This California house owes its movie-star looks to Margaret Griffin, John Enright, and Ou Baholyodhin
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 6/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Set at the apex of Point Dume in Malibu, California, this house offers the proverbial best of several worlds: staggering Pacific Ocean views, a Case Study–caliber architectural sensibility, and Asian accents. The combination comes courtesy of the diverse backgrounds of the architects and the interior designer. Margaret Griffin and her husband, John Enright, cut their contemporary chops with houses in nearby Rustic and Benedict Canyons. Ou Baholyodhin, creative director of the Jim Thompson textile company in Bangkok, is now semiretired. He lives on an old coconut plantation by the sea in southern Thailand, where he and the owner of the Malibu house have mutual friends.
Long-distance collaboration may have seemed a dubious proposition. But the local talent, Griffin Enright Architects, concentrated on structure while Ou Baholyodhin Studio, commissioned after the schematic design was completed, contributed the furnishings. Baholyodhin himself made seven trips to Malibu over a two-year period, personalizing the process like no e-mail chatter ever could.
The house's form becomes clear only after the 500-foot driveway terminates at a turnaround toward the rear of the 1 ½-acre property—as with many Southern California estates, the back turns out to be the entry, setting up a procession leading through to the front. At 6,350 square feet, this suitably impressive structure graces its sloped setting, also designed by Griffin and Enright, without overwhelming it. There's a lap pool, a stepped terrace with a fire pit, and grounds studded with striking boulders originating in China.
A deep-taupe cement plaster clads the exterior of the house. "When I selected the color, I requested that the earth the house is built on be matched," Baholyodhin explains. Seen from the rear turnaround, the entrance bifurcates two blocky volumes. The smaller one, the garage and a guest suite, sits low to the ground. The large, two-story one looks like a "floating, stepped box," Enright says. Containing all the public spaces below and the master suite and additional guest rooms above, this mass is broken up by narrow horizontal windows. Around the corner, toward the front, angles morph into curves, and part of the upstairs is "peeled away for windows with views to the ocean," Griffin explains. Just below, the architects installed steel-framed ipé louvers as a sunshade.
Like the outside, the interior is a composition of sweeping curves and horizontals. But first impressions are purposely modest. That's because the entry hall is compressed by wide steps leading, amphitheater-style, to the all-inclusive living-dining-kitchen expanse. There's a hint of the drama that awaits with a glimpse of an overhead bridge and, above it, clerestories. Still, Griffin Enright opted to postpone the real ooh aah moment. It comes when you enter the living space—it's hard to beat the spectacle of the Pacific coastline as seen through a wall of glass that all but disappears when the sliding doors are stacked.
The three designers were determined, however, to hold their own with Mother Nature. The living area is subtly set off from the rest of the concrete-floored space, rendered almost cozy, in fact, by a glowing canopy that Griffin Enright set into the middle of the 11-foot ceiling. This light box is constructed from resin panels embedded with bear grass, and Baholyodhin picked up on the vibe with the cream-colored textured silk upholstery on a sectional and ottomans by Antonio Citterio—their scale encourages guests to kick off their shoes and kick back. Right behind, the kitchen is flat-out luxurious with its Brazilian rosewood cabinetry, stainless appliances, black concrete counters, and leather-covered bar stools lined up along the massive island.
Beckoning with the promise of further surprises, the second floor's swooping ceiling is partially visible from the double-height entry, where Baholyodhin hung a set of five massive white-oak bells, inspired by wooden bells in a temple in northern Thailand, one of the owner's favorite vacation spots. From the right vantage point, you also get an oblique view of the master bedroom's wall of Ching dynasty panels.
A study in light and dark, the master bedroom contrasts deep-brown flooring of engineered acacia and cabinetry of ebonized oak with white skim-coated walls. The adjoining bathroom picks up the pale end of the continuum with limestone, resin-coated concrete, and white ceramic, then goes darker via stained oak. Steps away is another environment for exploration, a triangular deck that's like the prow of a ship. A cutout in the ipé planks allows the owner to gaze directly down at the end of the lap pool. Or there's the straight-ahead Pacific view, which seems to stretch almost to Thailand.