Husband-and-wife media moguls Michael Kong and Stacy Twilley put their heads together to create a print-worthy Hancock Park home base—and an equally exquisite Santa Barbara County escape.
Stacy Twilley and Michael Kong have made a career out of promoting the good life. The husband-and-wife team co-founded a collection of lifestyle magazines, which they sold in 2007—but that doesn’t mean that when it comes to aesthetics they are always on the same page. At their primary residence in Hancock Park, the couple’s expansive photography collection, which includes works by Irving Penn, Helmut Newton and Ellen Von Unwerth is a case in point. “Michael and I have different tastes in art,” Twilley says. “So for years there was nothing hanging on the walls.” Likewise, when Twilley and Kong began searching for a weekend retreat where they could escape with their three daughters, agreeing on a location initially proved challenging. “I was looking for beach, and Michael was looking for land,” Twilley says. “I saw an ad in C Magazine for a ‘coastal ranch,’ and I thought, ‘Does such a thing exist?’” For the pair, the stunning 106 acres along Santa Barbara County’s historic Stagecoach Route realized both visions. The couple collaborated with Becker Construction on renovating the 1918 dwelling crafted from Santa Barbara sandstone and the two yurts. They named the property “Three Hawks Ranch” for their daughters, with a reverent nod to the red-tailed hawks that live there.
Twilley took a natural approach to design, using stones from the property to build an outdoor fire pit as well as a cushioned stone daybed, which is a favorite hangout for the girls and the family’s Labrador, Harry. “At the ranch, I didn’t want to hang much on the walls,” Twilley says. “You don’t need to with these views.” Large windows reveal expansive avocado, citrus and olive groves that sprawl all the way to the beach. The stone walls remain relatively unadorned, with bullhorns (a gift from Nancy and Ronald Reagan’s ranch next door) mounted in the living room and a treasured photograph by Guatemalan artist Luis Gonzales Palma hanging above the kitchen fireplace. In a yurt, Twilley suspended sailcloth curtains from the ceiling to act as walls, hung a tribal shield from the Democratic Republic of Congo above the bed, and fashioned a washstand from reclaimed wood. “Everyone wants to stay in the yurts!” Twilley says. Though the pair of yurts was initially envisioned for guests, their daughters often bring friends and “camp out” while adults stay up at the house. Back in the city, at the family’s Hancock Park residence, it’s down to business with Kong investing in and developing digital media products, including a safe Internet browsing solution for parents with young children, which will be released in 2015. Twilley recently launched her first couture dress collection, Twilley Atelier. “I’m new at this, but I’m approaching it in the same way as our last company,” she says. “It’s very bootstrappy and hands-on. I do everything.” So it should come as no surprise that Twilley also decorated this home without the help of a designer. The seven-bedroom 1925 Mediterranean, which houses both Kong’s private office and Twilley’s atelier, provides an elegant and muted backdrop for their art collection. “I love texture, not color,” says Twilley, who furnished the home in neutrals using warm hits of color with pillows and artwork. In the living room, a large-scale work by Brazilian visual artist Vik Muniz is fashioned from hole punches from pages of glossy magazines. “It felt very meaningful given our background,” Twilley says. On a side table, a Moroccan marriage belt they found at a bazaar on their honeymoon sits beside an amber necklace given to them by a Maasai chief on a family trip to Kenya. “I like to decorate with memories and let a room evolve over time.”
Twilley opened up the kitchen and created a functional, if unorthodox, layout. A custom stone fireplace with a Moroccan-tile backsplash surrounds the Viking range, and a large island provides room to prep as well as a seating area. In addition to casual family meals, the family frequently uses the space for entertaining. “Everyone loves to cook here,” she says. “It’s like cooking on a stage!” In a butler’s pantry behind the range, two farmhouse sinks are tucked away with ample counter space and open cabinetry for food storage. The pantry is also where Twilley likes to assemble floral arrangements for parties. “I love the behind-the-scenes details,” she says. “Michael does the cooking. I love doing the flowers.” Whether in town or at the ranch, both residences represent Kong and Twilley’s distinct aesthetics coming together to tell a shared story, whether it’s with treasures collected from family travels or the art on the walls. “We go to a lot of galleries together,” Twilley says. “He’s more methodical and researched. The art I like he thinks is too wild! But we’ve started to trust each other and appreciate each other’s aesthetic.” And clearly it’s paid off, as Kong and Twilley continue to elevate the art of living well. By Heather John Fogarty. Photographed by Coral von Zumwalt.