In Point Dume, designer Vanessa Alexander’s streamlined beach house for her active clan required a far-reaching stretch of the imagination.
“This is a place we went out of our way to create,” says designer Vanessa Alexander of the Malibu home she built for her family. A former manager of writers, actors and directors, it was only a few years ago that Alexander, who had long done design projects on the side, truly delved into her passion with the launch of Alexander Design. The family (Alexander is married to ICM partner and talent agent Steve Alexander and they have three boys, Max, 14, Leo, 11, and Jude, 7) previously called nearby Serra Retreat home, but Alexander was craving a new creative project and one home in Point Dume caught her eye, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
“It was sort of Balinese-Tuscan-’90s,” she explains. “We really didn’t think too much of it.” However, not long after they saw it, her thinking changed: “It dawned on me that we could make it cool. It had mountain views and was close to school. It had something. And then I cracked it!” By cracking, Alexander means a complete re-envisioning of the house and turning the property into a beachy-yet-eclectic sanctuary with elements of Tuscany and farmhouse living. “I wanted to create something that felt authentic while honoring the neighborhood and lifestyle,” she adds.
They purchased the home and immediately began a major renovation that took just about a year to complete. “The existing house was gutted and we sort of ‘rebranded it’—which is a strange way to put it, but that’s what we did.”
“The through line,” Alexander says in perfectly appropriate Hollywood lingo, “is that we wanted to embrace our surroundings. “We’re all about indoor-outdoor.” And as she does for her clients, she did for herself: “I try to approach each project with the understanding of the people living in it.” To that end, out went a warren of rooms and in came modern living. The roughly 6,500-square-foot main house now offers breezy, open spaces that are grounded by recycled scaffolding wood floors, hand-plastered walls and tumbled antique French gray limestone. “There’s a clear vernacular here,” she explains, noting that the country feel continues with a Mediterranean-inspired garden designed in collaboration with Scott Shrader. There are espalier figs and century-old olive trees. Even the gravel drive evokes the European countryside.
“We wanted a house that works for us as parents but also for more social occasions,” she continues. The main living areas, which include a comfortable living room with the couple’s prized Marco Zanuso chairs, a casual dining room and a “sunroom/TV room,” shape-shift from expansive to intimate. The light, neutral palette is only occasionally punctuated by deeper colors like an indigo chair in the living room or the cognac-colored leather barstools in the kitchen, which was designed around a rolling island from a 19th-century bakery. Upstairs are the master suite and children’s rooms.
“The kids’ rooms are all simply dressed—platform beds, sports—natural to what they’re doing right now,” Alexander says, quickly adding that each one also has a great vintage find, like a lamp or a chair. “I’m obsessed with really good vintage chairs!”
Furnishings throughout the home, many of which are her own designs (she’s currently developing a line of furniture, lighting and mirrors), are edited. “If it looks good but doesn’t work, it’s a crime,” she says. Melding effortlessly with the furnishings is the couple’s growing art collection, which favors photography and includes works by Bill Henson, Rosemary Laing and Todd Hido.
Outside, the designer created equally inviting “rooms”: a covered patio with comfy seating, a kitchen with a pizza oven, a fire pit, the pool with its broad stone border and loungers, a Jacuzzi, a biodynamic vegetable garden, and a freestanding sauna. “We love saunas but didn’t have a place in the house, so we built it outside,” she says. Nearby is the guesthouse, which currently acts as her office.
With a busy calendar of projects from Malibu to Montauk for a high-profile clientele (she’s also been brought back to create the new Malibu Farm outposts in Miami and Cabo San Lucas), Alexander is happy to combine home and work, which means time with her kids in the afternoon. “This house is great—I’m super proud,” she says. “I love Saturday mornings when we can just open all the doors and turn on the music. It’s our hideaway.”
Photography by TESSA NEUSTADT.
Written by MAILE PINGEL.