Homeowner and gallerist Shulamit Nazarian’s impressive art collection fills the modernist gem
It started with a typical friend’s refrain: “You two should know each other. You have so much in common.” Los Angeles gallerist Shulamit Nazarian first met AD100 designer Pamela Shamshiri at the suggestion of Michael Reynolds, the estimable design-world creative wizard and matchmaker. Not surprisingly, Reynolds’s instincts proved providential—Nazarian and Shamshiri did in fact have much in common. Both were strong, independent women of Persian descent, born in Iran and transplanted to LA with their families in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. Both were divorced mothers raising sons. And, not least of all, both owned architecturally significant houses designed by mandarins of Southern California modernism. At the time, Shamshiri inhabited Rudolph Schindler’s 1948 Lechner House, while Nazarian occupied A. Quincy Jones’s Smalley House (1969–73) in Holmby Hills, one of the architect’s largest single-family residences.
THE ARCHITECTURE STRESSES FLUIDITY BETWEEN INDOOR AND OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES. NEW LANDSCAPE DESIGN BY TERREMOTO.
The capacious living room features a vintage Milo Baughman sofa in a Fortuny cotton-cashmere curled around a Vincenzo de Cotiis cocktail table through Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Pierre Paulin chairs with a Paul Frankl table, and carpet by Christopher Farr. Artworks pictured: Fay Ray hanging sculpture (Trine, 2022. Stainless steel, onyx, granite. 144 x 36 inches) and a large-scale painting by Enrique Martínez Celaya.
“We were both in moments of transition in our lives, and we felt a strong emotional connection almost immediately,” Nazarian recalls of their fortuitous meeting roughly five years ago. Shamshiri seconds the notion: “The bond was real. Shula is a student of architecture, a patron of the arts, and a gallerist dedicated to supporting women and Middle Eastern culture. She’d been living in this imposing house for years, bringing up her sons, but she didn’t seem completely comfortable there. It was a lot of house to navigate day to day, especially with her boys going off to college,” the designer explains.
Updating an important modernist home to align with the rhythms and rituals of 21st-century life is always a complicated endeavor, requiring a delicate pas de deux between historical verisimilitude and contemporary expression. Nazarian approached the challenge with probity and patience. She had lived in the home for more than a decade before she embarked on the full-scale renovation. (She’d previously confined her modifications to the garden, originally designed by modernist landscape maestro Garrett Eckbo.) “Jones and the Smalleys were great friends. Jones was eulogized here after his passing. I understood the importance of the house in his body of work, and I knew that I’d become the caretaker of this phenomenal gem,” the homeowner says. “But architecture is a living thing. It has to be relevant to the way we live now. So we utilized Jones’s language in all the changes we made, to elevate and amplify the power of his architecture.”
Artwork pictured: Cammie Staros, Endless Column, 2016. Ceramic, steel.154 x 14 x 14 inches
Shulamit Nazarian and her boyfriend, Matthew Oshinsky. Fashion styling by Kristin Hans Fernandez. Artworks pictured: Fay Ray hanging sculpture (Trine, 2022. Stainless steel, onyx, granite. 144 x 36 inches)
Jones had originally planned the house with the children’s bedrooms, family area, and kitchen on one side of the 7,500-square-foot structure, and the primary bedroom suite on the opposite side. Between the two he situated a soaring living room defined by a formidable spine wall of rough-sawn cedar that slices through the interior and extends out into the garden—a signature Jones detail that underscores the dynamic indoor-outdoor connection. “The biggest move we made was relocating Shula’s bedroom to the old children’s area on the more private side of the house, which has a much more human scale. From there, she can go to work in the generous home office and study we placed in the old primary. The progression through the house feels natural and easy,” Shamshiri says of the reorganized floor plan.
Adjacent to the office, the designer created a sybaritic home spa with a clay sauna and a biomorphic bench and hot tub of black river stones inlaid in black concrete, a construction that echoes Jones’s sensational, circular-patterned concrete floors hand-seeded with pebbles. Those floor pads also suggested the form of the radically reconceived kitchen. “Honestly, it was the most challenging kitchen I’ve ever done,” Shamshiri confesses, emphasizing the wildly tight tolerances of the walnut cabinetry and doors. For Nazarian, the effort was clearly worth it. “The kitchen is a place of gathering and nourishment. The new design connects the house’s more formal areas with the family spaces in the most beautiful, generous, welcoming way,” she says.
The entirely reimagined kitchen is a tour de force of design and engineering, articulated in American black walnut with pale stone counters.
A biomorphic bench and hot tub of black river stones inlaid in black concrete.
Voluptuous forms and sinuous lines proliferate throughout the interior appointments, adding what Shamshiri describes as “a soft, feminine counterpoint to the rigidity of all the vertical black mullions and crisp modernist planes.” In the sunken living room, an epic Milo Baughman circular sectional sofa is joined by shapely Pierre Paulin Mushroom chairs and a curvaceous Paul Frankl cocktail table, all set on a green wall-to-wall carpet that nods to the river-patterned Edward Fields carpet specified by the home’s original decorator, the late AD100 stalwart Steve Chase. The dining room is anchored by a massive Wendell Castle table set beneath an Ayala Serfaty light fixture that hovers like a luminous cloud.
Artwork pictured: Annie Lapin, Light Leak, 2022. Acrylic, oil paint and oil stick on PVAed linen. 78.25 x 54.5 inches
Artwork Pictured: Summer Wheat, Gardeners, 2020. Site-specific mosaic mural installation, Los Angeles, CA
The installation of the art collection provided another opportunity for Nazarian to put her personal stamp on the landmark house. “The architecture really stands in its own beauty, without any art at all. The most intimidating part of the process was figuring out how we handled the big spine wall. Pam and I went through many ideas, but in the end I think we were able to find a solution that respects the integrity of both the architecture and the art,” Nazarian says. One of the most seductive works on the property is a site-specific tile mural by artist Summer Wheat, installed around a new fountain tucked in a previously underutilized pocket beneath the primary bedroom. “I think it was brilliant of Jones to leave this unresolved space as a placeholder for something yet to come,” Nazarian asserts. “It allows for a discussion between past, present, and future—and isn’t that a hallmark of all great architecture?”
Home spa with a clay sauna.