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Tuscan style homes

A Home of One’s Own

An open-air mansion in Bel-Air fuses Italian architecture with a global design style

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“There are familial memories that get imbued into the architecture, and especially into the interior design, that make it feel personal.”

Scott Sottile

There’s a vast difference between a house and a home. A house is merely a physical space—a collection of walls and rooms. A home is a place packed with the memories and stories that turn a physical space into something more meaningful.

For architect Scott Sottile, partner at Ferguson & Shamamian in New York City, transforming a house into a home has been a particularly rewarding experience. 

A recent project stands out. One of Sottile’s client families wanted to turn their extensive travel experiences into a blueprint for a new home in Bel Air, Los Angeles. Trips to the picturesque Italian region of Tuscany inspired both the house’s architectural style and its function, including a sense of balance and serenity, and a love of shared experiences with family and friends. 

A large, open-air courtyard with covered galleries (loggia) connecting to other parts of the home is a central feature of Italianate design.
Paired gilded mirrors with Art Deco Murano glass vases create an elegant frame for the room beyond.

The Tuscan style is in fact already an important component of Los Angeles architecture due to the warm climate shared by the two regions. Sottile’s main challenge with this project was staying faithful to an established building style while creating a distinct and personal home. 

He opted for a highly considered architecture, in which specific features exist to give a sense of purpose and meaning to the whole.

“[There’s] an intellectual rigour in the planning of the building itself that begins to manifest in three dimensions. Those dimensions create a kind of harmony of proportions in the way the rooms fit together,” he says. 

The home is built upon a mathematical grid, with a central axis that flows from the entry courtyard to the living room, setting up openings and space from the covered exterior corridor (loggia) out back into the rear lawn. Spaces flow from one room to the next (and from one view to the next), with courtyards, walkways, and open-air terraces blurring the line between indoors and out.

Left: Wrought-iron railings and artistic wall sconces form a subtle Italianate backdrop to the artistic flourishes of the other rooms. Right: The double-height ceiling floods the living room with the warm glow of Southern California sunshine.

“The house is created to reflect the way the family moves about their day and the way they entertain. There are many connections, but also many private spaces, so all the dynamics can play out with places to be together and places to be apart,” Sottile says. 

“You have multiple experiences, and you’re visually drawn from one comfortable seating area to the next, depending on where the sun is, and depending on whether you want to be in or out of it.”

However, the design doesn’t adhere to a strict architectural code. “We weren’t going to let it dictate every decision,” Sottile says. Rather, the building synchronizes various styles into a cohesive whole that’s not only suited to its time and place but also meaningful to the family that lives there.

One of the central features of this extraordinary home is the seamless interplay between Asian and European aesthetic traditions.

Cultural influences

Working closely with renowned Los Angeles designer Madeline Stuart, Sottile and his team incorporated elements of other architectural traditions within the larger whole. 

Stuart blended the Italian architectural elements with specific European and Asian motifs (another interest spawned from the family’s globetrotting) to create a cohesive feel that harmoniously flows from one artistic tradition to another. That fusion of distinct traditions turned this Tuscan villa into a home for this family. 

Left: The positioning of Asian landscapes next to a classical Italian doorway is an example of the tasteful mix of East and West in this home. Right: Carefully designed outdoor “rooms” extend the living space while making the transition from interior to exterior seamless.

The substantial library combines classical French and Japanese elements. The basement billiards room is finished with Tudor-style wood panelling. One of the bathrooms features a hand-painted Chinese wall covering, while the living room hosts a wall-spanning Chinese landscape.

“We [brought] in the art of other family vacations, the art of cultures they’ve visited elsewhere, so there are familial memories that get imbued into the architecture, and especially into the interior design, that make it feel personal,” Sottile says.

This Bel Air home is featured prominently in Ferguson & Shamamian’s recent book of architectural projects.

Rather than overshadowing the décor, Sottile’s refined, subdued Italianate rooms form a calming blank canvas for the bold colours, rich textures, and imaginative visual language of the interior design. 

“The architecture is definitely foundational, and intentionally a little recessive,” Sottile says. “You’re playing a concert, and you have to know who’s the lead, and who’s just providing the background rhythm. And there are many moments when the architecture is doing the latter.”

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 113

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