + book. I once visited the house and yes, it was everything Smith said it was. Movie Posters!, say it isn't so. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  7. Oh! I am afraid it is!
    I know (not bragging; just telling) both the divine Michael......(he is as nice as he can be! He is a "darling" (I do not give that lightly)!!)
    I also know the "owners"; as my husband played tennis with the "husband" (I HATE talking like this....but I cannot say names...it would be completely rude!!)

    Anyway; I believe the reasons quoted were the reasons.......they weren't using the house.. (I had not heard the "east coast" story...which I doubt!)
    And I love Michael's "take"! He said "I loved collecting all these things....and I love that they are going out to the world again"!
    He is a wonderful decorator; and a wonderful person!!!!

    (that is not a perfect quote......I hope I got the meaning right!)

    The people could not have a brain in their head. Why buy that house and not see that perfection and subtle gorgeousness was right there??

    Dear God! This is the first I have heard of the "movie posters"!! They are rumored to be Russians!

    the same thing happened to my favorite house on earth! "Villa Fiorentina" at St. Jean du Cap Ferrat! The most exquisite house with the most exquisite furniture possible.. (by Billy Baldwin in the sixties......perfection......dear God....)....Someone bought it and sold everything in it.....at auction! YIKES!!! It is completely frightening!!

    Penelope

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  8. HEy!

    Careful there about "California Taste"!!

    Michael grew up here.....these people who did this house with Michael are Californians.........it is the most exquisite thing I have seen!

    the new owners are not "Californian"!! They bought a house in California.!!

    CAREFUL HERE!

    MOVIE POSTERS??? I am hoping that is a rumor!!!

    I am afraid!

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  9. Where did you hear this lecture? Sheesh! I am so sorry to miss it!

    I love your blog!!

    Penelope

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