A Family Affair
It's children first in the airy suburban loft that Stanley Felderman and Nancy Keatinge built for themselves and their twin daughters in Los Angeles.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 2/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
For 20 years architect Stanley Felderman and designer Nancy Keatinge delighted in their 1920's Santa Monica bungalow and its lush, English-style garden—a romantic cottage for two. But the arrival of twin daughters, Kate and Sara—now rambunctious 4 1/2-year-olds—meant uprooting to a larger family home. The couple, partners in their eponymous design firm and collectors of modern art, initially found a perfectly serviceable 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom 1950's ranch on a 1/4-acre lot in Pacific Palisades.
"I thought I'd just raise the ceilings, which were only 7 or 8 feet high, and put in an Ikea kitchen," recalls Felderman. But Keatinge demurred, recognizing that it made more economic sense to build an entirely new house. "I told Stanley to follow his dream," she says. What Felderman dreamed of was a home in which family life could be enjoyed without constraints or borders.
Felderman started with the idea of a redefined split-level with half-flights up, to the master bedroom, and down, to the twins' bedroom. Soon, the central kitchen he envisioned was integrated into contiguous living and dining areas. Then a denlike zone was added, with plenty of room for a Verner Panton sculptural foam-and-wood Living Tower seating unit, on which the twins would be free to climb. The open plan enables the parents to keep an eye on the kids and allows fluid movement. "I've always liked loft living," says the ex–New Yorker. "Then I realized this is a loft."
"But it's not just a big box," Felderman continues. "We do have a corridor." A hallway, formed by freestanding ebonized-oak closets, leads from the main entrance to the kitchen and living area beyond. Blocky white cabinetry laminated with ColorCore defines the kitchen, dominated by a 13-foot-long wengé and Carrara marble island. All millwork, including kitchen cabinets, floats 1/2 inch above the quarter-sawn rift-oak floor, ' as do the walls, with corresponding reveals at the ceiling. "In general, planes aren't anchored to each other," notes the architect.
Felderman likes details that are clean, not precious. For example, the living and dining areas are separated by an 18-inch-wide gap in the roof, creating a ribbon skylight that continues as a vertical sliver of window down the adjacent wall. The 121/2-foot-high ceiling slopes down over the dining area to a height of 9 feet in the kitchen. "The house is about the manipulation of space and light, not fancy construction," Felderman says.
Nowhere is that more true than at the rear, where glass walls at the corner of the living area slide back to create an open-air pavilion. The interior oak flooring gives way seamlessly to the patio's concrete paving. The distinction between indoors and out is blurred; all that separates them are diaphanous polyester sheers that billow in the wind. No surprise that the girls like to wrap themselves in them.
If the interior spaces owe something to East Coast lofts, their physical and visual connection to the outdoors is pure Southern California. "I sit in the yard and look back in to see the light and the lines of the house, and its transparency," says Felderman, who designed the building's external form—a bold street facade of concrete blocks and galvanized aluminum beneath an overhanging plaster-and-aluminum roof supported on an all-steel structure—while finalizing the floor plan.
Furnishings throughout read like a "who's who" of postwar design. There's only one sofa; otherwise it's all chairs, including Eero Saarinen's Womb lounge chair, Marcel Breuer's Cesca armchair, Hans Wegner's Peacock chair (decorated with the twins' teething marks), Alessandro Mendini's pointillist-inspired Proust's armchair, Frank Gehry's corrugated-cardboard Easy Edges piece, Maya Lin's chaise, and Marcel Wander's ' Knotted chair. Gehry's Hat Trick chairs surround Jean Nouvel's scalpel-edge steel dining table. In lieu of a cocktail table, Felderman uses a 4-foot-square leather-covered ottoman of his own design. Tables range from Eero Saarinen's Tulip model to a one-off resin piece originally meant as a vessel. "I just turned it over. It looked better that way," says Felderman.
The master suite floats above the entryway like a dreamy aerie. Felderman and Keatinge might lounge before the three-sided fireplace on Marc Newson's fiberglass Felt chair or sprawl out on Barber Osgerby's leather-covered Loop bench. They might indulge in a whirlpool bath in a spa-like setting of travertine, limestone, and sandblasted glass. But they're never alone for long. The couple's progeny inevitably bound through on the way to or from their own studio upstairs.
The twins' 500-square-foot space—added midway through construction to bring the total area to 4,200 square feet—is every bit as design-savvy as the rest of the house. Two red Verner Panton Cone chairs face Mac computers where Sara and Kate show off their nascent design skills. Already, they're almost as proficient in Photoshop as their parents.
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