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Exclusive Film | Inside Interior Designer Vanessa Alexander’s Malibu Home

Interior designer 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 just minutes from the beach. In this exclusive film, Vanessa takes us on a guided tour through her home, revealing how she transformed it into a light-filled, European-inspired haven for her family.

Rick Owens Brazier Cast Bronze Low Side Table

The living room features a pair of 1960s Marco Zanuso Regent armchairs, the Jean Royere Polar Bear sofa, a Charlotte Perriand-designed bench used as a coffee table, the Bas Van Pelt Netherlands armchair, Brazier side table by Rick Owens, custom-designed brass sconces by Alexander Design, and a vintage Radial chandelier. Artwork by Callum Innes.

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 lived in Los Angeles for years. She says she settled on the Bonsall Canyon neighbourhood to design her family home because it is close to the water and 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 the door openings to establish a tangible connection to the outdoors and added skylights to maximise light flow. “We were quite intentional about how the home was designed and how it activates this indoor-outdoor lifestyle,” Vanessa says.

The other side of the living room features a Morentz mid-century credenza and a Paris Opera photograph by Bill Henson. “This photograph is one of my most prized pieces and was given to us by our very close departed friend Heath Ledger,” Vanessa explains.

Vintage bar stools by Alexandra Kohl and J.M. Szymanski are at home with a brass rod chandelier custom-designed by Vanessa in the large kitchen.

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. “What I love about European design is that it doesn’t feel like it can’t be used; it doesn’t feel like it can’t be lived in,” Vanessa says.

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 Jeanneret Chandigarh chairs and a statement pendant lamp by French designer Pierre Yovanovitch. “We have a handful of collectible pieces that really add to the overall patina and timelessness of the home by mixing old and new,” Vanessa says.

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 home is clearly a reflection of my personal aesthetic. It’s a place where I can recharge, find beauty, find peace, clear my head, be inspired, and I hope it will be a constant source of these things moving forward.”

Vanessa says the 20th-century farm table is one of her most treasured objects in her home. Other esteemed pieces in this space include a cantilevered pendant by Pierre Yovanovitch and a restored set of original Chandigarh chairs by Pierre Jeanneret.

The formal lounge backs out onto the outdoor dining setting and features a pair of vintage Axel Einar Hjorth woven-back armchairs.

The Antony daybed designed by Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouve next to the Oluce Agnoli floor lamp in the pool room.

The entrance features a sculptural bench seat made from a log salvaged from a Belgian forest, tapping into Vanessa’s affinity for Belgian design and history.

"My home is clearly a reflection of my personal aesthetic. It's a place where I can recharge, find beauty, find peace, clear my head, be inspired, and I hope it will be a constant source of these things moving forward.”

- INTERIOR DESIGNER VANESSA ALEXANDER

Vanessa designed the bed, floating bedside table and hanging lamp in the master bedroom and paired them with a nude painting by Alison Van Pelt that hangs over the bedhead.

The master ensuite is a tonal feast of deep-veined marble and brass accents, with a unique pod encasing the shower.

Vanessa worked with Terremoto Landscape to create a lush garden filled with olive trees and white sage. Vanessa also designed the outdoor furniture, except the pool umbrellas by Santa Barbara Designs.

In addition to the alfresco dining and living areas, the outdoor space also features a vegetable garden, outdoor kitchen and skate ramp.

Swisspearl Willy Guhl Loop Chair

The L-shaped floorplan hugs the stretch of lawn, where two Swisspearl Willy Guhl Loop chairs sit overlooking the pool.

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