This California House Is a Spirited Dialogue Between Old and New

Part of the great wave of immigrants to Los Angeles before World War II, the Hungarian-born, Viennese-trained architect and interior designer Paul László had a softer take on midcentury modernism that incorporated unexpected color choices, luxurious textures, and a European savoir faire. Working in Beverly Hills from the 1930s to 1960s, he had a wide-ranging career designing homes for Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Hutton, and Cary Grant, alongside stores for Bullocks Wilshire and Robinson’s, hotels and casinos for Howard Hughes, and furniture for Herman Miller.

For Pamela Shamshiri, who cofounded her eponymous L.A.-based studio alongside her brother, Ramin, in 2016, the restoration of a 1957 László beach house in Pacific Palisades presented the opportunity to have an imagined dialogue with one of her 20th-century design heroes. “He had a sense of humor and a lightness while doing serious work,” says Shamshiri, who keenly identified with László after reading a 1986 oral history with the designer, aptly titled Designing with Spirit. “That is what I try to do.”

In the den, the vintage armchairs are by Paul László, the sofa is by B&B Italia, and the cocktail table is by Gilbert Rohde. Custom rug by Christopher Farr; Artichoke light fixture by Poul Henningsen.
Stephen Kent Johnson

Her studio channeled László’s sense of folly into the project—no all-white coastal clichés here—aiming for a spirited balance between serene and sophisticated, reflecting the client’s passion for wellness, travel, art, and antiques. László’s 20th-century design principles of sleek lines, geometric forms, novel materials, and eye-catching colors were refracted through a 21st-century lens with a focus on indoor-outdoor living and sustainability.

The 4,800-square-foot house was updated and enlarged with a 500-square-foot addition, a pool, a gym, an infrared sauna, and even a meditation room where props are stored in a Le Corbusier cabinet. But the feeling of levity starts at the first step, with a front door painted a deep and luxurious purple, and continues with pops of pink and green and “a kiss of blue” in every room. Shamshiri and her team restored the original white-oak, cherry, and American-walnut paneling throughout the home to offset the gem tones with a sense of warm formality.

Tour This Revamped SoCal Beach House

a living room with floor to ceiling windows, some with curtains, a pewter colored fabric sectional, an upholstered chair, cocktail and end tables, a light wool rug, a cocoon pendant, and an indoor fire pit

While László had a fascination with linoleum, Studio Shamshiri prioritizes green building materials. A custom marble terrazzo mix was developed for the foyer in its stead, in a pattern resembling beach pebbles. A jewel-like custom tiled bar cabinet provides an ornamental focal point for the living room, where two seating areas were created to flank the original midcentury freestanding fireplace. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the Pacific, while tinted mirrors reflect views of the garden and ocean.

László’s quirky yet functional furniture served as inspiration for several custom pieces, including a stripped-down, blocky burl-wood sofa in the living room that contrasts with a plush, unconventionally L-shaped sofa that also serves to mask a row of planter boxes just beyond.

Throughout the home, bespoke and collected pieces are layered in to create texture, with references as varied as Dries Van Noten’s runway collections and Carlo Mollino’s studied eclecticism informing the mix: a custom shaved-silk rug in a gold botanical design; turn-of-the-century Viennese light fixtures; and a vintage Italian table that looks as though it could have been plucked from an old ocean liner, with a view to match.

a primary bedroom has a light aqua platform bed with attached headboard and side tables with lamps, a bench with wood base and deep turquoise fabric seat, a painting above bed, and a beige shag rug

The custom primary bed is by Dusk Designs. Custom bench by Martino Gamper; 19th-century bedside lamps made from grain vessels, Galerie Half; custom rug by Mansour Modern; pendant, Nilufar Gallery; vintage artwork.
Stephen Kent Johnson

Shamshiri believes in investing in transition areas, as they “buy you time to open your heart and receive new information from each room.” As such, the long hallway leading to the bedrooms is punctuated by dramatic skylights that let the sun stream down onto rich dark green walls and a custom runner in a diamond pattern with the feel of a Navajo weaving. And while the studio eschews plastic, Shamshiri took László’s embrace of future thinking to heart, updating one of his original bed designs in the primary bedroom with built-in outlets as well as drawers and shelving for extra storage.

Then, of course, there’s that meditation room, which the client wanted to face out onto the horizon. “Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of them,” says Shamshiri, who’s just started her own seated practice. “I don’t have one myself yet, but that’s the goal.”

Styled by Michael Reynolds.

september 2022 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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