Tour an Interior Designer’s Ultra-Cool Malibu Farmhouse
It’s hard to imagine that the Malibu home of interior designer Vanessa Alexander of Alexander Design and her husband Steven, a partner at talent agency ICM, could have ever been described as “classic Georgian” meets “unauthentic Tuscan” meets “Balinese.” But that is exactly how she relays it. “Now I would describe it as a Tuscan farmhouse,” she says, after a total gut renovation, which involved taking down walls, adding skylights, replacing every surface, adding new windows and doors, changing the floor plan dramatically, and bringing in more than a dozen 100-year-old olive trees. Oh, and let’s not forget about the vegetable garden.
Functionally, Alexander says her goal for the renovation was “to create more flow and openness,” to suit the comings and goings of her large family (three boys and two dogs). With multiple areas for lounging, indoors and outdoor, and countless cozy seats, it’s as inviting as they come. “Above all, a home has to live well and make you feel good in the private and public moments of your life, and from season to season,” she says.
A connection to the outdoors and an indoor/outdoor lifestyle, she says, was also “paramount.” To that end, she installed “huge doors and windows to the amazing land and views,” from her property in Point Dume, a desirable enclave of Malibu that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Outdoors, she created zones for large and small gatherings and installed an outdoor kitchen with wood-fired pizza oven, yet left “enough open space for the kids to run and play sports.”
It took a while “to cook up the aesthetic story,” she says, “but ultimately, it became a sun-filled, airy, beachy version of a Tuscan farmhouse.”
Whether she’s designing for a client or for her own brood, “I strive for elegance, but in an approachable, non-fussy way,” she says. “I don’t over-adorn. I think editing is very important, and I like to create subtle but impactful moments.”
Some of the most impactful moments can be attributed to artwork, including pieces by artists Bill Henson, Sam Francis, Matthew Porter, Deedee Cheriel, Rosemary Lange, and Todd Hido. “My husband Steve and I both love collecting, especially photography,” she explains. “We don’t buy that often, but when something really moves us, we try to make it happen.”
The biggest challenge of remodeling the 7,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bath home was “making it feel authentic to the environment—and not like it was McMansion-y,” she tells us. “I wanted this home to feel like it had age and soul, but not in an artificial way.” To that end, she outfitted the space with a balanced mix of worldly textiles, antiques, vintage pieces, custom designs, and new yet artful designs.
The result is a space that inspires a moment of déjà vu: Its pastoral Italian leanings feel a bit like a scene we’ve seen before, but its California eclectic furnishings and one-of-a-kind art and vintage collection feel nothing but current. “The house transports you.”
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