Meeting of the MindsAuthor:California Home And Design
Gary Wiss joins forces with Lisa Rowe on a project that bears an inimitable style
SITUATED ON A HILLTOP IN OCCIDENTAL, Robin Reed and Lorye George’s residence is aptly dubbed Fairy Hill. The spot is surrounded by trees and boasts knockout views of Sonoma County. Inside, Gary Wiss and Lisa Rowe’s distinctive vision for the homeowners is as enchanting as the setting itself.
The project represents the inaugural start- to-finish collaboration between San Francisco interior designer Wiss and longtime friend Rowe, a creative polymath based in Los Angeles whose talents include interior styling and floral design. His formal training and experience balanced with her “working from instinct,” both agree, allows the duo to “push the boundaries of what can and cannot be done.”
After studying interior architecture at California College of the Arts and working as an associate at Brayton Hughes Design Studios for eight years, Wiss branched out on his own in 2012. He founded Wiss Design Studio, which has been generating well-earned buzz lately. For the Occidental abode, Don Clark served as the general contractor, while Flin McDonald was brought in to consult on the Feng Shui aspects. The design and build is Polly Ogden’s doing. According to Wiss, “Polly built the body and we put the soul into it.”
Among the designers who inspire Wiss are Billy Baldwin (for his eclecticism), Jean-Michel Frank (for his use of opulent materials and minimalism) and Dorothy Draper (her “Decorating is fun!” mantra resonates with him). Rowe admires Cliff Fong, the proprietor of L.A.’s Galerie Half, whose aesthetic feels “well-traveled and curated and not a formula,” she observes. These myriad influences can be detected throughout Fairy Hill. Take the alcove, which can be closed off with a custom curtain made by Magnolia Lane using Timorous Beasties’ Birds N Bees print on both sides. Additional bespoke items are the mohair-covered daybed, also by Magnolia Lane, and the ottoman from Nickey Kehoe that is upholstered in an unexpected fabric sourced by Rowe: a vintage African tribal robe. Artisan touches include a Victoria Morris ceramic lamp and stoneware garlands by Michele Quan.
In the living and dining areas, which are open to each other, textures and patterns collide to warm and welcoming effect. A velvet chair and tufted chaise, both from Roche Bobois, rest on a camel- hair carpet from Claremont Rug Company. Nearby, iconic mid-century designs—a table and chairs by Eero Saarinen and Warren Platner, respectively—are mated with a paper-and-bamboo pendant lamp from Garde and a Darren Waterston painting.
During the design process, the clients repeatedly expressed their desire for a minimal and layered home. In this case, minimal translated to pieces that, at a minimum, are necessary for them to live comfortably, rather than sparseness. “We reduced down to the core things they really love and need,” says Wiss. Rowe adds: “I pretty much love everything that’s in this house, and there isn’t one single thing I would change.” – Anh-Minh Le