From the turquoise swimming pool to the dramatic furnishings, fashion designer Randolph Duke’s Hollywood home could double as a glamorous film set. Decorated in tones of black, white and grey, it’s the perfect setting for stars of stage and screen.
When Randolph first viewed the site on which his contemporary home is now built, however, there was only a modest 1950s bungalow in situ. He didn’t so much as glance at it: his attention was drawn instead to the spectacular panorama of Los Angeles laid out before him. ‘My heart began to pound and I knew immediately that there was nowhere else I could build my new home,’ he recalls.
Indeed, it was the view that was to determine much of the design which was realised by XTen Architecture. The three-storey house, set into the landscape, has a spacious glass-walled geometric structure with an excess of 1,500 square metres of living space, almost one half of which is open-air. Mirrored walls further extend the space visually and create the illusion that there are no barriers between the outside and the interior.
‘You discover the house with your eyes,’ explains Randolph. ‘It’s like a 270-degree pan with a film camera.’ The architects dubbed the new building ‘Open House’ because its walls appear to have been blown away by the winds that sweep the hilltop location. ‘Normally a house is defined by its facade but here that isn’t the case,’ explains architect Austin Kelly. ‘The horizontal planes formed by the floors and roof are what define the architecture.’
Even experts marvel at the construction and the apparent lack of vertical supports, and the architect is often asked what holds the house up. ‘A lot of steel, sunk into the slope, anchors the house in its place,’ he explains. The verticals that appear in the interior are painted dark grey and visually recede behind the dominant white horizontal elements. ‘The effect is that the house appears to be floating in space,’ Austin says.
It was a novel experience for the architect and his business partner Monika Häfelfinger to work with a client who could express his wishes in sketches. ‘Randolph could convey exactly what he wanted, and also has an exceptional understanding for materials,’ Austin points out. His exacting demands meant, however, that every surface was exposed to a choice of 20 to
40 colour and material samples, all of which had to be tested on site to determine which worked best.
The architects also became accustomed to last-minute changes. ‘When I’m preparing a collection I sometimes let out a seam or add a pleat at the last moment, ’Randolph says. ‘It is a bit more complicated when designing a house, but all the more important. The changing light adds a new dimension that is not apparent in blueprints, sketches or architectural models.’
As demanding as he was with the construction, he became singularly open to suggestions about its furnishings, adopting an ‘anything goes’ attitude. ‘Everything was possible, from flea market finds to elegant salon chairs and country-style tables,’ he says. These eclectic, whimsical objects complement the interior’s custom-made furniture, while the owner indulged his love of what he calls the ‘house jewels’ – satin cushions, brass objects and crystal. ‘My goal was to create a modern, but not a cold atmosphere,’ he explains.
Outside, the garden is uniquely Californian with avocado trees, spiky blue-green agave and succulent plants – an ideal setting for entertaining or relaxing, not least at night when the view of Hollywood stretches out, shimmering with a kaleidoscope of coloured lights that spreads to the horizon: a fitting backdrop to a home that’s straight out of the movies…
The owner Randolph Duke is a fashion designer whose glamorous creations are worn by Hollywood royalty including Angelina Jolie and Hilary Swank.
The home The contemporary three-storey home is built on a promontory with vast retracting glass walls intended to blur the boundaries between inside and out. The open-plan layout features three bedrooms and bathrooms, with the master suite occupying the entire top floor. The house is used not only as a private home but as a film set.
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Clockwise from top left: Kingston sofa by THE One, Dh7,495; Black and pink cushions by Zara Home, Dh155 each; Renato chair by Home Centre, Dh222; Zachary nesting tables by Ethan Allen, Dh3,980; Grandole lamp by Houseology, Dh4,023.
Photography by Barbel Miebach