Produced By: Lisa Bingham Dewart
Photography: Roger Davies
Interior Design: Ryan Brown, Brown Design Group
Home Builder: Robert Benvenisti, RB Remodeling & Construction, Inc.
asked with furnishing the interiors of a Downtown L.A. penthouse boasting 25-foot-tall window walls, designer Ryan Brown knew no decorative element would be as vibrant as the city views that fill the glass. “The space is spectacular,” Brown says. “Your eye goes straight to the windows. It feels like there’s no delineation between the interior and the skyline.”
Brown’s client, who works in finance, was taken with the penthouse’s location and commanding vistas but also liked that it was a blank slate he could tailor to his needs. “When we began this project, the unit was almost completely empty,” recalls general contractor Robert Benvenisti. Brown adds, “It was a concrete and glass shell.” In starting from scratch, the client had just two requests for the interiors: He wanted the rooms to have a warm, contemporary aesthetic, and there had to be a whiskey lounge, where he could enjoy his collection of fine wines and spirits.
The first order of business was to preserve the structural elements that imparted an industrial sensibility. “Initially, we talked about putting drywall over the concrete support columns and the ceilings,” Brown says. “But we wanted to embrace the downtown loft feel, so we left everything exposed and painted all of the ductwork, the plumbing, the electrical and the steel beams black to make it look really clean.” The designer also devised a steel staircase with a glass balustrade that seemingly floats within the double-height living room, and he enclosed the master bedroom and the shower in the master bathroom in blackened steel-framed windows and doors.
To temper the glass, steel and concrete, the designer wove in wood elements that lend warmth and texture. Wide planks of European white oak cover the floors, and in the master bedroom, panels of rich walnut clad a niche behind the woven leather headboard. “The paneling was book-matched,” says the designer, who also created built-in walnut nightstands and shelving for the room. In the kitchen, upper cabinetry and a pantry door fashioned from bleached oak bring a similar feel.
The whiskey lounge received an entirely different treatment, although the overall effect merges clubby coziness with high style. Brown had the walls and built-ins painted a shade of deep blue and lacquered for a sleek effect. Brass sconces and shelving brackets add another dimension, as well as a bit of shine and a timeless quality. “My client wanted a kind of gentlemen’s cigar lounge or bar area because he has this incredible whiskey collection,” the designer says. When it came to furniture, Brown chose classic forms wrapped in soft coverings the homeowner could sink into. Armchairs upholstered in a natty striped fabric sit with their back to the window; opposite is a sofa covered in a plush velvet. A chocolate-hued rug and vintage coffee table mark the center of the space. “This is probably the brightest room in the penthouse,” the designer says.
While color defines the character of the lounge, a muted palette distinguishes the living area’s furnishings. “We didn’t want anything to compete with the views in that room,” Brown says. “But you have to do a little color or pattern, or things will fall flat.” To keep the area understated yet interesting, the designer layered a beige, geometric-patterned rug atop a flatweave. He added more discreet embellishment by upholstering a pair of swivel chairs in an abstract neutral print. The custom sofa–with a bend that orients seating toward the view–is in a cream-colored covering, while a channel-stitched leather daybed is rendered in a rich neutral. “My client wanted to see everything in person before we made selections,” Brown says. “We made a lot of trips around L.A. so he could experience the pieces before living with them. Every fabric makes you feel like you can curl up on it with a great book and not want to move all day.”
The most luxurious aspect of this penthouse may be its panoramic city views, but the subtle, artful way Brown complemented–and didn’t compete with–them is this design’s most impressive quality. “Every little element, down to the pulls on the nightstands, is visually stunning on its own,” he says. “But when they come together, there’s this layering effect and somehow each piece works together as a whole in a really beautiful way.”
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