Monday, November 4, 2013

Question: When Is a House More Than a House?

Answer: When it's also an art project, a collaborative labor of love and a 3-D ode to enchantment.

(Welcome to Acorn Manor. Could it be called anything else?)

I'd been hearing about it for months. My friend Vanessa Leigh Price had been hired to decorate the home of an LA musician, and every time I ran into her, she would drop another beguiling nugget.

"Did I tell you the house was built in 1910 and is shaped like an acorn?"

"We're ordering a cream Aga." 

"We're doing one of the bathrooms based on a photo you posted on your blog of the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace." (Wow, really?!)

My invitation to see Acorn Manor arrived last week and I am extremely honored to be the first one to show it to you. It's a house with great personal warmth, the kind of place that makes everyone who enters it feel immediately at home. 
Ready? Let's go.
(Stained glass windows hint at the decorative story that lies within.)

Do you mind if we head straight to the kitchen first? I want to do a quick genuflection in front of the Aga. I love the dramatic paint colors in this room. And how about that leggy teal chair? It's such a great visual counterpoint to the monumental heft of the stove.

Interesting Fact: Vanessa and the owner were so intent on having every detail in the house convey the historic sensibility of Acorn Manor that even the names of paint colors were taken into account. Case in point: The kitchen walls above are painted in Churchill Hotel Ecru and Lincoln Cottage Black from Valspar's National Trust Collection. (See, that's what I mean about it being an art project.) 

Cheeky Detail That You Would Never Know Unless I Told You: What color do you think they painted the food pantry? What else but Farrow and Ball's "Arsenic"?

The cool autumn light creeping in bounces off those mini subway tiles in the most enticing manner. (Vanessa found them at Lowes  -- I love when something cool doesn't cost a fortune.) And what's better than dark gray grout? I'll tell you. Nothing.

Fancy a cup of tea? There's some mugs on the top shelf of the butler's pantry. The cabinet interiors are painted in Farrow and Ball's Hague Blue -- grand, right? -- and Vanessa had the wood doors sanded and stained to their original color. There's a coziness to this room that makes me want to sit down with a cookbook and lose all track of time.

This is the "Pub Bathroom." Did I mention that every room in the house has a name? The Timorous Beasties wallpaper, antique brass details and red boudoir curtains have a sexy decadence perfectly in keeping with late nights. All it needs is an antique dartboard on the wall.  

Down the hall is the "Rebel Room", so called because of its remote location and because upon moving in, the owner discovered an old peeled Bacardi sticker on the door mirror -- a memento from a former teenage tenant, perhaps? (Side note: The sticker's considered part of history and is still there.)  There's a creative calm to this room that whispers, "No hurry. The idea will arrive when it's meant to arrive."
(Creative gods Marcel Duchamp and David Bowie offer inspiration from on high.)

Here we are in the Great Room. The warm hues of that antique rug inform every piece of furniture around it. And look at the light. This is a house that accommodates all weather. How wonderful to be inside this room on a rainy day -- can't you see yourself on that window seat, stack of books at your feet, music going, logs crackling on the fire?

Decorative Details: The red chair is from Obsolete, the fringed lamp is from Ray Ferra's, and the poufs are from Nicky Kehoe.
(Photo by Olga Roth.)

If I had to name the style of this house, I think I'd call it "Domestic Libertine."

Come upstairs for a minute. I want to show you the "Stable Bathroom." I'm extremely chuffed that the design is based on one of my photos. 
(Royal Mews. Photo by LBG, 2011.)

And here's the bathroom. Note the same green tiles, the same dark panelling (Farrow and Ball's Blue Black), and the same cream walls. Vanessa and the owner even carried the pop of red on the bottom of the stable post over into the bath mat!
(Photo by Olga Roth.)

Stroke of genius: Vanessa found the brass towel rack at an equestrian shop -- it's made for hanging horse blankets.
(Photo by Olga Roth.)

Look at this bathroom, would you? It's been dubbed "The Oval Office" because it sits directly off a large oval sitting room. Those tiles. That tub. That green pendant lamp. It has an Old World sensibility to it that conjures up a country estate in the Cotswolds.

Have you noticed the running theme of red and blue and green throughout the house? 

I find that interesting because red, blue and green were popular colors with eighteenth century artists like Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and Isaac Cruikshank --it adds another layer of meaning to the owner's passion for historic accuracy. 

Shall we step outside for a moment? Yes, that would be a vineyard.

Now you're in a separate studio called "The Lodge." This is obviously where the magic happens.

Upstairs is another creative refuge especially designed for audio odysseys and mental wanderings. Soundproof velvet curtains add a layer of intimacy and keep the neighbors at bay. 

Admittance to The Lodge is strictly by invitation only.

To contact Vanessa Leigh Price, you can email her at excelsior Or just click HERE.


pve design said...

Every house should indeed live up to it's name.
An Acorn is an Acorn.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Thank you for the tour! What an utterly charming house - every detail was so thought out without being laboured. It feels like it has looked that ways for years.

Debra said...

We are building our retirement/dream home. A post and beam timber frame- named- Acorn Cottage. I see more than few elements here that we have incorporated. Your blog has always been an inspiration for a warm, artful and a very personal home. Thank you for sharing his lovely Acorn.

Ashley said...

What a treat it was to peek into such a unique home. Each element looks considered but still casual.

Anonymous said...

Quick, someone fan me, it's incredible and I feel a swoon coming on. Can you hum us a tune from the owners oeuvre ? ( no idea how to spell that may have written egg for all I know)
I have an inkling...

Anonymous said...

Have to ask, an aga in LA? You shouldn't switch those beasts off and they are excellent for drying out our dank homes, ah ok its a muso with Raynauds - got it.

Tara Dillard said...

was it Emerson who said, The creation of a thousand forests is in a single acorn....


ArchitectDesign™ said...

I can't imagine it being more perfect!

donna baker said...

Fun to tag along. The last pic is funny to me. I have a row of fence posts, each with a painted sign, saying things like, Go Away, Tax Man, Quarantine, Mean Lawyer, Bah Humbug, Mi Casa Ain't Su Casa, etc.

helen tilston said...

Vanessa Leigh Price, please take a deep bow. This is one of the most beautiful design projects I have seen.Thank you Lisa for your beautiful introduction. The Aga brought back fond memories of our farm kitchen in Ireland. The colours are superb. Lisa please give Vanessa a gold star!!!!!!!
Helen xx

WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

Thank you for the tour, Lisa! I am all a-flutter and quite in love! What an amazing job Vanessa has done!

katy gilmore said...

Oh thank you for this Lisa! What a treat to see - the great room, the orange leather chair, the cream aga, the friendly gnome! - thank you!

Unknown said...

Such a beautiful design! Thanks for taking us along. Couldn't agree more about the gray grout. Congratulations Vanessa!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emily said...

I will echo what another said. It looks like it has been well preserved in this state for years. Uncomplicated, and undecorated. Vanessa has confirmed for me to do gray grout with subway tiles in my next home. I've been going back in forth in my mind over white vs. gray.

jen said...

How wonderful to see the soul of a house reflected so beautifully in the decor. And a superbly livable house as well.

Lisa Thomson said...

What a fantastic, historical home! I'm trying to guess who this mysterious musician is. I'm thinking male because it's quite masculine decor. He is obviously tall because the coffee mugs were on the top shelf. I love the kitchen and the pub bathroom! Very striking.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Swan said...

Hello...I'm this in Pasadena? For it looks like a home a few blocks from me! Superb Prussian Blue paint that's chock full of Patina whether faux or not and that little line of Red trim on the windows...Pasadena for sure!

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Unknown said...

this is kind of amazing. i love the moodiness of this interior design ... right down to the matching of a dark paint colors and oriental rugs. Thanks for sharing!

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wonderful site. will be following

just a little note:

your hubby and I are from the same hometown (South Bend, IN). lived across the street from each other and he grew up with my youngest brother Dan

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

It must have been his doppelgänger because he grew up in San Francisco!

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Hi Lisa, You did a great job and i want to say you have a creative mind to share some mind blowing ideas. You have so many Interior design ideas and that is the point to looks more beautiful. Thanks..

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Anonymous said...

Wonderful work, really imaginative and impressive thought it was in England! Great designers.

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Chairs, Interiors and Beyond said...

Your blog is so interesting- you should open a shop,your taste is amazing! I think you would like these chairs sold at they are preyyy awesome!!

Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair said...

I enjoyed Acorn House exceedingly, and the commentary was very nicely written, warm and entertaining. As another reader mentioned, the house seemed situated in England somewhere. I grew up in a house built in 1910 built by the architect for his own family. I no longer live there but its spirit still lives in me. I'm happy and honored to have read your writing, dear blogger. I hesitate to mention it, but one small suggestion - please don't write, "There's cups." Resist that grammatically incorrect phrase no matter how pervasive and popular it actually is. I call it "verbal cancer!" It hurts my poor brain to read or hear it every time. Let me not end on that picky and picayune note though. I loved your blog, the photos, and most of all, Acorn House. Thank you!

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Absolutely stunning.

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