(Above) Lester added an oak bench to the chimney to balance the TV, which is much larger than the fireplace. It also rounds out the seating area. Photographs by Amy Bartlam
When a potential client, a guy with grown children who recently consciously uncoupled from his wife, asked Kate Lester to reimagine his newly purchased, 4,000-square-foot contemporary in Manhattan Beach, she was wary. “I don’t do streamlined boxes for bachelors,” she says. “White leather sofas aren’t my jam.” Rather, the designer, whose studio/shop is located in Hermosa Beach, built her practice by working with young families seeking coastal Cali cool. The homeowner, however, offered a convincing comeback: “He said he wanted to warm up the clean lines with color, vintage carpets, and interesting art,” the designer says. That, she couldn’t resist.
Once she signed on, she asked herself, “If Kate Lester is doing contemporary, what does it look like?” The answer, at least in this case, is curated and collected. She concluded that this aesthetic would reflect the stylishly dressed, well-traveled, highly educated, and bluntly funny client. That said, he moved in with only his clothing and toothbrush (albeit a really fancy toothbrush). Lester’s firm outfitted the three-story dwelling from top to bottom, from the coffee maker in the kitchen to the towels in his new hotel-like home gym.
The interiors of the house, which was built on spec by a developer, were crisp, but the finishes and fixtures were uninspired. To satisfy the client’s craving for character and quality, Lester enhanced the shell, incorporating handmade tile, artisan-made lighting, custom built-ins, and other details. Once she specified the furnishings—pieces with mid-century modern flavor in a mix of wood tones plus neutral upholstered pieces—she layered in the all-important, one-of-a-kind textiles and art.
The vintage Turkish rug that the designer used in the entry dictated the overall palette. It has a pale gray base, olive and sky blue geometric accents, and a strong, chocolate brown border. “He was surprised when I showed him brown tones,” Lester says. “They’re grounding and long-lasting, not trendy.” Above a console with grid-like detailing, a street-art inspired print by Annie Spratt and an asymmetric sconce by The Black Steel announce that humdrum accessories have no place in this home. “It’s an energetic moment,” Lester says.
Everyday living happens on the bright and airy upper level. Floor-to-ceiling windows and an approximately 20-foot-long glass door opens onto a balcony with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean that stretch from the Palos Verde Peninsula to LAX. Lester achieves intimacy within the open concept layout by defining distinct spaces for relaxing, dining, and cooking. A fireplace wall with textural stone tiles and an integrated oak slab bench anchors the seating area. A sectional upholstered in indoor/outdoor fabric and Lawson-Fenning lounge chairs with a modern vintage vibe make the space feel self-contained. A linear chandelier marks the dining area, where teak chairs with natural cane panels pay homage to the beach. “Rattan is a coastal reference, but not a literal one,” Lester says.
While well-appointed guest bedrooms occupy a portion of the lower and entry levels, the homeowner’s bedroom suite and office comprise the entire second story. All three bedrooms are fairly tailored, but avoid seeming overtly masculine thanks to Lester’s love of vintage, hand-loomed, and block-printed textiles. Pillows and throws made by artisans in India from Filling Spaces are a favorite. “I also have a guy who sells me African textiles out of the back of his van,” Lester says with a laugh.
Lester transformed the adjacent bedroom beyond the bespoke walk-in closet and spruced-up bath into a convenient home office with plenty of personality. A richly patterned rug in browns and blues and a grasscloth wallcovering makes the space feel lived-in, while sleek, acrylic built-ins provide storage and a place to perch decorative objects and art. It’s also an ideal Zoom backdrop. Some of the artwork, including Picasso-like portraits, were random flea market finds. “I bought a Rubbermaid tub filled with incredible art, some of it signed and numbered,” Lester recalls. “The client appreciates weird art; I love that he thinks those faces are cool.”
Despite her initial hesitation, the project was a dream, for Lester and the client. “He was able to create this home with only himself in mind,” Lester says. “He did it right.”
For more information, visit katelesterinteriors.com