As eccentric interior designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz settled back into his SoHo, New York office after finishing his work on the Mondrian hotel in Los Angeles, he received a phone call from a guest. She was an equally eccentric yoga teacher/aerial dancer/Korean nobility heiress, and she had just bought a home on the canals of the hip Venice Beach in California. “The architecture of the house is very minimalist and she thought it was cold in feeling, so she wanted to hire me to warm it up for her,” Benjamin recalls. His design solution was a well-edited gallery of statement furniture. “It feels very exclusive,” he says. “Every piece was curated; we found every one. We didn’t just go to one showroom and do the whole home.” But pulling together such a vast array of design pieces takes quite a bit of skill. Benjamin is the first to admit that tying each eclectic space together with a unifying element – usually a simple, neutral rug or fabric – is essential. Guests enter on the ground floor and are led up an unassuming timber stairway to the dining room. As this space is close to the home’s entrance, the client’s feng shui master had certain requirements, including the incorporation of red. But red didn’t fit with the colour palette Benjamin envisioned, so he chose to incorporate it on the bottom of a white table, so it would be less visible alongside the client’s preferred pink. The light fixture that presides over the space is a custom-designed piece from Benjamin’s own quirkily named lighting company: And Bob’s Your Uncle. It is designed to symbolise drops of rain falling from a cloud.
The real hotel-quality wow factor is in the next room, where ceilings soar beyond six metres. That’s a lot of blank white wall, but Benjamin had the perfect solution. “She had no artwork, so we told her until you get artwork, let’s use this large mirror to reflect all the movement in the space, and at the same time reflect the softness of the drapery.” The entire wall is clad in an elegant semi-sheer fabric and the adjacent window fabric has a shimmery sheer. The furniture in this space is a combination of custom-designed and found pieces. The found antiques include an Eames rocker and original William Haines elbow chairs. One of the two sofas is cast in acrylic and up-lit so it glows in the evening, creating the very Mondrian-style drama that has the client hooked.
Up an open-tread timber stairway on the home’s third level is the master suite. In this private sanctuary, on par with the finest hotel suites, Benjamin created the client’s dream by enveloping the bed in a pod. The legs of the bed disappear, giving the illusion of floating on a cloud. Outside the pod, the walls of the bedroom are lined with Swarovski crystals (all in the name of good feng shui, of course!).
The adjacent master bathroom boasts a life-sized mural of a classic Renaissance fresco and mirrors abound. One mirror even reflects an interior of the Miami home of Lenny Kravitz, which Benjamin designed and the client loves.
Other interesting, over-the-top spaces in the house include a yoga studio, a spa, a purpose-built garage for the owner’s electric car and a gold powder room. “She said don’t hold back, I want you to go all out,” shrugs Benjamin, clearly noticing my raised eyebrow. “Originally we were going to do this room entirely in gold leaf, but the price of gold kept going up, and the gold leaf would’ve cost more than the house, so we decided to do gold glazing instead.” Clearly being an LA heiress has its perks.