The refined and the exotic cohabit in harmony in this California home.
Written and produced by Elizabeth Beeler
Photography by 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.”
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.