House Tour: A Gallerist’s Minimalist Malibu Masterpiece
Obsolete owner Ray Azoulay brings his stylish sensibility to the beach.
The facade of Ray Azoulay’s Malibu abode is, by his own admission, “an awful textured green.” The antiquarian behind the rarefied Culver City design showroom Obsolete, whose clients include Diane Keaton, Ellen DeGeneres and Takashi Murakami, made a conscious decision to leave the offending celadon hue intact when he moved into the house in June.
“Houses in Malibu all do something to say, ‘Here I am,’ and I didn’t want to do that yet,” he says, answering the door in a gray roll-neck cashmere sweater, charcoal twill pants and white Rick Owens high-tops, capped off with a Supreme hat emblazoned with the face of Felix the Cat. “I like that it remains so innocuous; it reminds me of cool places in [Manhattan’s] East Village, where the storefront is X, and you go in and it’s something completely different.”
Inside Azoulay’s shoebox-shaped digs, pristine wood floors coated in crisp white boat paint are populated with a select group of clean-lined furniture—slouching sheepskin-covered chairs from France, an Eero Saarinen oval dining table, a ’70s-era curvilinear Vladimir Kagan sofa upholstered in powder-blue wool—chosen specifically for their low profiles so as not to detract from the swathe of glinting Pacific, visible just outside.
Max Richter’s ambient neoclassical album Sleep hums in the background, intermingling with the crashing of the waves. “Just when you think it’s not going to come, it does,” says Azoulay, an obsessive swimmer (“it’s more therapy than exercise”) of the reassuringly constant sound of the ocean’s advance and retreat.
The Long Island native, who has lived in Los Angeles since 1999 (when he left a post in New York as director of menswear design at Liz Claiborne to decamp to Venice to be with his then-boyfriend), moved here from a loft in Marina del Rey—“there was a homeowner’s association there,” he explains wryly.
Azoulay is clearly not the sort of person to be governed by others’ rules and regulations. “A lot of people build houses for this idea, this theory,” he says. “I really built this house for me.” Rather than outfit a guest room for out-of-towners, or a dining space for hypothetical dinner parties, he installed a sleek upstairs screening room (he is an avowed cinephile) and a kitchen whose counter space is readily compromised by the bell-jar display of an exploded dolphin skull from Paris taxidermy shop Deyrolle.
A vintage Mathieu Matégot daybed at the top of the stairs is triangulated so that he can lie down, read, and still see the view. Above it, a black-and-white photograph by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison—artists he represents through the fine-art arm of Obsolete, Slete Gallery—depicts an anonymous man picking his way through a gauntlet of tires. “It’s me, moving through the world,” he says. “I’m happily single, and I’m just kind of, like, balancing.”
Lest you worry he doesn’t get out enough, Azoulay’s typical day includes a swim in one of several preferred pools across town, weeknight drinks at his adopted “$50 million living room on the ocean” (aka Soho House’s Little Beach House Malibu) and trips back and forth to the store.
“Obsolete is this constantly moving world of curating and changing and doing…we’re less motivated by sales and more motivated by a culture,” he says of the shop, renowned for its idiosyncratic inventory spanning the 17th century to the 21st, whose curiosities range from a 1900-era marble bust to a 19th-century artist model, amassed during frequent trips to Britain, France, Italy and Germany. “I’m fortunate to work with a group of guys who share all of that. There’s no titles or meetings, we’re just discussing things when we want to discuss them…It’s a really good life.” obsoleteinc.com.
Photography by SAM FROST
Written by MELISSA GOLDSTEIN