Glenn Lawson and Nima Dabestani value compatibility in all aspects of their lives. The couple met in Los Angeles the day after Thanksgiving 11 years ago. “We both watched the Muppets movie that day, which was weird—but that’s how we both knew each other wasn’t psycho,” recalls Lawson, 50, a furniture designer and co-founder with business partner Grant Fenning. Los Angeles homeware company Lawson-Fenning is known for its vintage-inspired handmade pieces and collaborations with a staff of other California-based designers. Dabestani, 40, actor and producer, explains that eight years later, the couple escaped with “the very smart decision to do it on Thanksgiving weekend to have a nice, clean anniversary.” “This gives you some insight into our relationship,” Lawson says.
And design philosophies. Lawson describes himself as a purist whose aesthetic is “based on Southern California history of architecture and design.” That’s why when Dabestani and Dabestani bought a second home in the hills of Santa Barbara in 2020 – a 90-minute drive from their Spanish-style main residence in Los Feliz – they wanted the property’s interiors to reflect what it used to be. “If I have this 1975 home, I want it to feel like 1975,” says Lawson, of a three-story, 2,200-square-foot redwood post and beam that overlooks the Santa Ynez mountains.
The previous owners of the house had kept the house in excellent condition, so Lawson and Dabestani initially planned not only to update the windows and doors, but also to remodel the kitchen. “But as we spent more time here, we kept getting ideas for what we wanted to do, so we decided to go and do a complete overhaul,” Lawson explains.
The couple chose longtime friends Christos Prevezanos of Studio Preveza for the project – not only because he was already familiar with their style, but also because they knew he would eventually spend time at home as a visitor. “He is designing it for us knowingly that we will keep him here,” Dabestani says. “What kind of place does he want to be a guest?”
It seems the answer is a broad one, with awe-inspiring landscapes and a little more color than Lawson was used to. “I am very neutral,” he says. “I would be very happy if everything could be brown. But Christos pushed me and brought blues and oranges and mustards.”
The home’s main living area is on the second floor, where the trio chose to remove a bedroom to create a 1,100-square-foot open-plan lounge, dining area, and kitchen. “The ’70s was the first time people said, ‘We don’t need a formal living room,'” Lawson says. “It’s really about living, and not that aspect of life—especially in California, where people are a little more open-minded about what’s possible.” Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views, animated by paragliders, falcons or rolling clouds, depending on the day. “It’s almost like a painting or a giant television,” Prevezanos says.
“Having this palette to clear my head and focus is a dream,” says Lawson, who designed the room’s cozy L-shaped white wool boucle section that Dabestani likened to a teddy bear. Arranged in front of it is an old ’70s Dutch tile-top coffee table, and to its left is a cubic lava stone side table from contemporary Mexican brand Ayres. “We’re big fans of non-precious surfaces, so you can put a drink anywhere you want,” Lawson says.
The idea extends to the kitchen area, where Prevezanos proposes a thin Caesarstone countertop that’s durable enough to withstand hot pans and sharp knives. The walk-in closets and panels in the adjacent dining area are oak, the latter illuminated by Sante Fe, NM-based artist David Benjamin Sherry with a chromogenic photograph of the desert dunes in Death Valley and a figurative painting by Southern California. artist J. Carino. The oak was sourced from Lawson’s hometown of Wisconsin, and the wooden dining table, a 1970s Danish piece, was purchased at auction in Copenhagen. Dabestani especially loves the upholstered window seat behind the head of the desk, which is covered in speckled taupe fabric from American design company BBDW and is the perfect place for an after-dinner lounging. “It’s nice to have our families here,” she says. “You don’t have to finish your dinner, but you can still be more comfortable.”
Upstairs, the couple transformed what was once the living room into the master bedroom, which opens from a wall of hunter green walk-in closets to a private patio with an outdoor shower. Beneath the room’s oversized globe-shaped Isamu Noguchi Akari pendant lamp is a wooden Lawson-Fenning Chilsehurst bed with an upholstered headboard in soft gray Rosemary Hallgarten fabric and a pair of Ceramicah lamps. The couple pushed out an exterior wall that forms part of an adjacent foyer to create a 72-square-foot light-filled bathroom lined with unglazed, sand-colored Clé tiles and illuminated by an Allied Maker wall fixture. On the landing just outside their room is a BBDW desk that Dabestani likes to work with and a hand-shaped Mexican wooden chair from the 1970s. Lawson prefers to spread out over the dinner table and draw.
The lowest floor of the house is reserved for nighttime visitors, where the couple has had a steady flow since they renovated the house. “We like the separation of spaces so guests can have their own floors,” Lawson says. Provenzano explains that the two bright bedrooms are inspired by the 1970s and 80s New Jersey homes he spent time in as a child. “I wanted it to feel like a kid watching ‘ET,'” she says of her decision to install a cobalt blue wool rug, stained oak paneling, and retro plaid curtains in both rooms. His visual references were in the films “Poltergeist” (1982) and “Big” (1988) and the children’s series “The Smurfs”, which first aired in 1981. In one of the rooms, a cork board hangs on a closet door. “When people come to stay, they can make things up,” Lawson says. “So we invite all our fellow painters and then we sell it to MoMA,” adds Dabestani with a laugh.
The wall-to-wall carpet is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the couple’s commitment to ’70s style. “It was very foreign to us; “We’ve never carpeted anything before,” Lawson says. Happily, they love the added depth and comfort it provides, as well as the feeling that they’ve brought the home back to its roots. Dabestani says: “I felt like we were next to home.”