A Los Angeles house by Wayne McAllister channels its mid-century roots, thanks to a thoughtful update by Marmol Radziner and Vance Burke
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Eugenio López Alonso's sublime Los Angeles spread has enough stellar contemporary art, inside and out, to stop even hard-core collectors dead in their acquisitive tracks. Cy Twombly, Donald Judd, Damien Hirst. Works by each—and more—populate the 7,500-square-foot house, situated on a prime acre in Beverly Hills.
Built by Wayne McAllister in 1957, the residence was plenty cool and modern at time of purchase. "Eugenio loved the bigness of the house, its high ceilings, its rough stone, its wide terraces," architect Ron Radziner recalls of his client, the scion of Mexico's Grupo Jumex juice fortune. "But the plan wasn't suited for the way he lives." López, an inveterate entertainer, enlisted Marmol Radziner + Associates to refine the architecture and Vance Burke Design to make the interiors livable, not to mention museum-quality. "Our work had to come up to the level of the art," Vance Burke says.
López succumbed to contemporary art's siren call in his 20's. "My family wasn't into it," says the 38-year-old. At first, he stayed close to home, acquiring work by Mexican artists—enough to assemble 1,400 pieces at one of his family's Mexico City juice factories and open the result to the public as the Colección Jumex. The desire for an international collection propelled him to Los Angeles in 1994. He became a fixture on L.A.'s art circuit, even launching the now-closed Chac Mool Gallery. He recently joined the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art.
After he bought the Beverly ' Hills estate, Marmol Radziner basically took the place apart and put it back together again. It looks as if almost nothing was done to the original, which is exactly the point. Walls of chunky Palos Verdes stone, gleaming terrazzo floors, and windows galore defined the house at mid-century, and they still do today.
The layout is what's changed. Formerly isolated at the front of the house, the kitchen has now been replaced by a library. The new kitchen, which took over space once occupied by a den, has been integrated in an open-plan scenario—with an enlarged media room and the 1,400-square-foot living-dining expanse—in back. Additional re- arranging occurred in the private wing, where Marmol Radziner reconfigured the master suite and combined the guest quarters. Final count: three bedrooms and three baths, including the master.
Marmol Radziner worked with Burke to devise a pristine but stunning materials vocabulary: pure white lacquer for the walls and ceiling of the entry and the living-dining area, plus new terrazzo for the floor; rift-cut white oak for millwork and flooring in the kitchen, media room, and library; limestone flooring and counters in bedrooms and baths.
Accent colors are strictly neutral, from cream to chocolate brown. Pattern is out. "Instead, we chose strong shapes and a large scale," Vance Burke Design principal Todd Peter explains. Those criteria applied both to the custom pieces—such as the living area's 17-foot-long boomerang sofa and 8-foot-long oval cocktail table—and to the vintage items. Even a stack of Donald Judd boxes, installed on a wall, adds a copper glow to the muted surroundings. '
An Italian floor lamp from the 1940's and a black-painted metal chandelier, circa 1950, gratified López's retro-modern tastes. Burke also re-covered a rare reclining version of Arne Jacobsen's Egg chair in beige-and-white cowhide and topped a 1960's bronze table base with a white-lacquered slab.
Knowing that López would appropriate the kitchen as his in-house cocktail lounge, the two teams gave it a massive island, built from 8,000 pounds of onyx and internally lit by fiber optics. When the party moves outdoors—or López wants a guava juice in the morning—glass doors framed in anodized aluminum slide open to a small courtyard. "We decided we needed some area of intimacy," Radziner recalls of this particular aspect.
Wander farther outside for more of Marmol Radziner's interventions. The architects raised the front facade's level of finishes by replacing the porte cochere's painted wood with strips of rift-cut white oak. Out back, a new lily pond—López's personal Giverny—bridges the descent from the terrace to the existing free-form swimming pool. Recent, too, are the cabana and outdoor fireplace, built from Lompoc stone, which is similar to the Palos Verdes stone in the house.
Marmol Radziner's terrazzo pool terrace offers ample space to display an angular bronze by Joel Shapiro. Inside, the artwork rotates, so the architects added a 1/2-inch-thick layer of plywood and chipboard to all the walls that aren't stone. Just in case López wants to swap Andy Warhol's Jackie (Smiling) for Robert Gober's Flying Sink.