A beautiful staircase is not the only striking feature of this 1913 home
While Anna and Alan Clark's Hancock Park, California, home may not be as famous as the legendary Southern mansion in Gone With the Wind, it shares at least one striking architectural detail. Not since Scarlett and Rhett's dramatic displays has a staircase garnered so much attention.
"We stepped inside and saw this beautiful stairway," says Anna. "I could see my daughter walking down those stairs in her wedding dress. I was sold immediately--love at first sight."
Twenty-two years later, Anna is still madly in love. Though, as with any good relationship, things have evolved. The 1913 Beaux-Arts home has developed a personality that is pure Anna--one that's uncompromisingly traditional, yet doesn't take itself too seriously. Every room follows Anna's straightforward (if somewhat nonconformist) design philosophy: "Decorating is a little like life. Don't be afraid of mixing things that don't seem to go together. It makes the final result so much more interesting," she says.
That mix, in Anna's case, is inspired by a lifelong passion for design and travel. Growing up on Army bases around the world, Anna and her brother would go for long walks, passing house after house, one nearly indistinguishable from the next. "We'd peek in our neighbors' windows," recalls Anna. "It was amazing to me that all of these houses were essentially identical on the outside, yet inside each one had its own distinct personality. The pieces people chose to put in their homes gave it life, even if the exteriors all looked the same."
Those voyeuristic strolls obviously stuck with Anna. The home she shares with Alan is nothing if not filled with personality. And, as she likes to point out, it's all in the mix. Vibrant color and pattern breathe life into each room. Exotic finds from the couple's travels mingle effortlessly with crystal chandeliers and chintz-covered chairs.
"I missed my calling as an anthropologist," says Anna. "Cultures express themselves so beautifully through their textiles and art. Every time I go on a trip, I haul home a whole slew of pieces."
That fondness for foreign shopping trips is abundantly evident. Suzanis from Turkey are sprinkled throughout the house. Chinese opium bed panels now adorn the front entry. A hat from Tibet and a necklace from Morocco bedeck a bust in the family room.
Anna's mixologist design philosophy is given free rein in the living room. A collection of colors, patterns, and pieces that wouldn't be obvious cohabitants in many homes live together harmoniously. Plaids mingle with animal prints and chintz. The home's signature color, red--it appears in every room with the exception of the sunroom--lives in full force here, eye-catching against neutral walls. Bamboo shades temper silk swags.
"I love the marriage between the serious and the not-so-serious, the fancy and the not-so-fancy," explains Anna.
In the unabashedly green dining room, the couple's collections take center stage. Plein air paintings--a shared passion--are nestled between Scarlett O'Hara-worthy curtains. China and glassware share space with myriad William Yeoward pieces--a bit of an obsession for Anna.
The kitchen is the most modern space in the fiercely traditional home, opening generously onto the family room--the ideal layout for lazy Sundays watching football games and 60 Minutes while preparing dinner. Or, rather, heating up takeout. "I rarely use the range," laughs Anna. "I used to cook every night, but I'm retired. The kids are grown. Now we use the kitchen as an art gallery."
For a whimsical touch in the family room, floors were painted in a two-tone diagonal pattern with small red squares that match the room's most fought-over piece--the red tufted Papa chair. Named after Alan, aka "Papa," the chair is the center of many a spirited finders-keepers-losers-weepers debate--though the three grandchildren generally lose out to the rightful owner.
While the chair may be Alan's territory, the garden is all Anna's. Once defined by lackluster grassy spaces, it's been transformed into an enchanting retreat overflowing with succulents, roses, hydrangeas, and magnolia trees (in honor of Alan's Southern roots).
Anna's theory on garden design mirrors her philosophy on interior design. "I choose whatever is colorful and appealing," she says. "I mix things that don't seem like they go together, and somehow it all just seems to work."
Architect for kitchen and potting area: Pamela Donnelly, Pamela Donnelly Architect, 1040 N. Las Palmas Ave., Bldg. 34, Los Angeles, CA 90038; 323/860-3100.
Photography: Werner Straube
Produced by Robert Young
A chair covered in Colefax and Fowler chintz and a healthy dose of red energize the living room's neutral backdrop.
A serapi rug--one of many accumulated over the years--inspired the living room's decorating scheme. Plaid fabric on the Lee Jofa chair is from Cowtan & Tout. A suzani textile that was brought back from Turkey adorns a side table. Drapery fabric is from the Silk Trading Company.
In the sunroom, Anna created a cozy retreat filled with items from her travels and favorite paintings. The brick on the floor is from an old chimney. Armchairs are upholstered in Kravet fabric. The abaca rug is from Crate & Barrel.
In the strikingly green dining room, Anna combines "the fancy and the not-so-fancy"--tempering silk curtains with bamboo shades. Curtain material is from the Silk Trading Company. The silk fabric draping the table is from Scalamandré.
The Clarks' kitchen/art gallery is now used less for cooking than to display the couple's plein air paintings. Hanging lanterns are from Urban Electric. Alan's red Papa chair, covered in fabric from Castle Fabrics, stands at the ready in the adjoining family room.
In the butler's pantry, Anna's collection of glassware and blue-and-white porcelain is set off against Farrow & Ball's "Blazer" red.
A well-dressed bust in the family room models a hat and necklace brought back from Anna's travels. Pillow fabric is from Cowtan & Tout.
When entertaining, Anna uses the counter in the potting room as a makeshift buffet. A vintage chandelier adds a whimsical touch.
"The master bedroom curtains have been up for 20 years, and I still love them," says Anna. Curtain fabric is from Claremont.
Patterns abound in the guest bedroom: An antique suzani textile is used as a bedspread; the headboard fabric is from Castle Fabrics. The striped tablecloth is from Kravet.
Anna's ubiquitous red invigorates poolside lounge chairs. Outdoor fabric is by Sunbrella.
A garden corner illustrates Anna's straightforward design philosophy: Choose whatever is colorful and appealing, and don't be afraid to mix it up!
The Beaux-Arts exterior of the Clark house.
Anna Clark with daughter Sydney and granddaughter Maggie.
Anna has always been an advocate for children. With three of her own, it comes with the territory. "I've always been drawn to children's charities," says Anna. "I guess it's because I project my own children and how I'd want them to be cared for."
After one of her children was taken to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles for X-rays as a child, Anna became a strong supporter of the facility. "I was just drawn by all the warmth there," she says. "It's a very caring place--full of hope for families going through difficult times."
Founded in 1901, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is a nonprofit, academic, and pediatric medical center that serves children mainly from the Los Angeles area, but also those referred from around the world. Through her work with Las Madrinas (Spanish for The Godmothers)--an affiliate that provides financial support to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles--Anna touches these youngsters' lives every day. "Children deserve the absolute best care, no matter their financial situations," says Anna. "Childrens Hospital gives them that. It's a truly beautiful place."