The Portuguese Bend home of Palos Verdes Art Center’s Joe Baker
“The eclectic interior design is my own. It reflects my love of eccentric things.”
Portuguese Bend neighborhood in Rancho Palos Verdes.
How long at this current home?
Who else lives here?
How would you describe the style of your home?
The Spanish Colonial Revival style Harden Gatehouse was designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann and built in 1929 by Frank Vanderlip’s sister, Ruth, and her husband, Eddie Harden. It was to be the entrance to a grand estate to be built on Portuguese Point. The original landscape design was by Frederick Law Olmsted. Errol Flynn was a frequent guest of the Hardens along with other lm stars of the era.
Did you employ any help with its interior design?
The eclectic interior design is my own. It reflects my love of eccentric things.
A favorite room in the home?
The living room with replace and high vaulted ceiling that easily transforms into a dining room accommodating 15 guests. So you like to entertain? I moved to California from New Orleans. I had a magnificent 1850s pied-à-terre in the Black Pearl neighborhood in Uptown New Orleans. My neighbor, artist and bon vivant Tim Trapolin, entertained nightly with dinner parties—often with live music.
It was a wonderful reminder of the parties given by my mentor Sylvia Gallagher in Shreveport, Louisiana. She was an artist who played an important role in the studio pottery movement of the 1960s. I enjoyed many dinners around her immense, round, black lacquered dining table with some of the well-known figures of the movement including Karen Karnes, Paulus Berensohn and M.C. Richards.
My collection of china (necessities for a dinner party) began in New Orleans with an estate purchase of a service for 12 of Spode India Tree. This has expand- ed to include other services from Royal Crown Derby. These contrast nicely with a collection of dinnerware from Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Founded in 1928 by Peter Anderson through the present-day Shearwater Pottery has produced art pottery of exceptional quality.
But nothing tops an expanding collection of Sascha Brastoff Surf Ballet dinnerware. This multi-talented dancer, performer, cos- tume designer and artist became a leading ceramics designer in the 1950s from his West Los Angeles studio.
Minimalism or the more the merrier?
The more the merrier, please!
Any special attachments to a piece of art in the home?
My favorite work of art is a painting by Aaron Sheppard featuring a neon element.
How about the furniture?
I adore my midcentury German glass tiled mosaic coffee table with hairpin legs. It’s resting on an outstanding vintage angora mohair Tulu rug from Turkey, a gift from the owners of Amadi Carpets in Beverly Hills. The Tulu rug is visually luxurious and active. I also love my vintage Paul Frankl rattan bamboo furniture that creates expanded seating in the living room. One other favorite is a 1960s bronze lamp by James Mont, an East Coast design- er whose work is characterized by a “mind-boggling admixture of the louche and luxurious.”
If you could change one thing at your home, what would it be?
While I love the vintage tile bathroom, I would love a modern shower.
Neutrals or color for your preferred palette?
I’m not a neutral kind of guy. Color, pattern, texture is reflected in my collection of textiles. Fortuny pillows and vintage Kantha quilts adorn a daybed designed by Flemming Busk that functions as a sofa. An antique Scottish paisley shawl contrasts sharply with vintage Hawaiian barkcloth draperies. A striking pre-1920s Navajo rug from the Ganado region is found in the kitchen, and vibrant midcentury rugs from Morocco are found in the bedrooms. A traditional beaded Delaware bandolier bag of my own making hangs in the living room. Two 1920s British Colonial pull-up chairs covered in 1960s silk chinoiserie add additional color and interest.
What will NEVER make it’s way into your home?
La-Z-Boy recliners and big, puffy furniture!
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where?
Havana, Cuba. The creative energy of this city is palatable. I love the tropical climate and lush gardens. Havana, “the Paris of the Caribbean,” shimmers with unparalleled beauty.
What keeps you living here?
Situated on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with an unobstructed view of spectacular sunrises and sunsets, this property and its ever-changing panorama keeps me spellbound.