August 10, 2009

DvH 200903 Sonoma County, California
Small winery and artist retreat

Artists and Isolation…
… are a potent mix. The hypnotic sense of privacy offered by the best caravansaries brings out the most creative tendencies. Granted they also have been self-destructive. Writers, painters, and musicians have dissolved in such places and the annals of Rock-and-Roll’s music ‘greats’ have the most public and notoriously self-destructive stories to tell. Howard Hughes lost his mind, a little more discreetly, looping a Rock Hudson film in his room at the Las Vegas Desert Inn, completely succumbing to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nevertheless, there are retreats that bring out the best and I will design such a place. In other words, I will put the needle to the record and let the music play without calling the paramedics.

Picture perfect.
First minimalist, than rien. Stripped to its essence, since artists are sensitive to, and often distracted by, strong colors and objects, the interiors will remain blissfully ‘undecorated’. A neutral color and texture scheme will carry throughout the main house and the guest cabins. Colors and textures will come from the artists’ contributions and the surrounding landscape.

August 1, 2009

DvH 200905 Decker Canyon, Los Angeles, California
residential (new concept design) re-model

This is Hamburg calling. “Is this DvH design?” and then a man’s voice on the telephone, a civilized voice. Mr. X announces himself. I did not know him, but friends had told him to contact me. He spoke with the faintest trace of a German accent- “I just bought a property in your town,” and then the smallest hesitation. “Do you know of anybody who would do it up for me?” Hesitation then on my part. “Why yes…” And then obviously having gathered up his courage Mr. X comes out with it: “Would you consider doing it yourself, including the landscaping?” I understand the property is near you. Go and look at it and tell me what you think.” And then with amusement, “It’s almost a ruin.” I accepted. Mr. X said he would call again the next morning after I had seen the place. No sleeping dogs here, I thought. The house proved to be anything but a ruin and the architect responsible for the restoration met with me and showed me around. Young and efficient, a native of the area, he understood and respected the local building traditions –how one wishes more people of his calling had the same qualities-what alterations there will have to be made will be made with tact. In fact, it will be difficult to notice exactly where the changes will occur. Lost at the end of a long winding road, the house has a magnificent view over the area with not another building in sight. It is a small house and will stay that way, thank you. The following day Mr. X arrived. “Do you like the place?” Immediately he put me at ease. “My wife and I hate decorated spaces and dark colors. I have seen your work and I know you will make everything white.” “ Well, not quite,” I answered. “That’s all right, that’s fine with me. Everything is to be very simple, you understand?” I understood. Mr. X wanted to have the house as a retreat from the pressure of his life and his constant travels. He gave me the guiding lines and has left me to it.

All native plantings have been enhanced. Mature trees were kept, ‘naturally’. A sunken garden has been added. The view was left unobstructed. The guesthouse garden has been re-terraced. Stone structures, woodwork, iron & tile work have been left in their original state. Interior and exterior color and texture schemes are subdued to compliment and harmonize with the surrounding landscape. All furnishings were custom designed and built.

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