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.
“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.|
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: www.studiolo.com