The Life AquaticAuthor:Anh-Minh Le
Designer Tiffany Howell of Night Palm crafts a singular seaside retreat for NBA star Klay Thompson
Interior designer Tiffany Howell knows all too well the professional challenges that the pandemic has wrought; among them, increased on-site precautions, countless delays with vendors and exceedingly lengthy lead times. A recently completed project, however, came with some additional hurdles: The 3,500-square-foot waterfront property in Northern California is not only 400 miles from the Los Angeles headquarters of her firm, Night Palm, but had a mere six-month timeline.
Fortunately the client, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, trusted Howell implicitly, giving her free rein to pull off a remarkable transformation. “He was definitely the most hands-off client I’ve ever had,” says Howell, who, after completing this second home for the NBA star, was enlisted to design another residence of his. “He didn’t even see most of it until the end.”
The interiors are striking in what Howell chose to integrate, like meticulously curated vintage and artisanal details that nod to Thompson’s off-the-court pursuits—boating and chess in particular—as well as what she omitted. While there are inklings that an athlete lives here, such as a bedroom that has been converted into a gym, there’s no dedicated venue for basketball memorabilia nor walls lined with framed magazine spreads. “The idea was to create this soulful retreat, where he could just get away and look at the ocean,” says Howell.
Although she inherited a structure with many virtues—15-foot pitched ceilings and an abundance of windows and glass doors, for example— Howell quickly banished the previous palette of grays and dark woods. To brighten the rooms, she introduced creamy walls throughout. In the kitchen, she kept the existing cabinetry and marble backsplash, repainting the former a “lush cream.” A new marble-clad island in the same hue includes a wood-paneled base. “Even though it’s a modern house,” she explains of the paneling, which also appears in the guest bedroom, “I wanted something that’s reminiscent of an old seaside shack here and there.”
Howell deftly conjured a sense of place without being heavy-handed. Elements with nautical connotations have a sculptural quality. Take the guest bedroom’s Hannah Woodhouse seashell-shaped plaster sconces and the living room’s Cuff Studio rope-wrapped pendant lamp. Also in the latter, which features a see-through fireplace that allows for further enjoyment of the views of the water, are vintage coastal books along with wood, ceramic and brass objects hand-picked by Howell that populate the built-in bookshelves. “I really wanted it to feel special and to bring in things that I thought he would love,” she says. “I like my clients to have things that are unique and that will also resonate with them.”
For the primary bedroom, Howell channeled easeful days in Mexico— think “a beach house with a little bit of a Tulum vibe,” she notes. “The rest of the house is a soft palette and I wanted this space to feel a bit sexy and refined.” Hence, the textiles in black and shades of brown. The bed’s hammered metal base, coupled with linen upholstery, adds texture—as do the jute-topped bench and the sheepskin rug. While the en suite bathroom retained its vanity, which Howell painted the same soft blue as the walls, it benefited from new wall and floor tiles in shades of deep blue and terra-cotta, respectively.
When Howell initially walked Thompson through the home she reimagined for him, “it was a real ‘move that bus’ moment,” she says, invoking the catchphrase for the big reveal on TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. “He was deeply happy and grateful,” she continues. “He said, ‘This house is so me.’ Which, as a designer, was a very big compliment, especially since he hadn’t seen much during the process. And because my goal was to give him his dream house.”