A Hasty RetreatAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Joe Lucas decorates a Santa Ynez farmhouse in record time with unbeatable style
Consider the modern farmhouse. The phrase conjures up an understated medley of white kitchens and pale woods, soft, gray-striped linens and beige pottery. Contrast that with interior designer Joe Lucas’s interpretation. While just as comfortable, it’s a wild cornucopia of pattern and color. And for an energetic family of six, it was exactly the collected look they were hoping for when they decided to purchase the getaway in Santa Ynez.
Lucas had been working with the clients on their Manhattan Beach property over the last few years. The home, typical of the area, had limited outdoor space for the four children to run around and play. “They wanted an escape,” explains Lucas. “Somewhere with a little land that would only need a bit of renovation.” In fact, the husband had originally come up with a scheme to secretly buy a house, have Lucas and his wife furnish it together and then present it to his family as a surprise. “He thought maybe we could tell her that I’m doing a thing for television and I needed help.” But before they could iron out the details of this plan, the couple had found a sprawling California ranch home.
The intention was to do it themselves. “They were just going to do a few things as a fun project,” says Lucas. They updated the bathrooms, added shiplap to the home’s plain walls, swapped the location of the living room with the bunk room and divided a large bedroom into two guest suites. Then, with the kitchen renovation well underway, they turned their attention to the furnishings. “They had ordered a handful of things from catalogs and then started realizing that it was all looking the same and they needed help,” Lucas remembers. “They said, ‘We need your eye to make it look a bit more fun.’”
Lucas convinced them to paint the kitchen cabinets. “I just hate white kitchens,” he admits. “I think it looks prettier if the cabinets have a little bit of color to them.” He used Farrow & Ball’s Dead Salmon to bring the space to life. Wallpaper was another suggestion. Designs from Alex Conroy, Ferrick Mason, Jasper and Kelly Ventura went up in the bedrooms. “Each room became its own little story,” Lucas notes.
With the backdrop in place, Lucas focused on the furniture and accessories. “It was a short schedule—I think we had like a month and a half before the kitchen was done—so we didn’t really have time to wait for a lot of custom things,” he says. “Doing it quickly is always a challenge but at the same time it’s really nice to be able to just go through and shop fast.” In addition to pulling pieces from Harbinger, his showroom on La Cienega—the provenance of the living room’s bright-green couch—he grabbed things from Hollywood at Home, Lawson-Fenning and NK Shop from Nickey Kehoe. “It was nice to be able to support some of the local showrooms and buy things off the floor.” The project’s truncated time line became a chance to have fun and test his design skills. “It gets tricky because you’re not totally free to pick exactly what you want,” Lucas admits. “You’ve got to try to find things that work together that are already existing.”
He combed the city for pieces that would give the home patina, uncovering a saddle, some sponge-painted accessories and a stack of hats at the Mart Collective in Venice. A collection of “tramp art” mirrors by the entry were discovered at Jefferson West in Culver City. He spent an afternoon at the Iliad Bookshop in the Valley, stocking the home’s shelves with subjects he thought the family would find interesting. Forays to the Pasadena Antique Mall and local antiques shops in Montecito and Summerland, including Santa Ynez General, yielded other treasures, like the old maps of California he had framed and hung in the long hallway that connects the bedrooms. The paintings by Todd McGill, a clothing designer and artist, were purchased at Lawson-Fenning. “I love finding things, creating collections and mixing those with little baubles,” Lucas shares.
The home’s rugs were sourced through Marc Phillips, including the primary bedroom’s new Moroccan carpet. “The rug and the wallpaper both had that really beautiful burnt coral color that was a perfect match,” he points out. Illuminating everything are lights from Urban Electric. “They picked all the lighting,” he says. “They were obsessed with it from the work we’re doing on their other home and I totally approved.”
The final effect is of a home that feels warm, welcoming and well lived-in. “It was a fun way of doing it quick and dirty but still making it inventive,” he says. “It was kind of like being on a design show.” For this lucky family, it was a winner.