With businesses based on two coasts and intensely busy schedules, chocolatiers Hasty and Jacques Torres craved a calming and inspiring environment in their Beverly Hills condominium. They also wanted their West Coast residence, purchased in 2010, to have an open living area for cooking and entertaining.
To strike this balance, they turned to Chinatown-based designer Alexis Readinger, who in 2006 created the interiors for Hasty's (now closed) Madame Chocolat Beverly Hills store.
Hasty, a San Fernando Valley native who met Jacques in New York when she went to work for his company, is an accomplished chocolate maker who still runs Madame Chocolat as an online retailer and maintains a factory in downtown L.A.
The French-born Jacques, who for years was pastry chef at Manhattan's Le Cirque restaurant, today oversees eight locations of Jacques Torres Chocolate. He is a frequent presence on television and a judge on Season 4 of TLC's "Next Great Baker" reality competition show, which premieres June 24.
Readinger created a space for the bicoastal couple that is glamorous, refined and modern in its unconventional mix of colors, patterns and textures.
Dining and living room walls are painted a soft lavender that changes with the shifting light and contrasts with the dark wood flooring. The fireplace is clad in a rare polished stone that has been pieced together in a camouflage pattern. A cowhide rug in the living room seating area offsets an elaborately carved wood- and cane-backed settee with brocade upholstery.
Furnishings and accessories come from a range of sources, including HD Buttercup, Horchow and antique auctions. Delicate-looking black lace draperies with a solid white backing provide privacy. A pair of minimalist egg motif images on the walls reference an ingredient essential to Jacques and Hasty's work.
Another nod to their profession is the white Arteriors Tilda dining-room chandelier, which reminds Jacques of a whisk covered in whipped cream. The long mirrored dining-room table below accommodates Hasty's extended family, who join the couple for a New Year's Day celebration every year.
Hasty's parents, Badri and Jahan Khoei, live nearby and are frequent guests when Hasty and Jacques are in town. On a recent visit, the family enjoyed a dessert menu of tea and Persian pastries (the Khoeis are from Iran) and watermelon soup, chocolate-drizzled fruit on skewers and strawberry tart prepared by Jacques.
Their new kitchen enables them to converse with guests while they cook. Designer Readinger, who has done interiors for a number of restaurants, including Hatfield's on Melrose Avenue and Akasha in Culver City, took out a wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room. In its place she installed a long island with a white marble countertop, a sink and storage cabinets below.
Readinger went bold with the kitchen cabinetry, painting them a deep coral and a dark gray to match the couple's exuberant personalities and add a playful touch to the interiors.
"Orange is a predominant color in the south of France," Jacques says, recalling how he had asked Readinger to incorporate shades of the spectacular sunsets he remembers from his childhood in Bandol, on the coast of Provence.
He was skeptical at first when she suggested coating the entire island base in the dramatic color. "I said, 'Are you out of your mind?' But it's beautiful."
Other decisions were easier, such as the single-slab marble countertop that's ideal for pastry chefs. The counter is roomy enough so that Jacques can roll dough while Hasty makes truffles. "We don't have to fight for space," he says. For maximum efficiency, they specified that the sink be on their right as they face the dining room. "For me, it's about talking to the guests," Jacques says.
The couple's master bedroom has a more subdued palette. Solid off-white fabric surrounds a modern canopy bed. A painting of a peacock hangs opposite. Heavy amber-hued blackout curtains are finished with a custom-sewn scalloped-edge flourish.
But the surprising color scheme elsewhere — pale lavender walls combined with coral, maroon, blues, grays, golds and greens — makes perfect sense to the chocolate impresarios. "You would think that having such a chaotic and hectic life, we'd want to come home to all white, but we don't," Hasty says. "When Jacques and I come back, it's not just a retreat. It's rejuvenating."