TV production developer Ashley Stern needed to set up a Los Angeles outpost for her Paris-based company —quickly and on a limited budget. The space her real estate agent and interior designer Veerta Motiani helped her choose had plenty of pluses. It was around the corner from Santa Monica’s Main Street, it had wonderful high ceilings and industrial style, the building was new with a gorgeous lobby and roof-deck ocean views, and the price was right.
However, the long narrow space posed some design challenges. It didn’t get a great amount of natural light, the ceilings were a little too high for human scale and she wasn’t allowed to paint the walls. On top of that, Stern needed the space to serve as her office, have room for a potential intern, include a conference table space and be set up to accommodate two of her French colleagues when they were in town on business.
The project began with Stern’s desk. “She was nervous about this idea, but I had to tell her to just trust me, we were going to use a dining room table instead of a desk to serve as the centerpiece of the room,” Motiani says. The rustic light pine table serves primarily as Stern’s desk but can also accommodate two of her French colleagues when they are in town. Because it’s open underneath, her co-workers or her intern, or both, can join her around the table to conference and to work on their laptops. Two comfortable modern chairs serve as their desk chairs when they are in town. Turned around, as you see here, they offer another place for Stern to have one-on-one meetings.
Motiani wanted the room to reflect Stern’s bohemian style and the relaxed coastal Santa Monica/Venice Beach vibe. The rug’s deep blue chevron pattern brings in ocean color, while a woven ottoman adds a beach grass feeling. The ottoman also functions as a side table for notepads and pens during meetings and as a casual extra seat.
Because the room was dark and they weren’t allowed to paint the walls, Motiani found a contemporary steel chandelier that fit in with all of the industrial elements on the ceiling. She also chose a white filing cabinet and accessories near the windows to reflect the light and keep things bright. Stern literally was brought up in a [converted] barn and loves horses, so Motiani chose a white horse ceramic piece to sit atop the filing cabinet. She brought in plants to play off the glimpses of tree branches outside.
To save on the budget, Motiani found a handful of pieces in Stern’s family storage unit. The tall lamps were among their things; Motiani knew their exaggerated height would help the design stand up to the extra-high ceilings.
Another way Stern’s family helped the decor in a major way was through the artwork. Stern’s grandfather is noted photographer Phil Stern. He allowed Motiani and his granddaughter to cull his archives and pick out exceptional pieces for the office.This photo of James Dean in the turtleneck is one of his best-known pieces.
The glass console table can serve as a landing spot for keys and bags, a credenza or as a separate desk for an intern. A sofa serves as a more casual space to work from, where Stern can relax and get her creative juices flowing or pow-wow with a colleague. The coffee table is an upside-down metal bucket from Stern’s family storage unit. Motiani chose it because of its beautiful green-gray color. The piece adds an interesting rusty and crusty patina to the room, suitable for this more relaxed seating area.
“This project was a challenge — I really had to hustle to keep within the budget,” Motiani says. “We were really lucky that her family had so much great stuff they weren’t using!”
Last week I was lucky enough to travel up to the coast of Massachusetts and visit some wonderful places. Thanks to the Trustees of the Reservation, 100 sites and 25,000 acres of land have been conserved. They manage a wide variety of sites, from the National Historic Site of Naumkeag, with it’s amazing gardens designed by Fletcher Steele, to more than 5 miles of trails through the dunes and greater site surrounding Crane’s Beach on the North Shore of Boston.
I was able to visit two remarkable sites maintained by the Trustees of the Reservation. The first is an all-time favorite, World’s End in Hingham. This amazing site is a glaciated landscape consisting of four drumlins that jut out into Boston harbor. Way back in the day, Frederick Law Olmsted designed carriage paths lined with oak allees,when the site was slated for subdivision. Luckily that, plans for the UN headquarters, a potential nuclear power plant and who knows what else were all thwarted, and World’s End remains and incredibly beautiful spot for hiking and picnicking. There is a rugged cliff trail and a panoramic view of the Boston skyline, Hingham harbor and the town of Hull from its highest points.
There is so much more to maintaining these properties than mowing the grass. This modern birdwatching blind is a recent addition at World’s End. Recently, the adjacent salt marsh it looks out upon was completely rehabilitated. I love to spy egrets here.
Once dammed up and blocked from the harbor, the marsh had filled in and become overrun with invasive plants. A recent project was taking out the dams and reestablishing the marsh. The new bridge at the far end of this photo replaced the dam.
From atop the highest drumlin, you can spy the skyline of Boston in the distance.
For more information on visiting properties protected by The Trustees of the Reservation or leaving a donation to help them keep up the good work, visit thetrustees.org. To see more photos from my trip, check out Design Public on Instagram.
Our next visit will be to Norris Reservation in Norwell Massachusetts, which abuts the scenic North River. Stay tuned.
In case you are unfamiliar with iittala, it’s a brand that offers many iconic pieces for design lovers, from hand-blown glass birds designed by Oiva Toikka to classic vases by Alvar Aalto.
By the way, in case you were wondering about the man who behind the birds, this is Oiva Toikka:
But there is so much more to iittala than just the coolest glass birds around. It’s my go-to for host/hostess and wedding gifts. When there’s a sale like this, I like to stock up. Don’t tell my friends, but my standing wedding gift for everyone I ever met in architecture school is an Aalto vase. I like to scoop up a few when I can save 20%.
Of course, don’t feel like you have to buy stuff for other people. When there’s a sale, it’s an even better justification to shop just for yourself. The simplicity of Kaj Franck’s Kartio Carafe will please you minimalists and fans of all things Finnish.
The iittala Sarpaneva 2.9 quart Cast Iron Casserole with the wooden handle will become your favorite piece of cookware, and you’ll leave it out on the stovetop 24/7 just to show it off. I gave one to my very picky impeccable Aunt Sally Wittenberg many years ago and it is always out on her stove. And Aunt Sally was never one to just leave things on the stove that weren’t in use.
Even if you’re just looking up to pick up a little something, there’s something special from iittala. My choice is the iittala Kastehlmi in light blue. The little beads make this such an elegant and charming piece. While it is practical glassware, I’m thinking it’s going on my nightstand to corral my watch and jewelry, or perhaps with one floating flower in it.