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A cool and calm California retreat works harmoniously with nature

Out in California, this Lucas interior designed home embraces the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi while still being fully immersed into its natural surroundings

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By Piet Smedy | December 16, 2022 | Interiors

Part desert oasis, part Zen garden, it would not be a stretch to call this California home a veritable Yin and Yang of design; a balance between equal and opposing forces – light and dark, mass and air, nature and man – that finds not just cohesion but dynamic synergy. ‘The house is designed so that you are aware of the setting in every part of the home,’ says David Lucas, creative director at Lucas interior architecture and design studio, who, with his sister, principal designer Suzie Lucas, spearheaded the project. ‘And, thanks to its configuration, it takes full advantage of the beautiful desert weather.’

Cosy couches are placed in front of the fireplace wall along with beautiful views of the surrounding mountainside, Photograph: Douglas Friedman

This becomes immediately apparent upon entering the home’s private courtyard, which leads to the front door and open-plan interior spaces beyond and concludes at a glass wall providing views of the surrounding golf course and distant mountains. ‘It really sets the mood for the house,’ says David, whose team worked closely with the landscape architect to create an entry courtyard that felt ‘as if you had crossed into a spiritual space.’

Tranquil desert tones and expansive spaces reflect throughout the house, Photograph: Douglas Friedman

Inside, the floor plan is arranged so that a main, central room encapsulates the communal areas – kitchen, dining and living rooms – and leads out onto a covered lanai, also complete with a conversation space, dining area and outdoor grill and kitchen. In addition to this, there is a separate speakeasy-style bar, which can also be accessed off the main courtyard. ‘Private wings extend off of these larger, main entertaining spaces that are centred in the home to separate more intimate spaces, such as the media room and bedrooms, and to allow our clients to relax and retreat to,’ says Suzie. ‘We focused on the flow and function of the various living spaces to achieve a cohesive experience,’ continues David. ‘Each design decision needed to have the effect of unburdening our clients from their daily lives to create an environment where they could truly relax.’

The large stone kitchen island ‘floats’ in the middle of the kitchen, with urban electric metal pendants and barstools covered in dark upholstery, Photograph: Douglas Friedman

Drawing on the surrounding desertscape – wheat-toned sand, sun-scorched rock, silvery greens and weathered timber – David, Suzie and their team wove the story of the land into every element of the home’s interior design. ‘The house is so connected to its environment that it felt necessary to let this drive decisions around texture and colour,’ says David. ‘Broadly speaking, we embraced the concept of wabi-sabi as a macro influence on the design. We wanted forms and materials to feel beautifully imperfect and simple.’ Using the already existing exterior and interior limestone as a springboard, a tightly edited, mostly neutral palette was employed, punctuated by pops of metallic while bespoke oak cabinetry throughout was lightly cerused to accentuate the natural grain. This Japanese element appears again in the wet room, complete with restorative soaking tub and reflecting pool (the latter inspired by the moon viewing platform of Katsura Imperial Villa). ‘It is not so literal in most of the home but is a spirit that can be felt throughout.’

One of many entertaining spaces lies within the entry of the courtyard, centred around an organic rock fire feature, Photograph: Douglas Friedman

Perhaps the most deftly played dichotomy within the home is that of air and mass, where robust, rectilinear architecture is juxtaposed with softer, free-flowing forms, such as the Alexander Lamont ‘Woven Orb’ lanterns or the statement ‘Oo’ clay lamp by Eny Lee Parker. ‘Overall, we sought to express the feeling of being grounded in the house, so much of the design has a low centre of gravity, but is balanced with levity and light,’ says David. ‘Many of the interior architectural features and furniture are detailed to float, such as the indoor and outdoor kitchen islands. These are massive stone blocks that have a strong negative reveal at the floor that make them appear to hover in space. This play on weight and weightlessness is expressing the idea that, while grounded, our spirit is light.’

The dark couches are deeply contrasted against light wooden accents throughout the home, Photograph: Douglas Friedman