The Luxury of Space and Light

Luxury takes many forms. For a New Yorker, relocating to Southern California offers two fundamental luxuries that can be in short supply in Manhattan--space and natural light.

Space--more than 4,500 square feet--was the primary asset of this West Los Angeles house. But the impressive floor space was squandered architecturally--misused on a series of moderately sized rooms. Working with structural engineers, interior designer Robert Ross, of Robert Ross Inc., removed the restrictive walls and many of the original low ceilings and restructured the roof to increase dramatically the space in the new living-dining area.

Ross' next challenge was to illuminate the expanded interior. To take advantage of the sunshine, he installed skylights thatwere equipped with motorized blinds for controlling the intensity and direction of the light. "In addition, the owners asked me to create unobtrusive lighting that would, in the evening, closely approximate candlelight," Ross says. Instead of using lamps for that purpose, Ross erected a series of slightly smaller "secondary walls" a few inches in front of the structural walls in the combined living-dining area. Sandwiched between the walls are lights that "create a halo around the decorative walls and make them appear to float, independent of one another." More unobtrusive lights highlight the interior's architectural forms. "People notice the light ," Ross says, "not the fixtures."

"The owners wanted no contrasts of colors, only an interplay of light and architectural elements." Ross responded with dramatic subtlety, fashioning a monochromatic scheme of white and beige, with occasional accents of black or brownish-red.

The kitchen, redesigned by Ross, was built by Cabinet Masters. Except for the butcher-block island, all cabinet and counter surfaces are Formica.

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