NATURAL WONDER

Amid the lively, contemporary ramble of Los Angeles, landscape designer Scott Shrader has built a house that defines timeless comfort and calm. A small jewel box in West Hollywood’s decorating district that he shares with Mark Hemphill, it captures Southern California’s bright light and balmy air in rooms that overlook gardens, each as detailed as the interiors they adjoin. High ceilings, tall French doors, and walls painted a single creamy white evoke expansiveness in a home that’s only 1,500 square feet, an illusion bolstered by the flow from inside to out. Such seamless connectedness is a trademark for Shrader, whose clients include A-list musicians and actors who crave his indoor-outdoor aesthetic.

Still, it’s hard to picture a more discerning client than Shrader himself, who, in 2000, toured 300 homes before choosing this 1940s Hollywood Regency — style gem. Not that it was gem-like then. Despite its prime location, lofty ceilings, and oversize fireplace, the house felt tiny and squeezed, with hints of low-rent rec room in smoky mirrors and flimsy sliding doors. Nor was there much to see outside but scrawny cypresses and neighbors’ homes.

Shrader, though, saw ways to make the house shine. After banishing the cypresses, he enclosed the property with dense ficus hedges, adding atmospheric olive trees, a lily pond, stone patios, and a secluded fire pit. Inside, he nixed walls to create an open plan for dining and lounging. He installed skylights and large-scale glass doors that let in breezes, and he darkened pale oak floors to an earthy tone that links them with the leafy landscapes beyond. Other fixes included updating a galley kitchen and reorienting the master bedroom toward a garden, not the garage.

As work proceeded, perfectionist that he is, Shrader lived three years in a nearly empty house rather than rush to furnish. «I was patient,» he recalls, «collecting pieces one by one, sometimes stumbling on them as I shopped for clients.» When he couldn’t find the right low-slung coffee table, he made one from a slab of statuary marble. As a play on scale, he paired it with a high-back sofa and equally tall English carved-wood chairs, upholstered in a Greek-key pattern that contrasts boldly with his reigning grays and creams, «I made a few pieces important,» he explains, «sizable and interesting enough to hold their own, even in an empty room.»

Finally, comfort is always crucial for Shrader, who did the walls of the master bedroom in woven silk and finished the space with a plush Tai Ping carpet. Among the designer’s comfort rules: Chairs need arms; upholstery, softness; and furnishings must invite gathering, whether for intimate dinners or crowd-size cocktail parties.

One caveat, notes Shrader: He and Hemphill edit their acquisitions. «When something new comes in,» he declares, «something else must go!»

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