Mid-century California home renovated by two set designers

Famous in the world of cinema as a well-known group of stage designers, David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco they have long been collaborators with directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Damien Sazel. From the luxurious New York of the 70s they were invented for the Royal Tenenbaum from Anderson to Ed Ruscha’s nostalgic and shades of Los Angeles La La Land, the pair control every nuance of mood, point of view and atmosphere in the films they design. However, when they were looking for a house eight years ago, their priority was a very static view.

Located in the foothills of Santa Barbara, the 1956 home they rescued and renovated has views of the ocean, skyline and sky, and even Santa Cruz Island. The scenery is constantly changing, hectic one day and bucolic the next. Just beyond the glass, deer roam the steep hills and the new drought-resistant plantations. The view is a “living work of art,” says Reynolds-Wasco, set designer. “We’re so high up that we can see above the cloud level,” adds Wasco, production designer.

Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and David Wasco outside their home in Santa Barbara, California, designed in 1956 by architect Robert Ingle Hoyt and renovated by architect Brian Hart. The front door is painted Fresno by Benjamin Moore, the windows are all original.

John Ellis

I first met the duo in 2001 when I wrote about their 1950s hilltop home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was a well-executed example of modernism designed by Lee B. Kline, a talented architect who graduated from the University of Southern California. We kept in touch as I continued to write books about the architect Richard Neutra and they won an Oscar for their work La La Land (to date they have worked on 37 films).

Off-set, for architecture fanatics, the couple was known for their work on a successful 1989 exhibition on mid-century design, “Blueprints for Modern Living,” at the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles. 80, met masters such as Ray Eames and Pierre Koenig in person when they lived in the city’s Falk Apartments, designed in 1939 by the radical modernist Rudolph Schindler.

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In the dining room, the Kartell table is by Ferruccio Laviani, the chairs are by Gio Ponti, the pendant light is custom and the French piano stool has been purchased over the years.

John Ellis

Their love affair with the modern, and their personal love story, began even earlier, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1970s, when they were working for Design Research, the lifestyle store that made modernism a habit phenomenon. Since moving to Los Angeles, Wasco says they’ve been “devouring books on the history of Los Angeles.” And in addition to restoring wherever they live, they have always believed that their film works could play a role in saving the past. “We think our job is also about preserving Los Angeles so that in 50 or 100 years, people can see what the city was like,” he says.

Their move to Santa Barbara was to find refuge from the demonic pace of cinema. They still maintain an office in Los Angeles in the Los Feliz Towers, but “the half-hour drive allows us to decompress,” says Wasco. Like their former Silver Lake home, the Santa Barbara home incorporates the best residential architecture designed by architects no one has ever heard of, in this case, Yale- and Cornell-educated Robert Ingle Hoyt.

Casa d’Inverno, as it is called, with its 185 square meters, occupies the top of a hairpin above the historic botanical gardens known as the Franceschi Park. The nearly one-acre triangular site is anchored by stone walls, patios, plants and three mighty trees: a California redwood, oak and Chinese elm. Externally, the house is rather nondescript: an elongated stucco box whose pitched side gable roof, deep overhangs and exposed wooden beams recall the strategies of Japanese architecture, Greene and Greene, or Cliff May. But inside, the atmosphere is a synthesis of sophistication and clarity, resulting in carefree spaces built with the classic material palette of mid century modern: sequoia, Douglas fir, thin concrete blocks, glass and steel, materials that flow from the inside out.

Wherever possible, the duo has preserved the patina of time. Working closely with architect Brian Hart and contractor Dan Clause, they tried to ensure consistency: for example, taking inspiration from the older Douglas fir on the interior doors, the new furniture is of the same material. The shelves are covered in white Corian, except for the white formica desk in the office, a tribute to a past story.

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Behind the house, a gravel patio is furnished with a pair of 1938 butterfly chairs by Jorge Ferrari Hardoy for Knoll. The dining table and chairs, designed by Tadao Inouye for Brown Jordan, are by Grain.

John Ellis

Their love for her Californian modernism it’s everywhere. The interiors of the kitchen cabinets are painted a light green, contrasting with the exteriors, just as Albert Frey or Neutra would add a new hue to even a humble home space. Santa Barbara’s stone garden walls wink at Marcel Breuer’s disciplined rectangular stone walls. A protruding corner on the north wall of the kitchen houses a small sofa based on a Schindler design. Ray and Charles Eames are also referenced, with the playful way of displaying books, objects and artwork. With a nod to the great Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, new curved planting strips and gravel were added to complete Hoyt’s rectilinear construction.

The couple notes that their appreciation for the California design in the mid-twentieth century it is a personal love. “We don’t go around inspiring every movie with these houses, we work with many periods of history and architecture,” says Wasco. Their role in a film is to project the director’s vision. “The city itself can become a character.”

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In the master bedroom, the bed is by Axel Bloom, the Gio Ponti chair is original, the table lamp is by Luxo and the floor lamp by Anni.

John Ellis

“At our wedding, the wedding music was a Shaker hymn: ‘It’s a gift to be simple,’ It’s a gift to be free, ‘It’s a gift to land where you’re meant to be. Oddly appropriate,’ says Reynolds-Wasco, summing up a view, in a sense, of their priorities, both at work and at home.

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Douglas Friedman

This article has been adapted from the original published in the April 202o issue of Elle Decor Us

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