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In Living Color

In L.A., we don't celebrate autumn with trips to the country to view bright foliage. We get our color-fix in other ways--touring a home decorated in the juiciest hues, or ogling tropical fish that push the limits of the paintbox. Just step inside.

October 08, 2006|Michael Webb | Michael Webb is the author of "Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection" and "Venice, CA," both of which will be published in the spring.

On a quiet street of vintage bungalows in Santa Monica, Rosalie and Duane Kumagai's new house stands out for its reddish-purple walls. Architect Glen Irani was inspired by a plum tree that grows outside the window of his home office on the Venice canals, and the way its leaves turn from translucent red in spring to dark wine in fall. He pushed his plasterer to add more pigment to the stucco, so that the color anchors the single-story house that's mostly about glass, jauntily angled roofs and indoor-outdoor living.

To complement this somber tone, Irani chose a pale blue for the lofty, light-filled living pavilion, mirroring the sky and the lap pool that extends, like a liquid runway, the length of the backyard. Balancing these extremes of light and dark are a vibrant lipstick red used on a wall in the master bedroom, and orange and lime sherbet for their sons' bedrooms. The guest room is a slightly deeper orange, and the office is sunflower yellow.

The architect has come a long way since his six-year stint with Richard Meier, the maestro of white, and he credits his Quebec-born wife, abstract painter Edith Beaucage. "She pushed me over the edge, giving me the courage to explore colors I hadn't dared to use before."

When it comes to modern architecture, white used to be de rigueur. "There was this minimalist, purist principle of white everywhere," says Irani. "It was considered a dematerializing agent that made things more ethereal." But Irani believes that by adding color you define one more facet of the building's physicality. "Any artist would prescribe color because it communicates something. When you paint a building gray or beige, you're essentially saying color doesn't matter--and it does."

Rosalie and Duane, a Century City attorney, both liked the idea of color for their new home and looked to the architect for guidance. "I told Glen we wanted to make this a fun, lively house--and that I didn't like pastels," Rosalie says. Irani placed samples on a board so that the couple could see how the color wheel of vibrant hues--ranging from plum to lime green--worked together. He also wanted to see how they reacted to them emotionally and intuitively. "Colors are difficult to get right. We don't do detailed renderings because it's something that's difficult to represent exactly. And sometimes it doesn't work simply because the client doesn't like a certain color. Colors are very subjective. The good news is--it's just paint."

Rosalie says her favorite place is the cool-blue open-plan living room/kitchen--which she calls "command central"--and its view of Irani's artificial turf in the drought-free garden, which adds a jolt of grass green to the house's colorful palette. "No matter how hectic the world is outside, I feel at ease when I'm in this room. The colors are very Zen and very peaceful."

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