House tour: a spacious Californian home set on an avocado orchard
Not many people are given free reign to design their client’s dream home from the ground up, but that’s the task that was handed to interior designer Elizabeth Vallino. Designing the interiors for the Californian home of Ichak and Nurit Adizes, Vallino describes the house as “a magical property with fig trees, geese, chickens and a large kitchen garden.”
Located on a 10-acre avocado orchard in the small coastal town of Carpinteria, Vallino was briefed to create a welcoming space to host the couple’s six grown children and four grandchildren. The new-build home was also “conceived in a truly artisanal context,” explains Vallino. “The architect, Zele Mane, the brother of the client, oversaw every detail of the construction of the house. And then he and I designed and oversaw production of the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, and all the doors and windows.”
“We also designed and made all the stainless steel door and window hardware, the fireplace surrounds, and even milled the ipé flooring.” And as you can imagine from such a custom build, it was no ordinary task. “A shop was set up in an industrial space nearby, and a group of artisans were gathered to create bespoke wood and metal items specifically for the house,” adds Vallino.
Of course, this small-scale production process was not without its challenges either. “When you design and build things like hardware or furniture for small-scale production, you have to invent ways of manufacturing that would usually be done by large machines,” says Vallino. “Zele invented a way to bend stainless steel tubing, and created a steam chamber to bend wood to make curves and even created his own floor-sanding machine.”
“It was a very creative time, with some setbacks and failed attempts but with a lot of learning about how different materials behave.”
Vallino also designed bespoke furniture for the house, and her husband Gianni created most of the lighting using upcycled industrial components.
The warmth of wood cabinetry and floorboards permeates the house, creating a cohesion not often found in modern homes. It’s an observation not lost on Vallino, who says “the integrity of the design vision throughout the house is remarkable. The consistency of palette and materials creates a purposeful, grounding atmosphere that is a backdrop for the owner’s blue-chip art collection".
Another noteworthy aspect of the design is the layout. “The house is divided into two realms, one public, one private, which are divided by the book-lined central entry hall,” explains Vallino. “The main public rooms face an expansive view north to the mountains, where you can watch hawks and other raptors hunt. This is in contrast to the private rooms, which face lush, tropical gardens, creating a very different mood.”
Outside, the gardens, designed by landscape architects Terra Edwards, feature large-scale succulents and cacti at the entryway, which perfectly reflect the Santa Barbara county setting.
As for Vallino’s favourite space, she can’t go past the den/media room. The space features a self-portrait by the owner’s daughter, Cnaan Omer, an Artemide floor lamp, and an Ellsworth Kelly painting. “It’s a really casual, cosy room where you can lie on the Beni Ourain rug and watch a movie,” she says.
According to Vallino, the owners “have lived in a number of spectacular houses around the world, but this is by far their favourite place to be.” And even despite the Herculean effort involved in the construction and design of the house, it still feels homely and inviting. “There is a kind of humility about the building,” agrees Vallino. “Even though it’s made of luxurious materials and houses great art, there’s a kind of comfort in it’s own skin. It doesn’t try to be grand or even particularly loud in it’s message, but like a whisper, it gets your attention.”