Happy Valley


Interior designer Denise Morrison was the answer to a Calabasas couple’s dreams of beautiful design

We purposely chose a layered table so it wouldn’t feel like an island,” says Morrison of the Cal coffee table by House of Morrison. Apparatus Studio’s Arrow pendants dangle overhead. “They help break up the volume of the space.” Photo by Shade Degges.

One of the lesser-known challenges of living together is agreeing on an interior designer. “The clients were looking to find someone whose work they were both excited about,” remembers Denise Morrison of Morrison Interiors of the duo who own this Calabasas home. “Luckily they discovered us on Instagram and we immediately had a great connection.” Morrison was quickly able to discern their love of strong contrasts and their appreciation for unique pieces. “It’s always fun to design with people who are really open,” she says. “We get to be our most creative when the client lets us design without boundaries.”

A trio of custom lights arc over an expansive marble bar that showcases the clients’ tequila collection. “It’s a fun moment that connects the living area with the kitchen,” says Morrison. The Strap stools are from Thomas Hayes Studio. Photo by Shade Degges.

Morrison loved the home’s layout, with its large rooms and abundance of natural light. “The way it opened up to the great room and the overall flow of the home really made sense,” she notes. However, the spaces needed some fine tuning and a layer of warmth. “We needed to define the entryway to give it a sense of pause,” Morrison recalls. The kitchen needed encouragement to interact with the great room and the living area needed to be rethought. “We wanted it to feel more modern and transitional, so we reconsidered a proposed built-in cabinet idea left and right of the fireplace and installed chunky shelves that felt more open,” she remembers. The fireplace itself was resurfaced in a beautiful plaster finish while a pair of pendants bring scale to the voluminous space.

Hollis + Morris’s Willow Pendant dangles above a dining table by House of Morrison. Les Petites Histoires collection wallpaper by Elitis adds a touch of whimsy. Photo by Shade Degges.
In the powder room, a fixture by Allied Maker illuminates the dark, moody space. The tiles are from Mission Tile West. Photo by Shade Degges.

“The client really loves a minimalist and restrained architectural approach that relies on beautiful materials,” Morrison explains. Those materials include the large, powerful slabs of marble. “That was definitely a theme,” she says.

In a dark powder room, the smokey swirls of the vanity’s stone anchor the mix of slender matte and shiny black tiles. “We put the faucet to one side to offset the oversize mirror,” Morrison points out. “It makes a space that is slightly asymmetrical feel cohesive.” In the primary bathroom, the intricate veining in the vanity’s long expanse of marble works with the trio of mirrors to break up the room’s length. The mix of metals is also a factor in helping to make the space feel less cavernous. The marble Morrison chose for the bar, which links the living room with the kitchen, delivers the drama the clients requested, with its deep variegated undulations of gray. Substantial shelves, backed by dark marble tile, spotlight the clients’ extensive tequila collection and echo the shelving found near the fireplace, helping to harmonize the two spaces. Custom lighting and stools by Thomas Hayes Studio complete the arresting tableau and “impart a bit of a bar-lounge feel,” says Morrison. In the kitchen, the slab poised above the range leaps toward the ceiling, balancing the long counter and serving to unite the interior with the views seen through the expansive windows.

Stigma paper in Inky from Lee Jofa covers the walls of the primary bedroom. The nightstand is from House of Morrison. “The room strikes a nice balance between the masculine and the feminine,” says Morrison, pointing out the juxtaposition of dark colors and angular shapes against the soft bedding and impressionistic patterns. Photo by Shade Degges.

In other rooms, wallpaper is the material that leads the design. In the dining room, Morrison employed a dense pattern of black-and-white trees. “It adds a hint of playfulness to the moodiness created by the dark walls,” says Morrison. A trio of drawings in small frames and Hollis + Morris’s Willow Pendant, which resembles a dense branch of pussy willows, offers an additional note of whimsy. In the bedroom, another intricate wallpaper, soft patterned bedding and Roman shades color the room inviting.

The mix of metals in the primary bathroom includes brass lights by Hudson Valley Lighting and pewter sink fittings by Watermark. Photo by Shade Degges.
“This is how you can mix in the trends—brass is having a moment—but not go so over the top that it will quickly date,” counsels Morrison. Photo by Shade Degges.

The result is spaces that feel lush while still being livable. “In all the work we do, we tip toward things that are chunky, weighty, and functional,” Morrison shares. “We don’t do precious.” Her formula is simple shapes, neutral colors and luxurious materials. “It’s very classic California, the T-shirt and jeans of houses, high style but user-friendly,” she says. “I was born and raised in California. It influences everything we do.”