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Romantic Riviera-Style Home

A mother, a daughter, and a decorator cast a relaxed Riviera spell on a respectfully restored California villa

Written and produced by Darra H. Baker
  • Dominique Vorillon

    When Los Angeles designer Lynn von Kersting takes on a project, the best part is the charmed, relaxed aura that results—the feeling that the house has been, and will stay, this way forever. That’s one reason why her clients keep coming back.

    Such was the case with Donna Kaplan, whose previous California home and garden were designed by von Kersting and featured in Traditional Home in 2004. Recently, Donna embarked on a new adventure, buying a 1941 Brentwood, California, house. Naturally, she called on von Kersting, as well as on her own daughter, Lisa Optican, to help renovate it. 

    “When we found this property, I knew there was much work to be done, but I remember being struck by the privacy and wilderness of the canyon that was part of the property,” Donna says. The generous acre-sized lot overlooks a canyon filled with oaks, olives, and eucalyptuses, providing uninterrupted treetop views. “It was unique to be located in Los Angeles and yet feel like you were in the middle of a natural habitat with all sorts of wildlife.”

    Von Kersting helped Donna and Lisa every step of the way, from deciding which rooms to open to the gardens and terraces to choosing the palette and furnishings. The designer also helped Donna blend favorite pieces collected over time into the newly expanded villa.

    Architecture and remodeling: Tragara Investments, LLC, 310/471-3085.
    Interior designer: Lynn von Kersting, Indigo Seas, 123 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; 310/550-8758,
    Landscape design: Basia Kenton, Basia Kenton Landscape Design, 310/351-3004,

    Photography: Dominique Vorillon

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Riveria-Like Living Room

    All three women have an affinity for a relaxed and timeless European-on-holiday aesthetic. In fact, Donna’s previous house and garden felt like a modern-day Giverny. Together, the three brought a Riviera-like romance to this home.

    Von Kersting brought her signature relaxed tropical touches with armloads of accessories and furnishings that look as though they’ve just rolled off an old aristocrat’s ship. 

    The similarity between the climates of Southern California and the Riviera permitted the trio to give the home an overall Mediterranean vibe. The house feels as if you could be on the Riviera—anywhere from Spain’s lively Costa Brava to the artists’ enclave of Cap d’Antibes on France’s Côte d’Azur—thanks to Donna’s use of antique architectural details such as large French shutters with functioning hardware. “I love the charm of having the shutters work, of capturing correct details,” Donna says.

    She decided to keep a great deal of the original architecture of the house, such as the living room’s barrel-vaulted ceiling and stone fireplace, even if it meant a more challenging and time-consuming expansion process. Says Donna, “It’s music to my ears when guests can’t tell which part of the house is new and which part of the house has always been there.” That’s no mean feat for an expansion that doubled the house’s original 4,500 square feet.

    The original living room was expanded through double arches to include a transitional garden room (next slide).

    Wall paint (“Pale Powder” #204); ceiling paint (“Pointing” #2003); trim paint (“Wimborne White” #239): Farrow & Ball,
    Drapery and sofa fabric (“Butterfly Linen”): through Indigo Seas,
    Sheer drapery: discontinued.
    Drapery hardware (custom); area rug (19th-century Oushak); sofas (custom); pillows on sofa (19th century); small chartreuse pillow (Venetian Fortuny); lounge chair (custom); table to left of mantel (19th-century Moroccan); table lamp (1930s shell lamp); mantel (antique); art flanking mantel (19th-century French, 19th-century Venetian, 19th-century Cuban map); candle sconces (19th century); bench in front of mantel (19th-century); cushion and pillow on bench (1930s Moroccan blanket); landscapes behind sofa (19th-century Venetian Vue D’Optiques); tablecoth on table beside sofa (antique linen); table lamp (19th-century English): Indigo Seas,
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Mazzarino”/Peacock and Ivory #5112): Fortuny,
    Mantel: antique.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Garden Room

    The Moroccan mood lightens and brightens in the living room, where walls are painted a pale aqua in counterpoint to the dark wood floors. It opens to the garden room and looks toward the terraces, pool, rose garden, and oak treetops. “Because we decided to open the house on both sides toward the gardens, I thought it would be nice to bring the sky and pool blues and greens into the living room and adjoining garden room,” von Kersting explains.

    Pieces slipcovered and upholstered in an eccentric old English chintz are piled with cushions covered in Moroccan, French, and Indian textiles—with a few Fortuny fabrics tossed in. The profusion of textiles is a tip of the hat to the varying shades of pink and red of the old English roses that bloom just beyond the French doors.

    The family piano has a place of pride in the newly added garden room, which doubles as a music room. 

    Wall paint (“Pale Powder” #204); ceiling paint (“Pointing” #2003); trim paint (“Wimborne White” #239): Farrow & Ball,
    Drapery and sofa fabric (“Butterfly Linen”): through Indigo Seas,
    Sheer drapery; lounge-chair fabric: discontinued.
    Drapery hardware (custom); area rug (Oushak); sofa (custom); striped pillow on sofa (1920s Moroccan); blue center pillow on sofa (19th-century French chintz); beige-patterned pillow on sofa (18th-century Indian Palampore); bamboo end table (antique); lamp on end table (antique, with hand-sewn silk shade); end table, left of sofa (1930s Moroccan table); lamp on end table (1930s French shell lamp); pair of lounge chairs (custom): Indigo Seas,
    Red pillow in lounge chair (19th-century French); green pillow in lounge chair (Venetian Fortuny cushion); tufted ottoman (custom); armless chairs facing sofa (19th-century French stripe chairs); chair and piano-bench fabric (19th-century French red-and-cream stripe); bench by piano (19th-century French): Indigo Seas.
    Fabric on tufted ottoman (“Titian”/Duck Egg #5669-9, velvet): Marvic Textiles,
    Piano: owner’s collection.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    French Country Kitchen

    Donna and von Kersting chose antique French floor tiles from Provence for their durability and charm. A light toffee-colored paint covers the walls, and a classic chintz, “Les Nids” from Claremont, softens the windows.  

    Cabinetry; cabinetry hardware: custom.
    Wall paint (“Setting Plaster” #231); cabinet paint (“Wimborne White” #239): Farrow & Ball,
    Countertop: marble. Hanging lights over island: custom.
    Window treatment: discontinued.
    Art behind sink (19th-century French): Indigo Seas,
    Planter on island (antique); wooden bowl; serving trays; bar stools: owner’s collection.
    Flooring: antique French floor tiles from Provence.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Casual Breakfast Room

    A 19th-century French buffet and a large French mirror of the same era are flanked by Donna’s collection of blue-and-white dishes, plus a pair of sassy white 1930s French chairs upholstered in a red-and-white fabric of the same vintage.

    Wall paint (“Setting Plaster” #231); ceiling paint (“Pointing” #2003): Farrow & Ball,
    Drapery (in caramel): Fritelli & Lockwood,
    Drapery hardware: custom.
    Flooring: antique French floor tiles from Provence.
    Dining table: antique.
    Rush dining chairs; multi-stripe pillows on chairs (collection of 19th-century French stripe cushions); server (19th-century French); mirror over server (19th-century French); chairs flanking server (antique) chair fabric (1930s French): Indigo Seas,
    Dining-chair cushions: discontinued. Hanging lights (antique); blue china (antique); plates on wall (antique): owner’s collection.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Dining Room

    French doors open onto a terrace with a koi pond, potted trees for shade, and a view to the turquoise pool below. Designer Lynn von Kersting’s favorite accent color, aqua, is used throughout the house in accessories such as turn-of-the-20th-century American glasses and 1930s French plates acquired at von Kersting’s home furnishings shop, Indigo Seas. 

    Wall paint (“Fowler Pink” #39, by Farrow & Ball, archived): available from Eagle Paint & Wallpaper,
    Ceiling paint (“Pointing” #2003); trim paint (“Wimborne White” #239): Farrow & Ball,
    Chandelier (antique); dining table (antique): owner’s collection.
    Area rug (19th-century Oushak); dining chairs and fabric (19th-century French); Dropleaf table (antique); painting of flowers by dropleaf table (19th-century French); chair to right of dropleaf table (antique); chair fabric (19th-century French); server with drawers (19th-century French shop counter); blue china on server (1930s aqua plates); trumeau above server (19th-
    century French); botanical prints (19th-century French); architectural fragment to right of prints (19th-century American): Indigo Seas,
    Candelabra on server (19th-century French): owner’s collection.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Moroccan Entry

    The entry, sitting area, and bar have Casablanca-style Moroccan collections and accents of blue and white, with coffee-colored old wedding chests, Moroccan tables, and pottery filled with Barbados shells.

    “It’s always that touch of tropics that makes everything so great,” von Kersting says. “The minute piles of shells are everywhere, you don’t feel like you have to whisper—you can sit down and play jacks or get up and dance. The Moroccan pottery, wedding chests, and vintage items give the house a villa-like feeling.”

    A wainscoting of thick, old Portuguese tiles is accented by well-​seasoned blue-and-white Moroccan pottery in the enlarged front entry.

    Wall paint (“El Dorado” #PC168): Portola Paints,
    Wall tile: antique Portuguese.
    Chandelier (19th-century French); commode (19th-century French); lamp on commode (antique); blue-and-white dishes and vase on commode (19th-century Moroccan): Indigo Seas,
    Flowers: Torch Ginger.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Romantic Bedroom

    Upstairs, the collected, romantic feeling continues. In the master bedroom, walls are painted a soothing olive color reminiscent of the sun-bleached leaves of the canyon treetops. The master suite’s inviting, retreat-like ambience is enhanced with a fireplace and its own private terrace.

    Although the public and private rooms are large, Donna and von Kersting met the challenge of making the villa feel homey and intimate by filling it with a comfortable mix of antique and vintage furnishings, such as rescued library bookcases and an old zinc-topped bar from Provence. Warm colors and layers of patterns and textures in upholstery, draperies, rugs, and mounds of pillows invite relaxation. The two also avoided using high ceilings, and embellished some with wood beams and weathered-looking planks. “We wanted to enlarge the house but not make it cold or cavernous,” Donna says. “Our house was meant to be large, but feel cozy.”

    Cozy enough not to leave, muses Donna. “Not wanting to leave home is a good indication of what we were able to accomplish and probably my favorite thing,” she says. “I do think once you step behind the gates you are in another private world.” A relaxed, romantic world meant to last forever.

    Von Kersting chose tropical prints and classic Fortuny fabrics for the master bedroom sitting area at the foot of the bed, and white linen piled with D. Porthault pillows for the bed. The 19th-century French shell mirror above the mantel and blue-and-white vases continue the tropics atmosphere. 

    Wall paint (“Teresa’s Green” #236); ceiling paint (“Pointing” #2003): Farrow & Ball,
    Bed (antique): owner’s collection.
    Headboard and sheer drapery fabric (“Butterfly Linen Casement”): through Indigo Seas,
    Pillows on bed (collection of D. Porthault cushions and 19th-century French linen pillow shams): Indigo Seas,
    Bed linens (antique): owner’s collection.
    Drapery: discontinued.
    Drapery hardware (custom); area rug (19th-century Oushak); mirror over mantel (1930s French shell mirror); blue-and-white vases on mantel (antique Delft, 19th-century Chinese, 19th-century French Opaline ); candleholders on mantel (19th-century French); upholstered bench by mantel (19th-century French); sofa (custom); Indigo Seas,
    Sofa fabric (jungle linen print from Bennison): Indigo Seas,
    Mantel: original to house.
    Pillows on sofa (19th-century); animal-print pillow (French Panthere); lounge chair (custom); pillow in chair (19th-century French); octagonal table (1930s Moroccan); blue tea set (1930s French, from Saint Tropez): Indigo Seas,
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Richelieu”/Brown and Gold #5630, used on reverse side): Fortuny,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Eclectic Master Bath

    A sitting area and a terrace are just steps away from the claw-foot tub.

    Wall covering; paint on cabinets: custom.
    Ceiling paint (“Pointing” #2003): Farrow & Ball,
    Mirror (18th-century French); art to right of mirror (19th-century French); drapery hardware (custom); area rug (19th-century Oushak); bench (1930s French bench); bench fabric (1930s French Leopard Velvet); chair (19th-century French); chair fabric (19th-century French linen, hand-dyed in aqua Venetian powder paint); pillow on chair (19th-century Moroccan striped hemp): Indigo Seas,
    Drapery: discontinued.
    Sheer drapery (“Linen Gauze”/Sand): Dogwood Fabrics,
    Bathtub; bath fixtures: owner’s collection.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Blue Pool

    The blue infinity-edge pool is integrated into the terraced landscaping with a cascading waterfall.

    Chaise: owner’s collection.
    Chaise cushion (1930s Indian): Indigo Seas,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Homeowner Portrait

     Donna Kaplan and her two sidekicks, Dewey and Freddie, stroll through the vegetable, herb, and rose garden that steps down in terraces to Brentwood Canyon. 

  • John Ellis