Interior designer Simon Hamui shares his love of wood’s many moods in this soothing La Jolla home.
A variety of woods with distinct grains, like the walnut paneling shown here, bring the feeling of the outdoors inside.
Simon Hamui is renowned for his beautiful work in wood, whether that’s his bespoke furniture or the innovative ways in which he incorporates millwork into his interior designs. So when the clients, whom he met through family, approached him to oversee their home in La Jolla, they knew that the result would be grounded in the material. Given their love of the outdoors, that suited them perfectly. “They are drawn to organic textures and shapes,” says Hamui, who founded his Mexico City atelier in 1991 and now vibrates between projects in Mexico and the States. “They wanted a space that was minimal and not crammed with objects, but one that still felt warm and inviting.” That meant a home that was simple yet visually arresting, rustic yet also elegant. It’s these seemingly disparate juxtapositions that are at the heart of Hamui’s work.
Architect Tony Crisafi, from Island Architects in La Jolla, had created a strong, modern shell. A water feature and high stucco walls act as visual and aural barriers to the outside world, helping to imbue the interior with a feeling of tranquility. Creamy travertine floors extend out to the pool and jacuzzi, uniting the interior with the exterior. Large sliding glass doors and expansive windows frame a serene backyard and flood the home with light. It was the ideal canvas against which to showcase Hamui’s love a air with timber.
A sisal rug, whose natural texture echoes the striations in the oak ceiling and travertine floor, spans the length of the entryway. The graphic painting is by RETNA
“It was very much about bringing out the natural beauty of the raw materials,” says Hamui, who handles wood in the same way that other designers might approach color or pattern or texture. “We used a lot of almost rough cut woods, and the finishes were all done using oil. So what you have is a very natural, very matte look, devoid of sheen or shiny varnishes. The final effect is of something very soft and very compelling with a lot of depth and character.” He adds, “Often, when people work with wood, they want as little grain as possible and it’s all the same color and hue so it has a kind of flatness.” That is certainly not the case with the lumber that Hamui chooses; with the variegations in its tones, the material feels alive with movement.
Hamui offset the home’s sleek stucco shell, designed by Tony Crisafi of Island Architects in La Jolla, with parota, a tropical wood.
The home’s sightlines, which extend from the front door out to the back of the property, made a unified palette important for creating an air of calm. That starts at the front door, which sets the home’s easy rhythm of wood and stone, plaster and brass in muted hues plucked from nature. “We wanted a nice big entryway, so we modified the facade to accommodate what we had in mind,” Hamui explains. “The door and its surround are made of parota, a tropical wood that grows in Mexico and South America, that we like because it’s sustainable and has very good qualities, like water resistance, that make it good for outdoor use.” Its bold wood grain, highlighted by brass detailing, stands in sharp contrast to the stucco’s velvety appearance, offering hints to the dramatic yet welcoming play of materials that will be found inside.
Ted Abramczyk’s Linear Cumulus light fixtures, purchased through Ralph Pucci, dangle above a long dining table designed by Hamui. The dining chairs were discovered at Holly Hunt
On the ground floor, Hamui installed an oak ceiling, the ideal partner to the travertine floor underfoot, the wavy pattern of the wood echoed in the stone’s striations. That motif is mimicked by a sisal rug that spans the length of the entryway. Handtroweled plaster walls, in dark charcoal and ivory, add another layer of visual interest. They’re interspersed with panels of rich walnut and an arresting bronze divider with an organic branch design inspired by the intertwining branches of a thicket of mangrove trees. “We created the pattern and routed it onto the wood,” Hamui explains. “And then we faced it in bronze, which we patinated.” The dance of aged bronze and dark wood is complemented by the RETNA painting that hangs in the hallway nearby. In the dining area, chairs discovered at Holly Hunt surround a long table with a bronze tinged base, designed by Hamui. “It will eventually find its way into the collection,” says Hamui, whose first line of limited-edition furniture, SH Collectibles, will debut this fall with Bartok, a standalone drink cabinet. (It will be available through Twentieth Exhibitions in Los Angeles and at simonhamui.com.) Dangling above are two of Ted Abramczyk’s Linear Cumulus light fixtures in white, found at Ralph Pucci in Los Angeles, hung so they seem to drift into each other, like the clouds after which they’re christened. Their irregular forms echo those found in the Udo Nöger painting, discovered at Madison Gallery in La Jolla, which hangs over the custom fireplace in the living area. Here, sofas by Christian Liaigre and two of Caste Design’s Fergus lounge chairs share space with Hamui’s leather-covered ottomans and a pair of his coffee tables. “They look similar, but the darker one is wood,” Hamui explains. “The other one is marble with a leather finish. It leaves a little texture on the stone. Then it’s honed to remove the sheen. And so the two tables come together, with a similar veining, very quiet but very strong.” A trio of pebble-shaped Foscarini lamps complete the harmonious setting.
Christian Liaigre sofas and Caste Design’s Fergus lounge chairs share space with Hamui’s leather ottomans and his wood and marble coffee tables. The painting, by Udo Noger, was found at Madison Gallery in La Jolla. PHOTOGRAPHED BY ADRIANA HAMUI
On the other side of the intricate aged bronze screen, Bo Los Angeles’ eco-friendly Duemilaotto kitchen, conceived by Italian designer Piero Lissoni to highlight the irregular grain of heat-treated acacia wood, slips seamlessly into the home’s design. “The wood is very similar to what we used,” says Hamui. “It’s not the same but there is the same idea.” To complete the sleek open-concept reclaimed wood-wrapped space, Hamui created a sturdy island with a long breakfast bar.
Panels of smoked larch wood veneer cocoon the primary suite, evoking a forest clearing. Streamlined furnishings designed by Hamui underline the room’s serenity PHOTOGRAPHED BY ADRIANA HAMUI
Just beyond, thin slats of walnut play peekaboo with a Japanese-inspired louvered staircase whose steps, created from the same light oak found in the downstairs ceiling, seem to float toward the upper level. That same wood was also used for the second story’s flooring. Its light color imparts an airy, dreamlike quality to the private rooms. Note the primary suite, which Hamui cocoons in panels of vibrant smoked larch wood veneer. Coupled with a window that looks out over the home’s rich and verdant landscape, the wood’s distinct grain, rather than feeling dark or oppressive, evokes the cool and restful respite of a forest clearing. “That has a lot to do with the play of the graphics,” Hamui notes, “from the different grains and from the contrasts in the structure of the wood.” The streamlined furnishings that Hamui designed—a bed with integrated nightstands and lights, a banquette, an accent bench, built-in bookshelves, a hidden television only revealed by a mechanism, a closet deftly concealed behind a wall— underline the room’s serenity. The bathroom, with its Calcutta marble vanity and a bathtub that allows for bathing beneath the sky, also draws on that mood. “It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere,” says Hamui of the home’s singular sense of stillness and retreat. “That comes from how we used the wood. It’s a rustic look but in a modern sense so that it’s very tactile and soothing yet elegant and sophisticated.” In other words, the perfect home for a laid-back La Jolla life.
Boffi Los Angeles’ eco-friendly Duemilaotto kitchen, created from heat-treated acacia wood, is complemented by an island with a long breakfast bar designed by Hamui
In the living room, a trio of pebble-shaped Foscarini lamps are tucked next to the custom fireplace.