Monday, October 1, 2012

Time Travel: A Brilliant Design Invention

North of Malibu on a bluff overlooking Broad Beach, Richard Shapiro created a romantic villa with a splash of Mediterranean style 

Richard Shapiro is a noted arts philanthropist, art collector, antiquaire, who offers antiques and art of exceptional merit at his antiques gallery, along with opulent and primitive pieces at Studiolo, fabrics, Bordoni leather, and his own furniture designs. 

Designer/antiquaire Richard Shapiro wasn’t looking for a new house when he set off with a friend to view a property for sale in remote Broad Beach.

He was perfectly happy with his Holmby Hills residence, his busy life in Los Angeles running his design and antiques and art gallery and collection, Studiolo, and creating gardens and residences for clients.

“I went to see the site on a lark,” recalled Shapiro. “I stepped inside the front gate, saw the view, and discovered total seclusion. I was smitten. Within thirty minutes I knew exactly the house I would build there.” 

The massive antique French front door and a circular turret are the focal point of the entry courtyard. Shapiro planted fully grown cypress and boxwood for maximum effect.
Los Angeles antiquaire Richard Shapiro created his new house to look like a centuries-old Mediterranean retreat. 

Now, three years later, he stands in his ethereal light-filled living room overlooking the ocean. Charming smaller rooms are tucked among terraces and stairways, and the villa-style retreat provides a perfect year-round escape, a fantasy with the whiff of the Mediterranean.

On the edge of the bluff overlooking the beach a pair of handsome two-hundred-year-old Monterey cypress frame the view. Steps lead down to the solitary beach. Pelicans in formation hover and swoop, and silvery whales bask in kelp beds just off-shore. 

In the ethereal living room, 20-feet high steel framed windows and doors frame the ocean view. Walls were hand-plastered to suggest antiquity.

“I originally planned it as a weekend house, and I’ve found I’m spending more and more time here,” said Shapiro. “Friends drive up from Los Angeles, we have drinks and watch the sunset, and enjoy dinner on the terrace with a big fire on cool evenings.”

The villa is so polished, so perfectly at home on its site, that it’s hard to imagine Shapiro’s property included a tumbledown beach shack, roofless and windowless, in a tangle of vines.

“I loved the fact that I’d be starting from scratch, creating whatever I wanted,” said Shapiro. “Tall hedges and bougainvillea disguised the adjacent houses, so nothing would intrude on my concept.”

He quickly acquired the 40 feet wide and 200 feet deep property and started plans to build on the footprint of the old house. 

A Moroccan-style courtyard, thick plaster walls, and a Cosmati-style mosaic on the dining room wall create the mood. 

The white powder-coated steel dining table by MDF Italia brings a sharp modern tone to the dining area. Cost Plus chairs were painted marine blue. 

 Torso is 4th Century Roman.

“I’ve always been in love with antiquity, the Mediterranean, North African architecture,” said Shapiro, a longtime collector of high-profile contemporary art.

“This house is a folly, designed to look like an ancient building I discovered hidden beneath the undergrowth for centuries on this remote bluff, “ said Shapiro. “I planned the interiors to look old, too. I’ve always been attracted to antiquity, and want to live in another time.” 

A two-hundred-year-old Monterey cypress frames the path leading down to Broad Beach. 

Evenings, a massive stone fireplace warms the terrace. 

For many years, Shapiro’s extensive travels throughout Europe in search of antiques and inspiration included visiting and exploring historic chateaux and Renaissance villas. He admired the patina of age on ancient palaces in Sicily, and wanted to replicate that sweet ruined state in his villa. On a recent trip to Marrakech he discovered crenellated walls and vivid geometric floor tiles, styles he adopted for his Moroccan-style terrace.

With his simple open plan for the house, he commissioned steel-framed windows and doors for their slender grace and resistance to winter storms. As the double-frame house rose on the site, he worked with specialist plaster team from Ireland, lead by Ian Hardwick, to stain, buff, scrub and rough up the ivory-colored plaster mix to make walls look centuries old.

“I wanted everything to look old, worn, faded, weathered, and rough,” he said. Faded frescoes by Ilia Anossov add to the look of the Renaissance. 

A sleek steel stairway balustrade, painted gunmetal gray, was inspired by sculptors such as Richard Serra. Upstairs, supported by centuries old beams, is the bedroom. 

The island and the back wall of the kitchen are honed basalt. 

An antique Turkish Suzani quilt adds a jolt of color in the bedroom. 

The white cube bathroom was crafted of Thassos marble. 

But most brilliant, he juxtaposed his antiques and taupe sandstone slab floors with the crisp cubist outlines of linen-covered Studiolo LAvventura chairs in the living room. A sinuous modern steel stairway balustrade crafted by Glenn Fischer curves past centuries-old ceiling beams.

Over eighteen months of construction and careful attention to every detail, Shapiro has created a dream life for himself.

“The house was a labor of love, and I was on-site 24/7,” recalled Shapiro.

He added a new guest suite at the back of the house, and in the process crafted a sunny Moroccan terrace with an old stone fountain and the graphic punch of bright turquoise and white Moroccan floor tiles set in a vibrant zigzag pattern. Bougainvillea spills over the crenellated walls, and clipped box spheres in terrace cotta pots jostle with rain-washed Provencal stone troughs and an elegant attenuated stone urn. The sea air and sibilant surf sounds layer on the ancient Sicilian atmosphere.

An arched steel-framed doorway opens the stone-floored study into the sculptural garden. 

Richard Shapiro’s ‘collector’s cabinet’ study is a theatrical refuge with prized North African photography, a turned-leg eighteen-century Spanish desk, and a sandstone and slate floor, chipped to look old. Walls are plastered using a traditional Moroccan technique. 

At Broad Beach, Shapiro’s perfect day begins with an early morning walk on the beach, discovering sculptural rocks unearthed by the tide and spying cormorants and herons as he meanders.

“On a summer day, friends arrive for lunch that lingers on until the evening,” he said. “We sit outside listening to the waves, a full moon rises, the stars and constellations are bright. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.” 

Shapiro designed sweet places for repose—including an outdoor terrace and a plastered hemispherical niche with a custom-designed curved sofa. 

 In the Morocco-style courtyard, zigzag tiles were from Marrakech. 


All photographs by the brilliant photographer Lisa Romerein.

Lisa, based in Santa Monica, photographs for many publications including C magazine, House Beautiful and Santa Barbara magazine.

She is the photographer for ANN GETTY INTERIOR STYLE, by Diane Dorrans Saeks, newly published by Rizzoli.

Richard Shapiro’s extraordinary realm of the imagination can be found in the magical design triangle of Melrose Avenue near the junction of North Robertson Drive in Los Angeles.

For more details on his Los Angeles antiques and art studio, as well as his exclusive furniture designs and private interior design commissions:


Anonymous said...

Omilord! This is the best! You have outdone yourself!


Brilliantly written and photographed!
Not one iota of "faux"; everything completely believable.
What a treasure!!
Thank you!!


Dean Farris said...


Tara Dillard said...

If CS Lewis could have done house & garden...........this is it.


Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends--Penny, Dean, Tara-

Yes, it is indeed perfection.
Imagine that it was a tumbledown shack about to fall down...on the most poetic site.
Have had great comments also on FACEBOOK--where everyone says 'How can I arrange a visit'...
love hearing from you all, DIANE

Porchlight Interiors said...

This is the ultimate house! It doesn't get better than this in my humble opinion! Tracey xx

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Tracey-

It's lovely to know I have a reader (probably more...) in Brisbane. I've visited Brisbane...on my way up to Cairns and the Daintree rain forest, and then a crazy flight (took off from a field) on the Flying Doctor's prop plane to LIZARD ISLAND. Highly recommend.
I love Australia, so I'm so happy to hear from you.
Stay in touch, DIANE

Greet Lefèvre said...

Dear Diane,
I am so glad you posted about Richard Shapiro! I am totaly smitten with his style!
He is brilliant!

faye said...

i would really love to live here. such a beautiful house.

A Super Dilettante said...

Dear Diane, Thank you so much for this most beautiful and picturesque post - a miniature version of heaven, perhaps? The collection of beautiful tiles, colourful quilt and antiquities speak to my strong classical taste that lingers somewhere deep inside of me.

Best wishes, G

The Devoted Classicist said...

I loved it all so I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite feature, but the terrace niche filled with the sofa is certainly noteworthy. I even liked the Suzani quilt in the Master Bedroom (a pattern that's been terribly overexposed in the decorating books & magazines, but entirely suitable here). And the landscaping is fabulous, too.

Toby Worthington said...

The whole place is magical and brilliantly arranged,
but the hemispherical niche on the terrace bowled
me over. Mr Shapiro's understanding of scale is evident
everywhere in that amazing house. Simply wonderful,
and none of it looks contrived-- which sets it apart.

Anonymous said...

Perfect! just perfect!

Karena said...

This is a gorgeous property and Shapiro is genius. Thank you so much Diane!

Art by Karena

columnist said...

I'm just adding to the chorus of praise, but this is both beautiful and serene, and completely believable, (as in not contrived), and well "lived in". I too love the hemispherical alcove, but the oversized windows, (French windows), are the real key, allowing as they do, light and views.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends-

Yes, as my friend in Bangkok said, it has been a week of a 'chorus of praise' for Richard/s house and garden.

As Griffin, in the far north, said, it is a little piece of heaven. Indeed it is.

I'm so happy this house has given everyone their slice of happiness and an insight into a simply superb, harmonious, small-scale, and beautifully decorated house. Many of you--and friends on Facebook--have commented on Richard's collections. I agree--they are inspired. best, DIANE

Love Your Homes said...

Sigh....this is the closest one can get to perfection.
The property breathes perfect harmony and warmth, I would say that anyone who gets to visit, also comes to peace at heart.

This is a little Nirvana !!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Ingela-

Hello, in Sweden!
I hope the weather still feels of fall rather than winter..and that the warm sunny days are lingering on.
I'm so happy you like Richard's house. You have such a great eye--and such a refined sense of what makes a house a 'home'.
If you read Christopher Alexander's important and classic book on architecture, THE PATTERN LANGUAGE, he addresses many of he essentials of a comfortable and life-enhancing 'home'. They are all in Richard's house--for example, places to be private, places for contemplation, places for sitting beside a window to read ot gaze, and places to sit beside the fire. Richard has created soaring rooms filled with light and air--and his smaller darker study that is hidden, and overlooks the garden. He has the contract of modern sculptural stairs--and all the rich architectural detail.
It is a wonderful feeling to be there--one great discovery after another--and to breath in fresh sea air, sip an espresso at the dining table, and to be 'at home' in this house, an entirely new creation.
best to you, DIANE

Philip Bewley said...

All of this is done with tremendous style, and a truly informed eye. It is all just sensational. Yopu posts are truly a treat, Diane.

Paul Rose said...

What a beautiful house! Who wouldn't want to live in that place? The design of the house's decking and balustrade is just so amazing.

Dorota Batkiewicz said...

I've seen this house in Architectural Digest a few years back, it also made an unbelievable impression on me then. Mr. Shapiro is an artist with great sense of proportion and history. I wish you could have seen the photographs A.D. had taken at sunset, the light bouncing off the metal framed windows. A treasure from another era...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring.

Faye Baptist said...

Seeing what Mr. Shapiro did with the building's interior is nothing short of brilliant. The way he put together contemporary furniture designs with old-world art pieces in a Mediterranean-like setting is just magnificent. I wish I could have him design my house.

Lizzie Thurton said...

This is my definition of bohemian right here. Putting all those sweet-looking furniture inside a house that looks like a filmset is definitely my idea of ideal living.

Anonymous said...

Wow, seeing this beauty took my breath away. What a beautiful combination of elements between the decor and architecture. Am doing a bathroom remodel, may I ask where that tub came from?

Ancient Surfaces said...

Installed in the Shapiro's Malibu villa by the sea. As seen in AD Magazine April 22, 2011. Image by Tim Street Porter, Architectural Antiques provided by Ancient Surfaces. Phone: 212-461-0245