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Publication Date: 2013-07-29

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​Windsor Smith’s Simple, Easy, Chic Renovation of a Los Angeles Home

Mimi Read explores a 1970s house renovated by Los Angeles interior designer Windsor Smith who infused it with a refined yet casual glamour.

For more than a decade, interior designer Windsor Smith has been making houses that epitomize up-to-the-minute California cool. Her look has always included tailored furnishings along with casual elements that knock down the glamour, making a house feel luxurious but breezy, like a satin dress worn with bare feet.

She’s still deconstructing glamour. But Smith’s latest move is to add a strong modern layer to rooms, giving them a new kind of restraint and self-possession. That’s certainly the case for this light-flooded 1970s house tucked in Los Angeles’s Mandeville Canyon, whose homeowners are movie producer and director Shawn Levy, his wife, Serena, and their four young daughters. “It’s a bohemian, artistic, vibrant, theatrical household,” Smith says.

She gave the family spare, multipurpose rooms layered with pale blues, lavenders, grays, and whites. Texture is a primary ingredient. The house bends around a series of gardens, with great rooms on either end. In one, the existing ceiling beams looked depressingly fake. They’d been faux finished, then faux distressed with gouges, and later painted over in white.

“We wanted to make them look organic,” Smith explains, “so we sandblasted them down to the natural wood, leaving just the faintest residue of white paint.” The raw beams, with their hint of patina, were the inspiration for everything that followed. In this great room, which includes a kitchen, dining area, and den, Smith added a whitewashed brick wall to make the space seem loftlike.

She surrounded a wood dining table with mismatched chairs from different eras and countries. “They all have a worn, driftwood feeling, so it works,” she says. If you’re scanning about in search of the formal dining room, don’t bother—there was one, but this family didn’t want it. They all play instruments, so Smith turned it into a music room, which holds their Steinway piano, a chic graffiti painting by the artist Retna, and big, square midcentury chairs upholstered in black pony skin.

As for the great room at the other end of the house, it’s now a proper living room dominated by a 1920s Venetian mirror so mercurially alluring, “it could have come from Gatsby’s mansion,” says Smith. Yet the room has a bohemian soul. Smith looked everywhere for a carpet large enough for the expansive space, but they all seemed ballroom-esque. Then she got the idea to stitch together four indigo patchwork rugs into one big one. “It’s like a carpetbag,” she explains. “Very Janis Joplin.”

At the end of the day, the homeowners retreat to a master bedroom so well edited it has the air of a high-end hotel room, a comparison Smith applauds. “The old bedroom was filled with books on the nightstand and other clutter,” she says. “The new bedroom is as clean as an incubator. Every day, we’re so bombarded with information—we need a still, quiet place to recharge.”

A fine and graceful bibliotheque, a silver velvet sofa, and an upholstered bed as trim and sleek as a yacht should do the trick. But just in case, Smith added a shimmering hammered-silver bowl on a pedestal: “I think of it as half a gazing ball—a way to connect with the relaxed creative mind.”

This article originally appeared in Veranda Magazine. Article by Mimi Read. Interior Design by Windsor Smith. Architectural Renovation by Steve Giannetti. Photography by Melanie Acevedo. Produced by Carolyn Englefield.

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