- Written byDiane E.
A neglected 1960s hillside, Mediterranean-style home nestled on a quiet Palos Verdes Estates street became a restorative labor of love for designer and contractor Kelly Miller and her ophthalmologist husband, Dr. Ken Miller.
When the Millers found the house in 1999, Kelly had creative inspiration that stemmed from her recent work alongside her talented interior designer mother, Anita Keyes, restoring a small hotel that was built in 1703 in Ireland. The hotel is a Keyes family investment that included 13 rooms and three restaurants on 25 acres of sprawling lawns and gardens.
“Our house easily could have been a teardown. But after the hotel renovation in the snowiest and rainiest winter on record in Ireland, this project seemed like it would be a piece of cake,” says Kelly. Following their wedding and nine months of extensive remodeling with Kelly at the helm, overseeing every detail, the Millers moved into their newly-designed, romantic, four-bedroom home in 2000. The home includes a storytelling kaleidoscope of art, relics and history from their world travels.
“Six months after we were married, we realized how incredibly blessed we are and that it was time to give back. With a shared passion for exotic travel, we started traveling for an organization called Surgical Eye Expeditions,” says Kelly. They both volunteer with teams of foreign doctors to restore sight for people in countries such as Russia, India, Peru, China and Mexico.
What began with buying 1950s post-war Russian paintings and icons during a philanthropic trip to the Republic of Georgia has become regular post-surgery art discovery outings before the journey home from another surgical expedition. At home, the Millers’ treasured art and collectibles complement a mixture of new and old furnishings.
A chandelier from the Irish hotel renovation welcomes visitors in the limestone-floored foyer. Among the antiques are a 125-year-old, wood-carved, Filipino horseback riding saddle, an Iranian wedding chest and a Bible from Bangkok. Most of the new furniture was custom-made, including a bench in the grand room that is a reproduction of an Italian-inspired piece; a sofa that was made to fit a 1780 antique Italian table behind it; and a dining table base that was hand-carved in Minnesota from a single block of wood.
The fabrics are primarily French and Italian mixed with some random old pieces found during travels abroad. Handmade silk antique rugs are juxtaposed with contemporary, leather-edged sisal rugs, as rich, muted colors of Ralph Lauren Suede paint and exquisite wall coverings envelope the rooms with warmth and additional interest.
The master suite’s inviting, cream-colored bathroom includes a combination of polished and unpolished Crema Marfil marble, a mirrored wall, silk window shades and cascading silk draperies over French doors, and a late 1800s painting of a nude that Ken found in London. “The absence of color lets your eyes rest,” says Kelly. “A bathroom should look clean and fresh.”
In contrast to the master suite’s relaxing, minimal color, the kitchen boasts strong colors that started with a vibrant green, black and white European fabric. Faux horsehair wallpaper finishes the walls and ceiling above a black-stained ebony floor, which repeats the dark black ceiling color that adds intimacy to the 20-foot vaulted height. The master craftsmanship of South Bay-based His Life Woodworks anchors the space with classic furniture-style custom cabinetry.
In keeping with the Millers’ adventurous passion for life, upon finishing the remodeling project, Kelly unveiled a wine cellar to her wine collector husband as a birthday surprise—a special room that Kelly and the workers kept secret from Ken for six months during construction.
With a glass of wine in hand and their Havanese dog, Tucker, by their sides, Kelly and Ken can usually be found ending their days outside by the pool amid several landscaped terraces that are rich with fruit trees, herbs and vegetable gardens. Shares Kelly, “Everything at our home has heart and soul, and everything we did was with love.”