Californian interior designer Vanessa Alexander invites est to her modern barn-style home, a little slice of the Belgian countryside in central Malibu.
Vanessa Alexander’s secluded Malibu sanctuary is not your typical Californian beach shack. Located at the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in Bonsall Canyon, this modern farmhouse is privy to tailored outlooks of rugged cliffs and established tropical greenery, located just minutes from the beach.
Although the 1960s ranch-style home had good bones, it needed rehabilitation after several ‘not-so-thoughtful’ renovations over the years and damage from the Woolsey Fire that tore through Los Angeles in 2018. Lifting design cues from Belgium’s Flemish Region, Vanessa Alexander has cultivated a deep sense of serenity in her home through art, original vintage furniture and custom-designed pieces from her range, Alexander Design.
Hollywood manager turned interior designer Vanessa Alexander has been a Los Angeles resident for years. Vanessa says she settled on the neighbourhood of Bonsall Canyon to design her family home for its closeness to the water and the hiking and horseback trails. “I like that we can plug into all that the Malibu community has to offer, but also still have privacy, land and a bucolic and pastoral environment,” Vanessa adds.
It was the high ceilings and L-shaped floorplan that ‘hugs’ the garden that swayed Vanessa into purchasing this circa-1960s brick dwelling, although she says it certainly wasn’t short of a challenge. “The inherent architecture was interesting, but it definitely didn’t have a connection to the outdoors in the way that I wanted, and many rooms were pokey and didn’t flow to one another properly,” Vanessa says.
Engaging Kovac Design Studio to oversee the architecture, the design team eliminated the ranch-style aspect of the home by removing the bricks and cladding the A-frame home entirely in Shou Sugi Ban cladding. Kovac Design Studio also enlarged all of the door openings to establish a tangible connection to the outdoors and added skylights throughout to maximise light flow.
“I like that we can plug into all that the Malibu community has to offer, but also still have privacy, land and a bucolic and pastoral environment.”
– Alexander Design principal Vanessa Alexander
Creamy hand-plastered walls and ceilings by Kamp Studios form a quintessentially-Belgian interior canvas, punctuated by walnut ceiling beams and black steel frames. Tactile jute and sisal rugs, linen sheers, aged timber furniture and plush velvets play to the homes’ overarching European design sensibility, contrasted with contemporary light fixtures in every room.
The kitchen is the beating heart of the home, positioned under a slotted skylight that echoes the beams of the floating staircase at the front of the home. It’s here where Vanessa and her family spend most of their time as the space flows directly to the outdoor living space, pool and garden. The neighbouring dining room transports you somewhere in the Belgian countryside, with an early-20th-century farm table, original Pierre Jeanerret Chandigarh chairs and a statement pendant lamp by French designer Pierre Yovanovitch.
A marble and bronze pod encasing the shower in the master ensuite takes the Belgian barn-like aesthetic to new heights. Shrouded by greenery, this secluded corner is Vanessa’s favourite spot in her home. “The bathroom is calm, dreamy and intimate; as it opens up to the yard, I feel like I’m partaking in the outside world and not shut away,” Vanessa says.
Vanessa describes her signature style as an eclectic curation of opulent materials and luxurious textures against a monochrome backdrop. And while, as Vanessa puts it, Malibu can feel a bit ‘myopic’ at times, she has created a home that couldn’t feel more different. “My aesthetic is driven by lifestyle and dictated by location. I feel that we were successful in creating an environment that feels at home in the community of Malibu while exuding comfort for family living,” she adds.