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Exotic West Hollywood Home

The refined and the exotic cohabit in beautiful harmony

Written and produced by Elizabeth Beeler
  • John Ellis

    Los Angeles homeowner Carmen Lopez’s treasured collections of books, silver, bracelets, dishware, antique wooden canes, Battersea boxes, and just about anything Hermès don’t just lend personality to the West Hollywood home she’s owned for more than 23 years. They also give her life the sense of permanence she lost when she left her home in Cuba.

    Once forced to abandon her possessions in Havana, Carmen now makes a hobby of gathering and displaying—filling her 1920s Spanish deco charmer with memories of people, places, travels, and enchanting curiosities. “This home is a reflection of my life—an assortment of things that make me happy and comfortable,” says Carmen.

    While her days are filled as the West Coast advertising director for People en Español magazine, Carmen also “works” part-time as a decorator for family and friends. She designed her own interiors, giving them an evolved look that only gains interest with time.

    “It’s not a style per se,” Carmen says of the unique combination of authentic 1920s-era Spanish architecture and eclectic furnishings. “It’s a little bit of everything.” And from the arched windows and trayed deco ceilings to the Murano glass dining room chandelier inherited from a friend’s Manhattan apartment and the bone-inlay coffee table passed down from her best friend’s mother, there’s nothing clichéd here. Everywhere visitors turn, there’s a story to be told.

    Inspired by fabrics and beautiful objects from such disparate destinations as Asia and Cuba, Carmen gave her home’s interiors a dash of the exotic. Ebony flooring and pale blue ceilings set the stage for traditional furniture upholstered with fabrics in Indian motifs, while midcentury Lucite finds are paired with Chinese imports and Ming dynasty reproductions.

    A blue-and-white striped dhurrie atop a seagrass area rug layers the look, offering dimension and pattern underfoot. Ethnic textiles in riveting reds, greens, and yellows tantalize the eye after sundown, creating drama against neutral walls. “I wanted to be sure this house played well at night,” says Carmen, who entertains frequently for family, friends, and coworkers. “I love sharing this home with everyone.”

    To accommodate her collecting hobby, she designed custom built-ins in the kitchen, living, dining, and breakfast spaces. “You might as well have your nicest things out all the time and fully enjoy them,” she says. Her tabletop assortment of Battersea boxes are on a rotating schedule, with a handful at a time brought out of storage to keep the look fresh. “These collections are a conversation piece in every room,” she says. “They say a lot about my life.” But nothing is solely for show. When she’s hosting a large soiree, Carmen brings out every piece of dinnerware and uses all of her 75-piece silver collection.

    In the breakfast area, she wrapped walls in a chic brown lattice print. A grid of shelves encompasses an existing window and accommodates collectibles, making a graphic statement against the backdrop. A pop of color was introduced into the nook by upholstering the window seat bolster and bamboo chairs in a tangerine-hued fabric with an Asian-inspired motif.

    Carmen also revamped the kitchen without deleting its ’20s-era charm by keeping its petite U-shaped footprint and refurbishing the antique O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove. “I rebuilt the cabinets as they were but added glass doors to showcase my dishware,” she explains.

    In the master suite, Carmen chose a peaceful pastel palette. She cranked up the color volume with vibrant pink pillows that accent the bedding’s soft hues. Asian-inspired wallpaper sets the tone in the adjacent bath. The bathroom’s vintage hutch, a flea-market find, was painted taupe to bring it up to speed.

    “I keep the house as stylish as possible, but I can operate on the cheap,” says Carmen. “Decorating on a budget can be twice the fun.” Avoiding a splurge (and adding a creative style twist), she converted an existing tub into a plush daybed upholstered in terry, in lieu of removing or replacing the tub completely.

    Despite lavish collections and one-of-a-kind-finds, nothing is too precious here. Carmen continues to seek new objects to love and collect, allowing her home to morph with time. “This house has been many things,” says Carmen. “But this home has always wrapped around me. It hugs me every time I walk in the door.”

    Photography: John Ellis

    Wall paint (“Matchstick” #2013): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, farrow-ball.com.
    Ceiling paint (“Silver Cloud” #2129-70): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
    Drapery (“Lages”/Natural, Brazilian Linen): Arabel Fabrics, 305/947-9808, arabelfabrics.com.
    Area rug (Seagrass): Natural Area Rugs, 800/661-7847, naturalarearugs.com.
    Blue-and-white striped rug (“Blue Versa Cotton Dhurrie”): Madeline Weinrib, 646/602-3780, madelineweinrib.com.
    Ottoman; chairs: owner’s collection.
    Ottoman fabric (“Tajmahal-Rayure”/Grenat #B1854001, by Braquenié); chair fabric (“La Riviere Enchantee”/Rouge #B1788001, by Braquenié): Pierre Frey, 866/707-1524, pierrefrey.com.
    Chair pillows: owner’s collection.
    Console (“Peekaboo Clear Low Side Table”): CB2, 800/606-6252, cb2.com.
    Lamp on console (discontinued): Williams-Sonoma, 877/812-6235, williams-sonoma.com.

  • John Ellis

    Living Room

    Exotically patterned fabrics from Pierre Frey on armchairs and ottomans and a vintage bone-inlay coffee table set a lively mood in this 1920s West Hollywood home.

    See more of this room on the following slides.

  • John Ellis

    Living Room Details

    Carmen Lopez fills her home with unique objects gathered on her world travels. Her collections include Battersea boxes on the living room coffee table, and biographies, books on interiors, and tomes on the history of Cuba—her birthplace—on tabletops and bookshelves.

  • John Ellis

    Living Room Desk Area

    Vintage acrylic furnishings mingle with Chinese porcelain, Asian rattan, and antique tables in the Spanish deco-style duplex.

    X-shaped acrylic accent table (vintage): Civilization, 310/202-8883.
    Sconces (discontinued): Gracious Home, 800/338-7809, gracioushome.com.
    Desk; Lucite desk chair (vintage); dresser; coffee table; sofa: owner’s collection.
    Desk-chair fabric (“Aga”/Turquoise on Tint #6340-07, by China Seas): Quadrille, 212/753-2995, quadrillefabrics.com.  

  • John Ellis

    Exterior

    Glimpses of the Los Angeles home’s exterior hint at the exotic collections inside.

  • John Ellis

    Dining Room

    Chairs by Nancy Corzine complement a wide oval pine table that Carmen designed. The Murano glass chandelier was a hand-me-down from a friend (who originally bought it at ABC Home in New York). Arched windows are draped in a warm coral print fabric from Peter Dunham Textiles.

    Wall paint (“Matchstick” #2013): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, farrow-ball.com.
    Ceiling paint (“Silver Cloud” #2129-70): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
    Chandelier: owner’s collection, but originally from ABC Carpet & Home, 212/473-3000, abchome.com.
    Dining table: custom.
    Dining chairs (discontinued, for similar, “Villa Side Chair” #1093S): Nancy Corzine, 310/652-4859, nancycorzine.com.
    Dining-chair fabric: Michael Levine, 213/622-6259, lowpricefabric.com.
    Flatware and dinnerware (vintage, antique, or one-of-a-kind); console: owner’s collection.
    Sconces: Fantasy Lighting, 323/933-7244, fantasylightingla.com.
    Drapery (“Janpath”): Peter Dunham Textiles, 310/432-0944, peterdunhamtextiles.com.

  • John Ellis

    Dining Room Details

    Collecting silver is such a passion that Carmen added shelves in her dining room to display her favorite pieces.

  • John Ellis

    Dining Room Silver Collection

    Perhaps Carmen Lopez’s most impressive collection in her Los Angeles home is her assortment of fine silver, which lines the walls flanking the arched opening in the formal dining room. “I started my silver collection with the tea set, which I purchased on Portobello Road in London,” says Carmen. “It was so tarnished when I bought it that the owner of a hotel took it away immediately and polished it for me.” Over time, Carmen added to the collection piece by piece, purchasing silver cake stands, platters, candlesticks, goblets, figurines, bowls, and other sculptural objects everywhere she visited—from Boston flea markets to refined New England antiques stores. Several pieces are cherished gifts from family members and friends. “Not all of it has a great history. And none of it is priceless,” she adds. “It’s the memory each item exudes that makes it special.”

  • John Ellis

    Portrait

    Homeowner and designer Carmen Lopez.

  • John Ellis

    Kitchen

    Four layers of old flooring were removed to reveal the kitchen’s original wood floor, which Carmen painted glossy black to match the adjoining ebony-stained wood floors. She stayed with the existing footprint of the small kitchen but added classic blue-and-white tiles and rebuilt the cabinets with glass doors that showcase her collection of dishware.

    Details on the following slide.

    Tile walls and countertops (discontinued): Country Floors, 212/627-8300, countryfloors.com.
    Light fixture (“Basisk Pendant Lamp”): IKEA, ikea.com.
    Plates between windows: vintage.
    Striped rug; blinds: owner’s collection. 

  • John Ellis

    Kitchen Details

    A vintage range and colorful parrot prints are just some of the eccentric details in Carmen’s blue-and-white kitchen.

    Hand towels (“Hammam Stripe Hand Towel”/White, Midnight): West Elm, 866/428-6468, westelm.com.

  • John Ellis

    Breakfast Nook

    Lively wallpaper by China Seas wraps the room in a high-contrast cream-on-brown pattern with retro appeal. Vintage chairs are covered in “Paradise Background” by Quadrille; the “Barcelona Chandelier” above is from Broad Beach Lighting Company.

    Details on the following slide.

    Wallpaper (“Trellis Background”/Natural on Brown #6020W-01, by China Seas): Quadrille, 212/753-2995, quadrillefabrics.com.
    Ceiling paint (“Silver Cloud” #2129-70): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
    Chandelier (“Barcelona Chandelier”): Broad Beach Lighting Co., 626/642-0441, broadbeachdesign.com.
    Prints: Nathan Turner, 310/275-1209.
    Table (discontinued): Nancy Corzine, 310/652-4859, nancycorzine.com.
    Chairs: vintage.
    Chair and bolster fabric (“Paradise Background”/Orange on Tint” #301988F, by Quadrille): Quadrille, 212/753-2995, quadrillefabrics.com.
    Bench fabric (“Bruciato” #P533, Belgian Linen): Arabel Fabrics, 305/947-9808, arabelfabrics.com.

  • John Ellis

    Breakfast Nook Details

    A cream-colored hutch stuns with a tangerine interior, displaying an array of colorful dishes.

    Hutch; dishes in hutch (vintage): owner’s collection.

  • John Ellis

    Bath

    Asian-inspired Brunschwig & Fils wallpaper and a vintage chandelier set the tone in the master bath. Preferring showers and not interested in replacing the dated tub, Carmen converted it into a spa-like daybed, which she upholstered in terry cloth.

    Details on the following slides.

    Wallpaper (discontinued): Brunschwig & Fils, 800/538-1880, brunschwig.com.
    Bench cushion: terry cloth.
    Pillow fabrics: owner’s collection.
    Chandelier; art: vintage.
    Ceiling paint (“Silver Cloud” #2129-70): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
    Acrylic side chair: Paradigm Gallery, 877/746-6307, pgmod.com.

  • John Ellis

    Bath

    Windows above the elegant pedestal sink from Kohler bring light into the master bath.

    Sink (“Memoirs Stately 30-Inch Pedestal Sink” #K-2269-8-0): Kohler, 800/456-4537, kohler.com.

  • John Ellis

    Bath Details

    Carmen found the old hutch at a flea market, covered it in Behr’s “Elephant” paint, and wallpapered the back with a sea grass material to allow displayed items to pop.

    Hutch: vintage.
    Hutch paint (“Elephant Skin” #UL260-5): Behr Paint, behr.com.

  • John Ellis

    Master Bedroom

    The twisted-poster bed in the master suite was purchased at an estate sale. Moorish bedside chests with linen upholstery are from Bernhardt.

    Bed: vintage.
    Mirror over bed (“Bone Sunburst Mirror” #WM781): Ballard Designs, 800/536-7551, ballarddesigns.com.
    Bedside tables (‘Cabrillo Nailhead Chests” #323-113N): Bernhardt, bernhardt.com.
    Lamps (“Zak Table Lamps”): Crate & Barrel, 800/996-9960, crateandbarrel.com.
    Wall paint (“Birchwood” #DEC 752): Dunn Edwards, dunnedwards.com.
    Drapery (discontinued): Schumacher, 800/523-1200, fschumacher.com.
    Euro pillows (“Pearls” by Barbara Barry for Bloomingdales): Bloomingdales, bloomingdales.com.
    Bolster pillow (“Primrose”): John Robshaw Textiles, 212/594-6006, johnrobshaw.com.
    Decorative pillow (“Diamond Ikat Pillow”/Pink): Z Gallerie, 800/908-6748, zgallerie.com.
    Throw: vintage.
    Bedding (“Pearls” by Barbara Barry for Bloomingdales): Bloomingdales, bloomingdales.com.
    Wall art: vintage from Thailand.

  • John Ellis

    Bedroom Secretary

    The writing desk in Carmen’s bedroom is a Chinese reproduction she discovered at a favorite local haunt in Los Angeles.

    Secretary (antique reproduction, discontinued): Nell’s, 423/899-9141, nellsathome.com.

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