William AbranowiczFor Cliff Fong, simplicity is key to serenity. This is more apparent than in the ranch-style 1953 house that Cliff Fong moved into four years ago in a peaceful neighborhood in Central Los Angeles.
Fong, principal of the Los Angeles design firm Matt Blacke followed the visual vocabulary he uses in his projects. He used vintage Scandinavian and French masterworks mixed with contemporary art and family heirlooms to tell a story.
Jean Prouve created a room divider that separates the living and dining spaces. Borge Mogensen designed the sofa, Serge Mouille made the pendant, and Charlotte Perriand created the console. The rug is Woven and the artwork above the console are by Darren Bader. William AbranowiczFong was looking for a new home for nine months. He found it in a midcentury house with quirky details and finishes that had gone through a major renovation in the 1990s. While some of these details were compatible with his vision, others such as the original mahogany flooring that was mismatched had to go. Fong says that it was an unremarkable structure. “But it was simple, so it was easy to see where improvements could be made.”
Fong did many interior modifications: He replaced floors with concrete poured, expanded the entryway, and built an extension that could accommodate a bedroom suite. He cleared out a thicket of bamboo to make way for a tropical garden with palms and other plants. Fong created a patio oasis to set the stage for his dinner parties. A table is placed under an iron canopy with a Poul Hingsen artichoke lamp. This is the type of find that you can easily see in Galerie Half, the Los Angeles-based design shop.
Lita Albuquerque and Gonzalo Lebrija’s art flank the entrance to the main suite’s walk in closet. The Matteo bedding, Mats Theselius chair, and Chuck Moffit table are all by Matteo. The garden’s star is a wall that displays Fong’s extensive collection of over 400 orchid species. Fong’s collection of over 400 orchid species is irrigated by wastewater from his concrete koi-pond. Fong says that a lot of his inspiration comes from nature. He calls himself an “armchair botanist” and likes to recall when his mother allowed him to take over the basement. He recalls that he had 10 fish tanks with various reptiles, amphibians and other animals. “When I bought this house, I wanted the opportunity to return to the things that I loved as a child and have them again as an adult.”
These full-circle moments are common throughout the house. Fong made a special gesture by placing a 19th century black lacquered secretary, a family heirloom that his parents left him, in his son’s bedroom. A Japanese paper blowfish suspended from a ceiling adds humor to the space. It picks up primary colors and yellows in a Gina Beavers painting above the bedroom door.
Fong built his walk-in closet using a vintage shelf from Le Corbusier. Fong’s primary suite is a more modernist affair. The custom cabinetry, vintage pendant and artwork are all by Dan Finsel. A Le Corbusier shelving unit in the closet acts as an island. This influences the custom cabinetry, millwork, and other elements of the space. Jean Prouve was another icon who designed the desk in Fong’s bedroom. Prouve also designed the chair that Fong bought when he switched from fashion to interior design two decades ago.
The house today reflects Fong’s minimalist sensibility and active imagination. Natural light and strategically placed windows form a bridge between Fong’s layers and the generative presence nature. The living room’s angled window above the bookcase frames Los Angeles’ vibrant skies. The living room is dominated by the Borge Mogensen sofa, which is made of leather. A Jean Prouve wall divider divides this area from the dining area. It is centered around a Charlotte Perriand table with stools. The skylight, which has been cut into the space above the back door, lets in unimpeded light. Some of it is absorbed by Michelle Grabner’s dark circular painting. This light-filled story is completed by a circular window in the foyer. It ensures that the home’s lush exterior never goes unnoticed.
The Van Keppel-Green table is surrounded by Mathieu Mategot chair. Louis Poulsen designed the pendant.William AbramoviczThe green that creeps into the home compliments Fong’s favorite palette of grays and browns as well as blacks and blues. This 2,400-square-foot home is in perfect balance. This lifestyle change is a major one for the former jet-setter, who now prefers to spend quiet evenings at home with his family and friends. Fong said, “This house allowed me to revisit things that I loved that weren’t about travelling the world or staying in fancy hotels.” “The advantage of growing older is that we are able to recognize our limitations and strengths. A home should be an extension to that knowledge.
This story first appeared in the April 2022 issue ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
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