Life at the Top
A young family finds respite in its Laguna Beach house on a hill.
Design opportunity can strike at the most surprising of moments. Recalls Venice Beach-based decorator Chad Eisner, of C.W. Eisner Inc.: “I had gone to a mutual friend’s Boxing Day party at this very ’80s, 9,000-square-foot second home in Laguna Beach [the family’s primary residence was, and still is, in London]. I looked around and thought, ‘This is a cool house. It needs a lot of work.’” Two years later, seaside serendipity struck as Eisner and the hostess of that fête, Alison Ravano, ran into each other just outside of Neiman Marcus at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. “She asked me if I could take a meeting about their house. Of course, I said yes!” Eisner remembers with a smile, even after completing the three-and-a-half-year renovation.
The meeting went swimmingly as mother-of-four Alison and Eisner first established their collective desire to replace the domicile’s incongruent shiny black granite and polished glass with a warm, welcoming consistency of creamy limestone and beachy textures. They also agreed to a game plan that would satisfy a penchant for clean Italian design (Alison’s husband is Italian-born businessman Emanuele Ravano); Texas-native Alison’s attraction to earthy elements of driftwood, metal, water and fire; and, above all, their four children and their need for fun and relaxation at home with their friends and four Akitas.
It was a tall order, but a lovely underpinning of Turkish, “Aramis” limestone from CA-based Exquisite Surfaces was one big, bright answer to a number of design dilemmas. The light-reflecting, honed flooring throughout created a calming seamlessness while remaining true to the Pacific views. “The eye is able to carry out toward the horizon without being overpowered by too many different materials,” Eisner says.
The floor-to-ceiling windows make live paintings of the shimmering pool area and, just beyond, swaying vibrant greens of the backlit banana palm fronds and the glittering blues of the sea and sky. Inside, taking cues from the house’s façade and the vista it absorbs, furnishings all soften and fill voluminous entryway and entertaining areas, allowing guests to pause in each space: a barrel-back, Deco-inspired Italian armchair of blond ash; teal Edelman leather barrel chairs from Inex; and custom-pieces by Eisner, such as his cream shagreen sofa table and soft-gray-stained walnut dining table.
The museum-quality art and accessories that Alison has collected over the years, in California and overseas, were edited down to the soulful essentials that only enlivened the newly created environs. A pair of rare fossilized shell sculptures flank and add dimension to a flat living room fireplace; a large oceanic oil painting by Southern California artist Alex Weinstein reigns over the dining area; and sea-glass jugs, bottles and buoys provide colorful reflection. Adds Eisner, “All-white houses can be stark, so we wanted to add hues.”
While the common areas let the hilltop views take center stage, the kitchen, which Eisner completely redesigned to include a generously sized pantry, and a small-yet-glam eating nook, spotlights Alison’s cooking and hosting talents. “She’s a complete green freak, and I’m a blue person,” laughs Eisner. The extra-long 4”x16” glass tiles running along the backsplash create a glistening emerald energy field for Alison, who is often found preparing fresh meals for a rotating roster of guests. An island of recycled glass offers a few shots of Eisner’s periwinkle shades, while an eat-in custom banquette area of Edelman calfskin leather in jade features a three-dimensional Italian seascape photograph hanging above by London-based Alex Hartley. All the kitchen and family room elements offer easy-care surfaces of Caesar stone counters, wipe-and-go leather ottomans, and pet-friendly linen sofas—yet the scene looks incurably chic.
In fact, though high on a hill, the house stands ready and willing to receive the Ravanos and their visitors with swaying palms and open doors—in the most relaxed, low-key Laguna Beach way. “It’s not a museum,” says Eisner. “It’s a family house for bowls of popcorn and wet sandy feet.”
Written and edited by Darra Baker.
PHOTO: Lisa Romerein.