Master Class: Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz

Balancing masculine architecture & feminine decor in Venice Beach

12_EDITBenjamin Noriega-Ortiz


Last week my long time friend Steven Wine, the genius behind the feathered fixtures at ABYU Lighting (who just happens to be Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz’s partner) sent me a message on Facebook about a home Noriega-Ortiz designed and decorated in Venice Beach, California.

The house is a mix of modern minimalist architecture and diaphanous, ethereal decoration.  When it was completed, BNO Design began shopping the story around to the mainstream shelter magazines, but the project was deemed ‘too feminine’ for publication.  I was, of course, intrigued.

I decided to contact Benjamin to chat about the home.  He invited me to coffee at his Soho atelier to talk about it.  During our meeting he generously explained his design process for the home, room by room.  It was a fascinating opportunity to learn about his work, and a great chance to publish the project here on the blog.


The first image is of the house’s exterior, which gives you a clear sense of David Hertz Architects modern sensibility.  Below you’ll find Benjamin’s commentary for each image;

BNO: This view shows the look of the house from the canal in Venice, CA.  From the look of it you can see that it is a minimalist architecture with a lot of glass facing the water.  The details are clean and modern.  Outside we added traditional wicker furniture to warm up the otherwise cool exterior, and we gave it color to offset the grey of the façade.


BNO: The walls of the double height living room were draped in white organza to soften the hard cement walls.  A large oval silk shag was placed on the cement floor to unify the various furniture styles.  To bring the lighting level down to the room we installed a white Venetian Murano glass chandelier which also warms the room at night.

The view of the outside is blurred by using a more transparent fabric only on the glass-covered elevation, therefore diffusing “reality” to help create a dream quality.


BNO: Because there was no available artwork of the scale needed to the room, we designed a large mirror which we placed behind the organza drapery to help reflect the room, and the light from the dining room which is opposite.  A pink Fortuny fabric draped table anchors the room and provides the “hinge” between the antique 18th century sofa from 145 Antiques and the modern clear acrylic based sofa of our own design.  The sofa is illuminated from the bottom at night therefore serving as a base for the curtains.  By doing this, the source of the lighting in the room changes from the south to the east therefore giving the living room a completely new direction at night.

The use of feathers on the dining room chandelier, as well as on the shade of the Korean ceramic table lamp, helps unify the opposing rooms.  The furniture is a collection of the best pieces from several periods – from the Eames rocker to the 18th century sofa to the original William Haines elbow chairs, every piece can stand on its own although they all work together.   The use of white, off white and light blues unifies all the furniture into a simple soft color scheme.  The pink, being the client’s favorite color, is accented in almost every room.


BNO: To give depth to the minimalist architecture we had the walls and ceiling lightly lacquered – which make them look as if they are wet.  To keep the whimsical feeling of the walls and ceiling, we installed a custom feather chandelier from ABYU Lighting over a white lacquer table from Oly.  Because the chairs are not all the same, the dining room becomes more of a conversation room than a formal room.  The pink walls at the end were specified by a Feng-Shui master.


BNO: The stair to the next level allows light and views to go thru the house, and because of that we kept the shiny finish uninterrupted and restored the wood wall giving it a matte finish. Notice that the antique bench wood finish matches the wall which helps keep the two reading as one expression.


BNO: In the guest room you can see the sharp contrast between the decoration and the architecture.  The open bathroom is clearly offset with the bedroom textures and different styles.  A feather lampshade from ABYU Lighting hovers over illuminated white acrylic night tables and a heavily ornate mirror and upholstered headboard.  The brocade bedspread plays well with the clear acrylic wingback chair at the foot of the bed.  You forget how modern the room is because the furniture pieces distract you.  As Diana Vreeland once said, “ the eye has to travel”.


BNO: The main bedroom is a square surrounded by glass, so we decided to create a room within a room by draping the bed with a circle of white fringe.  This created a virtual canopy bed and makes the room cozy and dreamlike.

ts_jgotxp6EmsNi5Z2ywK9SSs6MXSkgb3wAUd_3H3YY,d5DkSheNIjc9J7Hq0-CAT9FPVLIqsn-lXXbWWbu19CI,Uath809G5Xo7tq7PBBa3zw7t3i21u5FCE-cOh9fdd5MBNO: And finally in the master bath, rather that install tiles of marble on the feature wall we purchased the rights to a period painting and had it made into waterproof wallpaper.  This sensual move gives the room a new dimension, and it is actually easier to maintain than marble.


We feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to share this project with you, and are very grateful to Benjamin for talking with us about it.  If you’re interested in learning more about this home you can read the post Benjamin wrote about it on his firm’s blog.    His website has extensive images chronicling his celebrated career if you’d like to learn more about his unique sense of style.

The project was photographed for BNO Design by Antoine Bootz  (You can click on any image in this post to see it full size)


bno75 Spring Street  6th Floor  New York City  10012    212-343-9709

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