When Peter and Susan Tortorici’s third child prepared to depart for college, they decided to move from Los Angeles and make a new life—and new home—in Montecito, a tucked-away, seaside haven just east of the city of Santa Barbara. They purchased a plot of land comprised of a little more than an acre, and, during the conceptual phase of design, Susan Tortorici, an accomplished painter and sculptor, came across Leonard Cohen’s book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi reflects an embrace of imperfection and transience. It’s a design philosophy that stresses asymmetry, simplicity, and an appreciation of rough, natural materials as a means to create a feeling of comfort and warmth. “That book,” says Tortorici, “supplied my mission statement for building the house.”
The couple engaged interior designer Catherine Dunne and architect William Hefner to help develop ideas for a home to serve them for the next phase of their lives. Hefner and Dunne had worked together on a previous project, and Dunne and Tortorici had met twenty years earlier as young mothers in a baby group. Early and ongoing conversations among client, architect, and designer drove the project forward, binding the elements of space, function, and palette into a meaningful whole reflecting the wabi-sabi aesthetic.
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INTERIOR DESIGN BY CATHERINE DUNNE
ARCHITECTURE BY WILLIAM HEFNER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAREN MILLET
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL DAMBROSIA
WRITTEN BY EDWARD MCCANN
This story appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of MILIEU.