A Worldly Retreat in HollywoodAuthor:Mary Jo Bowling
Designer Molly Luetkemeyer can escape to her favorite destinations around the world by staying right at home.
Interior designer Molly Luetkemeyer kept telling her real estate agent why she didn’t want to look at the house that would one day be her home. “I said again and again that I did not want to live in the Laurel Canyon area,” she says. “I thought the roads were too winding and that the trees made it too dark. Those features have their charm, but just not for me.” When she was finally convinced to visit, the fact that it was a dead ringer for the split-level wood-and-stone ranch house in the opening credits of The Brady Bunch didn’t improve her initial opinion. But, when she entered the front door, her thinking changed instantly.
“I realized immediately that this was the home for me,” she says, describing the moment. “Because the house is built high up in the canyon, it isn’t dark, it’s filled with light. The large windows, open expanses and big decks give it a sense of floating over the trees—it feels like a tree house.”
The designer stands in her study, where an exotic mural camouflages utilitarian cabinets that hold office equipment.
That’s not to say the interior was perfect. In fact, it wasn’t unlike a group of different kids that, when thrown together, failed to form a family. “Although the original architecture of the house was interesting, it had been a rental for several years,” says Luetkemeyer. “Too many people had taken turns bastardizing it, and the flow of the house had been completely chopped up with several disparate elements and materials.”
This was far from what Luetkemeyer envisioned for her own home. The travel-loving designer wanted a house that, in her words, made her feel like she was on vacation every evening when she walked through the door. So she set about making her fixer-upper into her dream residence by first unifying the open spaces and making the backgrounds harmonious. Luckily, the house had an open plan, with rooms built around a large central deck. Luetkemeyer painted the walls of these rooms a bright white to make the most of the natural light flooding the areas through the windows and glass doors that open onto the central outdoor space. Then she refinished what remained of the home’s original wooden parquet flooring, which had been shellacked so many times over the years it had acquired the slick surface of an ice-skating rink. The designer installed parquet flooring throughout the rest of house, doing away with a patchwork of carpets, wood planks and linoleums.
With a clean canvas in place, she began to play with controlled fields of bright colors in finishes, art, furniture and accessories. “I’ve traveled all over the place, so many of the rooms have the feeling and colors of my favorite spots around the world,” she says. “For instance, when I redid the kitchen, I rebuilt it with the feeling of a yacht sailing through the Greek Islands. The hardware is flush-mounted, just like the kind you’d find on a boat. The tile is Aegean blue with gold trim—which is a very Greek color scheme. The feeling is of a bright blue sky and crisp white structures.”
From the Greek Isles, the design moves seamlessly to Italy, where Luetkemeyer has what she calls her “Gio Ponti moment” in the dining room. “I love midcentury modern, and I’m really influenced by how the style manifested itself around the globe,” she says. “This dining room is midcentury Italian.”
In this room, Luetkemeyer made a daring design move by choosing to paint the ceiling with bold, bright yellow stripes, giving the effect of a cheerful awning covering the space. An Hermès–orange console table, zebra rug, Regency chandelier and midcentury dining table and chairs complete the laid-back Italian feeling.
From there, stepping into the living room takes you to yet another continent. “The teal blue in the sofa and shades remind me of Morocco,” says Luetkemeyer. “I have many traditional Moroccan elements here: The shade fabric, the leather pouf ottomans and the ethnic rug all speak of that region.”
The spirit of an exotic African jungle is present in Luetkemeyer’s study. Working with local artist Jeff Robinson, she commissioned a fanciful, bright-green mural for this room in the style of Henri Rousseau, the self-taught French painter who, although he never left his native country, depicted wild jungle scenes. “I’ve long been fascinated by Rousseau, and we studied many of his paintings as inspiration for this mural,” she says. “It has a practical purpose as well: It covers a wall of cabinets, and you don’t even see them in the jungle pattern. The cabinets hold all my office equipment and supplies.”
And after returning from a trip to Paris, Luetkemeyer brought home the perfect design solution for her master bedroom. “The bedroom has all kinds of strange angles to it, and I wasn’t sure how to treat it,” she says. “But after I stayed in a place in Paris with upholstered walls, I knew I’d found the answer. This room is darker than the rest of the house, since it doesn’t open onto the deck. I decided to go for it and embraced its cozy nature by upholstering both the walls and the ceiling with fabric. The bright print makes the awkward angles disappear—you see the fabric, not the shape of the room. Upholstering the ceiling also makes for great acoustics. It’s very quiet there, and enhances the cocoon-like feeling.”
In this home, with decks on two levels, the outdoor spaces provide nearly as much living space as the interior, and Luetkemeyer makes the most of them. “The decks are 1970s-era-Acapulco-meets-Morocco in feeling,” she says. “This is where I go to entertain or relax.” Either activity is made easy with colorful and comfortable places for gathering or lounging. On one end of the main deck, the outdoor sectional sofa, arranged around a table with a built-in firepit and shaded by a retractable awning, is a natural magnet for Luetkemeyer’s frequent guests. The other end of the deck holds a romantic daybed the designer had painted with chevron stripes and surrounded with comfortable low-slung chairs on layers of bright woven rugs. Lower levels hold an oversize, spa-like lounge and make more private spots for reading or napping.
Remodeling the house became a freeing experience for the designer. “My clients can be afraid to use color,” she says. “They want to just dip their toe in the world of bright hues. Doing my own house allowed me to plunge right into the colors I love.”
With ethnic prints and leather poufs, Luetkemeyer’s living room embodies the spirit of Morocco.
Luetkemeyer loves art and likes to rotate her collection often for a fresh perspective on it. She found this textile at an art fair many years ago and decided to display it in her new home.
By outfitting her deck space as a living area, Luetkemeyer made a lot more room for entertaining and relaxing. On the main deck, the sofa is arranged around a coffee table that converts to an outdoor fire feature.
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