More than a century old, Arts and Crafts architecture is certainly a venerated style. But it’s hardly a fashionable one. “The last time the style was popular was back in the 1980s, when Barbra Streisand was collecting Stickley furniture and ran up the market for it,” says interior designer Madeline Stuart. “No one would choose to build an Arts and Crafts house today,” she adds. But that’s exactly what a client asked her to do. “When it was going up,” she says with a smile, “passersby were visibly shaken.”
In the conservatory of a Beverly Hills house decorated by Madeline Stuart, the sofa, upholstered in a Lee Jofa fabric, and the cocktail table are custom made, the vintage pine armchairs by Axel Einar Hjorth have cushions covered in a Chapas Textiles linen, and the oak stools are vintage; the ceiling skylights are milk glass, the walls are walnut, and the floors are Spanish terra-cotta tiles.
The businessman-philanthropist who built this cottage in Beverly Hills may have bucked convention, but in Stuart, he found a collaborator who could reimagine the style with contemporary flair. “Let’s face it: Arts and Crafts architecture can be cloistered and claustrophobic,” says the designer, who is known for her tailored yet feminine interiors. “And the furniture can become cumbersome and absolutely dreary. I wasn’t going to travel down that road.”
The front door’s stained-glass panels are custom made, and the custom lanterns are by Paul Ferrante.
The ambitious ideal of creating an Arts and Crafts cottage for today began as a preservation effort. “Gregory Peck’s first wife lived in a small house across the street from me,” the owner explains. “When she put it up for sale, I was concerned that someone would tear it down and build something horrible.” So he bought the house himself, only to realize that it couldn’t be restored and that the steep hillside property presented serious engineering challenges.
Custom-made wicker furniture and a circa-1950 cocktail table by Finn Juhl and Niels Vodder in the breakfast room; the rug is Turkish, the walls are painted in Pratt & Lambert Accolade in Solitary, and the trim is painted in Farrow?& Ball Estate Emulsion in Clunch.
He then drafted the master designer and builder Robert Glaus to create a two-story, three-bedroom home that took its inspiration from a National Historic Landmark, the 1908 Gamble House in Pasadena, California, by architects Greene & Greene. “I have visited there so many times, I think I could lead a docent tour,” the owner jokes.
The dining room’s Kaare Klint–style chairs, upholstered in a Jerry Pair leather, and white-oak table are custom designs, the iron-and-glass lanterns are circa 1910, the walls are walnut, and the floors are quartersawn oak.
Together, the trio mapped out a plan to create a house that alluded to historically appropriate Los Angeles architecture without looking like a dinosaur. “This house needed to be referential, but not feel reverential,” Stuart says. “I had to make it fresh and clean and relevant, not musty, dusty, and dated. I wanted to keep it light.”
In the media room, a custom sofa is covered in a Chapas Textiles fabric, the 20th-century cocktail table is Chinese, and the antique stools are by Wilhelm Schmidt; the watercolor is by David Hockney, the vintage pendant light is French, and the custom-designed rug is from Stark Carpet.
The first step was creating a solid foundation. While the house maintains signature Arts and Crafts elements—cedar-shake siding, extensive interior carpentry, and handwrought decor—Stuart ensured that the rooms had the generous proportions and views of a contemporary Southern California residence. For the owner, a Los Angeles native, this was a welcome update.
A mural by Jean Horihata in a powder room; the circa-1890 Tramp Art mirror is American, the stool is Chinese, and the sink fittings are by THG.
“I grew up in a suburban tract house and have lived in Spanish, traditional, and modern homes,” he says. “Arts and Crafts architecture was one of the first styles that did not consider a house a fortress against the elements. It was about making a California bungalow that opened itself to the beautiful weather and nature outdoors.”
Circa-1935 pendant lights and a Wolf range in the kitchen.
Upstairs, a bedroom for the owner’s twin six-year-old daughters has a celestial-blue ceiling and whitewashed paneled walls featuring a pair of mischievous girls in artworks by Yoshitomo Nara.
Studiously avoiding the clichés of Stickley furniture, Stuart championed lesser-known early-20th-century designers, such as Axel Einar Hjorth and Charles Dudouyt, and brought in Arts and Crafts pieces from France, England, and Holland.
Stuart designed the cabinetry, chest, sconces, and ceiling fixture in the master bath; the counters are Calacatta marble, and the sink fittings are by THG.
One of her prize finds was the Danish lantern that illuminates the staircase, which she found in Paris. “I saw it in a window, but the shop was closed,” she recalls. “I was fully prepared to wait overnight on the curb.” Such perseverance paid off; Stuart’s eye for singular pieces with great details also led her to hammered-copper tables with beautiful patina as well as contemporary cloisonné drum stools by Robert Kuo.
The master bedroom’s leather-and-oak bed is a custom design, the stools are vintage, and the lamp bases are circa-1880 pottery vases by Christopher Dresser.
The owner admits that the cottage he built across the street from his own residence is his “architectural folly.” Unlike the English garden variety, however, this one is fully functional. “My little ones use it like a playhouse, and the dining table seats 18, so it’s a wonderful place to entertain guests.” Often he pops over just to relax and watch the sunset. “I built this house as an act of enjoyment,” he says. “They say you shouldn’t fall in love with your own creation, but I have.”
The garden off the kitchen, with ferns, pittosporum, and oaks.