Not hemmed in
Claire Stansfield isn’t a woman who commits to one style. When she co-founded her high-end T- shirt company, C&C California, the idea was to create “a classic shirt that women could wear with Jimmy Choos or flip flops, depending on their mood.”
FOR THE RECORD:
Design consultant: An article in last week’s section on fashion entrepreneur Claire Stansfield’s remodeled home misspelled the last name of design consultant Channon Roe as Ro. —
So when Stansfield bought a traditional English country-style house in the Oaks neighborhood of the Hollywood Hills, she wanted that same flexibility, an environment where she could display her mother’s fancy Limoges china one day, earthy Heath pottery the next — depending on her mood.
Committed to not committing? To prove that home décor can be almost as flexible as hemlines, Stansfield has set out to create a house that’s simultaneously traditional and modern, cozy and spacious, loaded with objects and yet absent of clutter.
`"With fashion and with interior design, you can get into a situation where you love something for five years, and suddenly you can’t stand it,” says Stansfield, 45. “I love midcentury, but, oh my gosh — when you get the furniture and everything in that style, then what do you do if your tastes change? Or if someone gives you a gorgeous china teapot? Throw it out because it doesn’t go with your Neutra house? It’s so important to keep your options open.”
Little about the house was open when Stansfield and her husband, John Speaks, an investor in a club called the Den of Hollywood, first saw the 1920s residence by Robert Byrd . The two-story structure was a warren of small rooms. But the couple was lured by the prime location, the 360-degree views and charming details such as a greenhouse filled with plants from the previous owner, the late actor Stanley DeSantis. (By coincidence, Stansfield later discovered that the actor, who appeared in shows including “Entourage” and “Six Feet Under,” had made a tidy sum in the T-shirt business.)
Stansfield loved the snug bedrooms but was determined to make the rest of the home “more modern, less old lady” — and less cramped. “We also want to be able to see, or at least hear, our boys from every room in the house,” she says. “We knew we wanted a great room, but at the same time, we didn’t want to lose this sense of country-house charm.”
To realize that delicate balancing act, they hired architectural firm Marmol Radziner, known for its sensitive approach to updating classic design. The firm crafted a plan that allowed the family to have it both ways: open yet still cozy. By taking down walls in the center of the house, the family got its great room while keeping the compact bedrooms for boys Lucky, 4, and Rocco, 2. Steel framework and steel cables were added, including above the great room to “basically prevent the house from caving in on itself,” Stansfield says, and tons of natural light now spills across the open plan’s new walnut floor.
From the outside, however, the house is almost identical to its pre-remodel state. Even the trumpet vine that frames the rear façade survived the renovation, completed in 2008.
“What’s so interesting to me is that Claire saw this traditional space, and then figured out how to reconfigure it in a way that would suit her modern lifestyle, says friend and frequent visitor Jamie Rosenthal, owner of the Hollywood clothing and furniture emporium Lost & Found Etcetera.
“Knowing her, I think she really loved that idea of this house being both an old-world place where she can live for the rest of her life and a modern home where she could raise her kids. The house melds those ideas so gracefully.”
Stansfield may have spent months obsessing over architectural decisions, but she devoted even more time to planning the décor. Ultimately she returned to the formula that was so successful for her in fashion: classic pieces that can work well dressed up or dressed down.
“It’s like a great outfit: You need to start with high-quality basics,” she says.
Case in point: The Flexform sofas in the living and sitting rooms. Stansfield admits they weren’t cheap—about $8,000 each from Poliform. But, she says, the quality and the look will outlast “at least three other sofas.”
“The kids jump on them,” she says, “and since it has this kind of Velcro’d upholstery, I can put them in the cold wash, hang them on the line, and the linen actually looks better with every washing.”
More important, classic lines allow the furniture to work with varied accents. “I can throw on a bunch of Peter Dunham pillows and the sofa looks one way,” she says, “or a kilim pillow and it looks totally different.”
In the dining area, the table references both traditional and modern elements of the house. Working with design consultant Channon Ro, Stansfield blended wooden farm-table legs with a clean-lined zinc top.
“A wooden table would have been too much wood in this room,” Stansfield says. “That’s why I went with wicker chairs, too. They’ve got a country aspect to them, but with the zinc, it keeps a nice balance.”
And then there’s the storage. Marmol Radziner loaded the great room with enough built-in shelves and cabinets to house an extensive library as well as Stansfield’s huge collections of plates and glassware.
“The open shelves mean that I can pull things out of the cabinets and display things according to the season or my mood or my interests,” she says. “It gives me so much flexibility.”
Regardless of how her tastes and interests evolve, Stansfield says one key is a limited palette of colors—mostly earth tones — throughout the 4,000-square-foot home, from the great room, sitting room and home office on the ground floor to the master suite and boys’ rooms upstairs. She even plucked all of her brightly colored coffee table books off the shelves and relocated them into the guest house.
“I love a woman who can paint a room red,” Stansfield says. “I’m just not one of them.”
That isn’t to say that Stansfield doesn’t like her personality to show. In the powder room, she papered the walls with a subversive toile. From far away, it looks like a bucolic country scene in a pleasing green; up close, it’s clear that the depictions are of urban crime.
“People come out of that bathroom with a smile on their face,” she says. “I love that. That pattern came in three colors; I of course went for the earth-toned one.”
And what if today’s urban toile becomes tomorrow’s eyesore?
“I purposefully wallpapered the smallest room in the house,” Stansfield says. “If I change my mind, at least it won’t cost a fortune to swap out.”