A recent phone call from a loyal client prompted Houston-based interior designer Laura Umansky and team to pack their bags and head for the hills – Hollywood Hills, that is. There, a charming, 4,000-square-foot 1920s Spanish Revival home nestled high above Sunset Boulevard just a stone's throw from Chateau Marmont awaited their magic touch to refreshen its interiors.
Umansky confidently acted upon the invitation, as her full-service Laura U Design Studio caters to international residences, fashion-forward hospitality interiors and high-style corporate offices.
“Our client purchased this property because of its endearing personality,” Umansky says. “We approached the project with total house rental design in mind, but also considering permanent residential use in the future."
After consultation with the client, Umansky and team, including vice president of design Kristina Wilson, developed carefully edited concepts for each room in the four-bedroom, four and ½-bath property. Beginning with the great room, Umanksy created a more open living space by combining the separated casual and formal areas.
“We played with contrast throughout the space by using light, airy fabrics against the dark, ornate wood of the fireplace mantle, original oak hardwood floors and original exposed beam ceiling,” Umansky says. “The contrast of light and dark is very intentional, even down to the marble-topped coffee tables.”
The Oscar de la Renta sofas are covered in a crisp, durable fabric to add softness to the room, a goal also achieved with the upholstered end tables and the cushy tone-on-tone, geometric-pattern area rug. A television hangs above the fireplace mantel but, as Umansky and Wilson explain, the owner uses a private screening room as the go-to home entertainment lounge.
The matching armless chairs in orange leather from Palecek provide extra seating and a happy color punch. Beyond the curtains is a huge terrace affording breathtaking views of the hills to set the perfect backdrop.
“This corner has fabulous light,” Umansky explains, referring to a nook just behind one of the great room couches. “We decided it would be ideal for someone to cuddle up in and read a book.”
Umansky and Wilson chose a slick leather chair in a neutral tone and an adorable pebble-shaped foot stool (“The scale is interesting, I think,” Umansky says of the pair, both by Vanguard). A mix of textures, still in neutrals, followed, with the wood-base floor lamp and painted metal barrel-shaped side table from Aidan Grey.
Umansky and Wilson selected this wall at the other end of the main gathering room to showcase one of the homeowner's many vintage California-themed posters.
"We used her collection throughout to instill a sense of place in this home," Umansky says. "In fact, I believe we were able to display the entire collection."
The framed poster is anchored by a glass-top console supported by large-scale architectural elements from Restoration Hardware. At right, a structure-original arched niche is accented with an elongated, slender pottery piece, safely protected in the recessed feature.
The kitchen already was equipped with modern appliances, custom cabintry and a generously sized marble-topped island complete with a prep or entertainment sink. The Laura U team added new Arteriors pendant lights above the island and a table surrounded by raffia-wrapped chairs from Palacek.
"We enhanced the owners' ability to entertain in the kitchen by creating a gathering table for enjoying wine - they are collectors," Umansky says.
More arched niches in the study became home to many of the accessories belonging to the owner. "This room probably has more accessories than any other. That was part of our rental design philosophy," Umansky notes.
"And we thought of this room as 'The Writer's Room. We envisioned the home would be occupied by great Hollywood screenwriters, and this is where they would work."
The office table is from Restoration Hardware, the vintage Americana neon initial is in the owner's last name and the animal-print area rug was "just a great find."
Entering the dining room, the Laura U team instantly identified the focal point: The incredible views of the scenic surroundings and the iconic architecture of Chateau Marmont. They placed an area rug to define the space, added table and chairs and hung one of the owner's Claifornia-themed prints.
"The views really are fabulous, and the custom table turned out beautifully," Wilson notes.
A brick-inspired area rug, another "great look for a reasonable price," sets the stage for the master bedroom featuring a contemporary four-poster bed, custom-made in Houston and reassembled on site. Umansky and Wilson creatively centered the bed using draperies at the bed wall.
"And from the bed, you have a great view through the French doors of the city," Umansky points out. "The city lights twinkle through at night."
Possibly the biggest challenge, one typical of homes built in this era and style: No closets - and most specifically, no closets in the master bedroom. So the designing duo had an adjacent bedroom coverted into the master dressing room and lounge area.
Shimmering Maya Romanoff wall covering now gives the private alcove that Hollywood glam factor. Cushy chairs from Vanguard provide a place to relax. Metalic wall sculptures are from Arteriors.
Guest bedrooms received simple yet elegant treatments, as shown here with a room just off an inner courtyard where the soothing sounds of water features flow through the unlatchable paned casement window.
"We kept the 'wow' factor to the patterned fabrics for the windows," Umansky says, pointing out the botanical-print textiles from Kravet in waves of grey and taupe. "That's where we chose to place our impact fabric."
Impact fabrics continue in another guest bedroom. Smart additions include the floral-motif area rug and table and luggage rack from Mandalay Furnishings. The framed print is a stylized map of Los Angeles from the owner's private collection.
The corner of this same guest bedroom beckoned with its fresh, natural light. A single sculpted chair with Jonathan Adler floor lamp provided the solution.
"Again, our challenge was in achieving relaxed, high style that updated the house without compromising our budget, which had been set with transitional tenants in mind," Wilson says.
"It was so much fun to design and work in the space," she adds.
For more information about Laura U Design Studio, 1840 Westheimer Road, visit the website or call 713.522.0855. You can also visit the firm's furniture/accssory boutique. The company has satelitte offices in Austin and Dallas.