Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Judging from the name of Lettuce Office, the design think tank where Chet Callahan serves as the studio director, you might assume that he would be the chef in his household. But you would be completely wrong. The chef role actually falls to Callahan's partner, Jacinto Hernandez. An investment analyst who left his native Spain behind to live in London, Geneva, New York, and Washington, D.C., Hernandez landed in Los Angeles in 2004 and bought this 1960's house, high up on steel girders in the Hollywood Hills.
Callahan's renovation plans for the 1,600-square-foot project were based on providing a generous stage for Hernandez's cooking—a striking white-box theater in keeping with the house's modernist roots. Out went the wall closing off the galley kitchen from the living area. In came a 24-foot-wide span of stacked glass sliders that embrace the sprawling views, including the iconic Hollywood sign.
Even competing with that panorama, Callahan's mise-en-scène holds its own, thanks to precision placement of appliances and white-enameled MDF cabinetry. Under-counter doors and drawers have no hardware, just integrated pulls. Handles of brushed stainless steel open cabinets that extend all the way up to the 8-foot mark—easily accessible to Callahan, who's a tall drink of water at 6 feet 6 inches.
Callahan integrated the cooktop into a generous white Corian-topped island, so Hernandez could simmer and sauté while talking to guests seated opposite, on Jasper Morrison's bar stools. An aluminum hood contains vents and lighting.
Hernandez serves his Spanish specialties in an Italo-American setting: Paolo Piva's table in white lacquer and chromed steel, surrounded by Jeffrey Bernett's chairs covered in tomato-red wool. In the contiguous living area, Japan enters the mix with Naoto Fukasawa's white acrylic shelving unit. Strictly local, however, are the sofa, with its striated butterscotch upholstery, and the oak cocktail table.
When Callahan's renovation reached the upstairs, he had to reevaluate. "We originally thought we wouldn't touch the bathrooms, since they were part of a previous owner's remodel," the designer notes. But compared to the expansiveness of the new interior, the master bathroom started to seem slightly cramped—and that got a full-on overhaul, too. So much for intentions.
With a wall ripped out, just like in the kitchen, a freestanding double-sided wardrobe is all that separates the master suite's Rodolfo Dordoni bed from the bathroom. Both the wardrobe and the bathroom's medicine cabinet and floating vanity are vertical-grain white-oak millwork. The vanity supports an angular white vessel sink, which coordinates with the soaking tub. Steps beyond is a balcony encircled by a railing of powder-coated steel strung with steel cable. For continuity, Callahan tiled the bathroom floor with the same French limestone as downstairs.
When guests arrive and the Spanish chef gets into high gear, Callahan stays mostly out of the kitchen. His supporting role? Fetching stemware from a cabinet at one end. Or serving drinks from the refrigerator at the other.