Some designers need to look no further than their surroundings for inspiration. California-based designer Alison Whittaker drew on Mediterranean and Santa Barbara styles to create this magnificent 12,000 square foot estate home. Alison worked closely with the commissioned architect to ensure the residence would feel warm and intimate in spite of its grand size. The luxurious home reflects a timeless quality with interiors that look like they’ve been there for decades.
The project started with simple bubble diagrams with Alison working to keep the spaces and ideas in balance. The design, planning and construction took more than four years with Alison overseeing all interior architectural details such as finish material selection, lighting and fixture design, furniture creation and selection, as well as many of the exterior details. From the Venetian plaster walls and the antique limestone floor to the hand-hewn beams and doors, every space was designed with attention to detail and continuity. The interiors reflect an enduring style that the client is sure to enjoy for many years to come.
Alison says: When you first enter the home, you’re greeted by this beautiful Old World stairwell in the entry. The rail and cap were all custom-made and welded together in the shop. Pay close attention to the circle design below the handrail. I designed it specifically to accent the circular descending stair. The architect and I worked together to make all the angles complementary. This kind of thought and precision is reminiscent of the master homes of European nobility. The scrolling is detailed but not too ornate. A bronze finish was applied to the metal for a little rustic glitz and glam. The walls are Venetian plaster, and the raised coffer has a metallic finish to highlight the 12-foot light fixture. (Yes, the chandelier is really 12 feet long! I love it!) I’m big on mixing traditional elements with contemporary light fixtures and modern art. You’ll see that transitional style throughout the home.
Modern art with an abstract format creates a dramatic backdrop for the more traditional elements here in the living room. Each space in the home has a unique ceiling design. A typical approach on the beams would be to do them in a dark stain (which I actually did in most of the other rooms), but I wanted the main living room to be light and airy, so I distressed French limed oak for the beams. All the doors and windows are walnut and bronze creations from Italy. They are gorgeous, and I wanted to highlight them. Keeping the beams light lets them and the fantastic view they lead take center stage.
The kitchen had the most challenging beam layout, as the room was not symmetrical. I designed the middle beam and the chandelier that hangs from it so they would be positioned over the island. The chandelier with waxed candles creates a soft glow over the island — perfect for leisurely Spanish-style meals. We installed recessed lighting to meet our California Title 24 energy efficiency code. All the cabinetry in the house is custom designed and hand-finished. There’s really no need for a dining room with such a spacious island – perfect for food prep and seating a family of five. It’s definitely my favorite feature in the kitchen.
The color palette for the master bedroom is soft silver blues and greens. The Kerry Joyce bed has turned posts and a figured walnut headboard. I knew we had to have that amazing bed and designed the rest of the room around it! We created the custom Tibetan rug in a palette of soft beige and blues to complement the rest of the bedroom and to provide a luxurious spot for your feet to fall every morning.
This spacious master bathroom evolved from client meetings centered around the functionality of the space and the desire for separate his and her vanities denoted by a strong architectural element. After several studies on scale, the design direction proceeded to a Palladian window grouping that captures views of the California redwood trees. A hammered copper bath by Native Trails rests on a mosaic-tile rug and serves as a dramatic focal point for the space. We married Mediterranean elegance and California luxury in this dream bathroom to the client’s great satisfaction.
The family calls this over-sized space the rec room. It’s situated on the lower level, surrounded by the kids’ bedrooms. A great seating area and flat screen TV right across from the adjacent pool room create a party-ready space for kids and parents alike.
Close to the rec room is a highly evolved wine cellar. The client envisioned a wine cellar with generous 10 foot ceilings to accommodate their growing collection of wine. Initially, there was plenty of space for the HVAC for this estate home, but when the client added more square footage to the design, the wine cellar became a catch-all for additional ducting. With each change order, more mechanical ducts were added. The design challenge became to create a timeless feel for the cellar in the reduced floor space and ceiling height. I created a wood-framed oval with X-cross beams and a pendant in the small remaining 10′ area. We lowered the rest of the ceiling to conceal the ducts. The base cabinet conceals the floor-level ducting. The resulting design with antique terra cotta floors and Venetian plaster walls transforms the space into an intimate and inviting wine cellar with no hint of mechanical duct.