Inside Out: Residential Design by Studio William Hefner

Chateau des Fleurs, L.A.’s largest home when built in 2013.

By Roger Grody.

Incorporating architecture, landscape architecture and interior design services under a single roof is Studio William Hefner, a one-stop shop for high-end residential design. From his Wilshire Boulevard offices, William Hefner oversees a multidisciplinary staff of 35 that includes his wife, principal interior designer Kazuko Hoshino.

Hefner arrived in Los Angeles from Northern California to study at UCLA and founded his current practice in 1989. Earlier in his career, he worked for mega-firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill, contributing to its portfolio of highrise commercial buildings. “I was creating spaces for attorneys and accountants, but it was difficult to establish any personal connection with the ultimate users of those spaces,” Hefner recalls. He was drawn to the more intimate and accountable specialty of residential architecture, eventually earning commissions for ultra-luxury properties.

Hefner is best known for the 60,000-square-foot Chateau des Fleurs, occupying 10 precious acres in Bel-Air. The original design concept was inspired by his client’s visit to the Hotel du Cap on France’s Côte d’Azur; one of Hefner’s challenges was to create grand rooms for entertainment while ensuring more intimate, family-friendly spaces throughout the home. “We wanted to make sure each room was special and unique,” Hefner says of the house; its 31 bathrooms provide a sense of its massive scale. When Chateau des Fleurs was completed in 2013, it was the largest home in the city, and the project is lavishly memorialized in Hefner’s book Chateau des Fleurs (Pointed Leaf Press, 2016).

Like all of Hefner’s traditionally themed residences, the home possesses historically accurate detailing but is technologically and spatially suited to the lifestyles of 21st-century families. “One of my goals was to not let the technology of the house intrude with the purely classical experience,” the architect says.

Despite the legacy of Chateau des Fleurs, Hefner appreciates a diversity of design, drawing inspiration from L.A. traditionalists such as Wallace Neff and Paul Williams as well as midcentury modernists Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra. In the last decade, his modern commissions have doubled, to around 60 percent.

“In my practice, I try not to have a ‘signature’ style but strive toward quality design and execution in different genres,” he says. Like many of his peers in L.A., Hefner recognizes that modern design maximizes coastal or hillside views and suits the region’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle. “I personally prefer a look that is more tailored and simplified than baroque designs, so I’m pleased trends have moved in that direction,” he states.

“My philosophy, in both traditional and modern homes, is to introduce spaces for indoor-outdoor living, which is a reason we offer landscape architecture among our services. In Southern California, the entire site becomes a living space, with large patios, covered outdoor living areas and landscaped courtyards that people can use throughout the year.”

A home of about 7,000 square feet in Beverly Hills’ coveted Trousdale Estates demonstrates Hefner’s comfort level with modern expressions. Reminiscent of L.A.’s influential Case Study Houses from the midcentury era, it was commissioned for a client with an extraordinary modern-art
collection. “Accommodating art is always a challenge in a view house,” Hefner says: The requisite expanses of glass naturally limit available wall space.

An 8,000-square-foot Pacific Palisades residence—a study in concrete, metal and glass—features expansive windows and a constant blurring between
indoors and out.

Hefner reports that the HOA imposes a requirement for pitched roofs to discourage modern architecture, leading to a distinctive roofline that floods the home with even more light. “There were days when I cursed that requirement, but the soaring volumes resulting from it made the house more interesting,” he concedes.

Studio Hefner’s landscape architecture practice reflects his perspectives on modern design and indoor-outdoor lifestyles.

Infinity pools, a de rigueur amenity for modern homes in Los Angeles, double as reflecting ponds; the aforementioned Palisades home includes a fountain-laden stone courtyard that assumes the serenity of a Zen garden.

Hefner characterizes traditional and modern styles as reflecting two different languages; he is clearly fluent in both.

Studio William Hefner, 5820 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323.931.1365. williamhefner.com

Chateau des Fleurs photo by Laura Hull.

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