In just 10 years, husband-and-wife duo Sam Gnatovich and Alexi Rennalls—the creative minds behind Los Angeles–based studio SIMO Design–have already tackled nearly 20 projects, including the homes of Jon Hamm and of Warner Music executive Aaron Bay Shook. Through their designs, Gnatovich and Rennalls explore the tension of space and materials—which is exactly what they did in their own home, where they live with dog Harlequin and cat Kida.
Situated within the Summit, a gated community off of Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, the location’s sweeping valley views on one side and Franklin Canyon Park on the other, convinced the duo to take the plunge in 2018. “On a clear day you can see right to the ocean,” Gnatovich says. “Driving on the road at sunset is arguably the most beautiful drive in Los Angeles. It’s always nice to come home. It feels removed from the city without compromising on accessibility.”
Originally built in 1987, the split-level five-bedroom, six-bathroom house is spread over 6,100 square feet with the guest bedrooms and main suite on the upper floor and the living and entertaining spaces on the ground floor—along with a service wing tucked away on the first level that leads to and from the garage. The kitchen and dining room open up to the rear yard and the living room is enclosed by a small private garden.
“To be completely honest, it wasn’t love at first sight,” Rennalls confesses. “We could see the potential outcome, but it was under an excess of distracting materials all screaming at the same time. We knew we would have to touch every surface and there was nothing we could salvage.”
What drew Gnatovich and Rennalls to the property, however, was its sheer scale along with unique spaces and details. “It was important to us to merge the heavy molding with the clean lines, which you have to do the right way to combine those worlds,” Gnatovich says. “We looked at the Chanel store in Paris and [ancient] stone buildings of storefronts that honored the push and pull of old and new.”
One of the duo’s main challenges consisted of designing spaces that felt open and connected without losing the discretion of individual rooms. “We solved the problem by creating exaggerated openings, particularly between the dining and living room; we utilized large pocket doors where necessary for added flexibility as well,” Rennalls explains.
The dramatic, voluminous entry, which was simply (and solely) furnished with a sculptural table, is Rennalls’s favorite part of the project. “The boxy exterior of the house contrasts with this winding curvy stairway,” she says. “We eliminated the base molding that is in the rest of the house and kept a simple reveal. We wanted the eye to just focus on the curve of line from the railing.”
For Gnatovich, the home’s strongest elements are the kitchen and its marble island: “I love how it opens up to a farmhouse table under four mature olive trees where we enjoy the indoor-outdoor living that California is famous for,” he says.
Marrying old and new throughout was at the heart of the home’s interior design scheme, where traditional and modern elements meet in an atmosphere filled with neutral colors, a limited selection of materials, and furniture pieces with endless character and soul. “We didn’t want anything to be too crisp,” Rennalls says. Lime wash paint has such beautiful subtlety; if the colors were too white, some of that subtlety would have gotten lost…. I try to source vintage furniture as much as possible. I like it when you buy something and it feels like it had a life before you owned it. I also think it helps to soften the edges of a space if things are already worn in.”
Drew Fenton and Justin Huchel represent the listing. Offered at $11,995,000
Story written by Architectural Digest
Photos courtesty of Douglas Friedman