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Samuel Bayer has won awards for directing videos for such artists as Nirvana (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”), Green Day, Justin Timberlake and Metallica. Soon, he’ll shoot episodes of HBO’s upcoming series American Lion, starring Sean Penn. But when it came time to helm the renovation of his four-bedroom Santa Monica Canyon home a block from the beach, Bayer was the one in need of direction. So he and his wife, Ericka Danko (a video producer who has worked with Jay Z and Usher, she’s now a full-time mom), turned to Olivia Williams of MW Design after buying the 4,200-square-foot Santa Fe-inspired hacienda, built in 1991, for $3.65 million five years ago. “It was orange stucco with ornate wood,” recalls Williams. “It had good bones but needed a complete update.”
With the help of Anonymous Architects, she set out to transform dark, clunky interior spaces into the kind of light-filled contemporary home that the Bayers imagined for their growing brood — sons Ziggy, now 5, and Axel, now 2. “It was important to me to create something usable that would look as good now as it will in 20 years,” says Bayer.
Williams toned down the once-orange curved wood ceiling in the master with a gray wash.
In the living room, a photo by Joel-Peter Witkin hangs above an antique French limestone mantel from Obsolete in Culver City.
Williams opened the kitchen to the living room, keeping a fireplace wall as a divider. She upgraded materials, using honed marble for the kitchen counters and open shelving that gives the Bayers easy access to dishware. Upstairs, she merged one of the smaller bedrooms with the master suite. But the most dramatic changes were the new curved staircase — with a sculptural wrought-iron railing by metal artist Adria Pauli — and a new roof deck to maximize the ocean view.
Keeping the house kid-friendly also is key to Williams’ design — from the “indestructible” Eames chairs around the kitchen table to the slip-covered Belgian linen headboard in the master. “Everything in this house is washable!” she says. “It’s an inviting house. You immediately feel comfortable even though it has tall ceilings and could feel overwhelmingly grand. I tried to achieve that feeling you want in California.”
Large-scale photos by Bayer (available at Stahl + Band in Venice) give the high-ceiling dining room a gallery vibe.
Pauli’s staircase railing features an irregular design. Says Williams, “If it had been straight, it would have looked like a jail cell.”
This story first appeared in the June 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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