Seemingly dissonant parts unite for a prototypical whole in a design couple’s handsome Manhattan Beach home.
Although postmodernism emerged in the 1950s, it did not become a popular design aesthetic for 30 years. However, by the 1980s it was a cultural movement that enveloped architecture, art, furniture, fashion and music, shattering established ideas and pushing artistic boundaries in the use of colliding styles.
Complexity and contradiction are the hallmarks of postmodernism, where the juxtaposition of materials, forms and styles invoke irony and ambiguity. Vivid colors and traditional elements applied in unexpected ways break further boundaries.
Renowned architects and designers such as Philip Johnson, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, Alessi and Memphis dominated the architectural and home furnishings market. One of the most famous postmodern-designed houses in California is Frank Gehry’s Venice Beach house built in 1986.
MODERN MIX Warm wood tones, sleek glass and plenty of clean lines throughout combine for a minimalist masterpiece with a stylish soul.
When Lisa and Marc Welch decided to build their own home in Manhattan Beach, their respective architectural backgrounds were unified in postmodernism. Marc is a graduate of the Cornell University College of Architecture, one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the country. Lisa attended the University of Michigan Architecture School, and her love of opposing design elements segued with Marc’s architectural philosophies of creating juxtapositions.
The inverted, off-center roof is the first indication of the postmodern style of the house. A scupper drain runs the depth of the house, and rain trickles down heavy chains anchored to the ground. The dark grey stucco of the house lends a further industrial feel.
MUSEUM WORTHY Not unlike a modern art gallery, the home instinctually plays host to a collection of vibrant paintings and engaging sculptures.
Upon entering the front door, one is immediately confronted with various elements of the complex design philosophy. Marc and Lisa’s shared appreciation of feng shui reveals a wood screen wall in front of the stairs to block energy from flowing out of the house.
A bathroom constructed of laminated glass juts out near the front door into the living space, thrusting anyone using it into the possibly awkward feeling of being watched. However, Mark guarantees that the room “is private and soundproof and serves as a bold design move that creates a ‘light beacon’ that speaks to the desire to consciously play with one’s senses.”
If the house aesthetic seems rooted in conflicting ideologies, it’s appropriate for the history of the property. “We closed on the original, dilapidated, 1940s bungalow in September 2001 and proceeded with the design and subsequent building of our home,” says Marc.
In 2006 Lisa launched Welch Design Studio—combining her love of art and design. “I’ve always been inspired by the ‘raw’ nature of industrial-type spaces and being able to see how a building is constructed,” she says.
Blending those more commercial materials with art comes easily for Lisa. Her family owns the Belian Art Center in Troy, Michigan, which represents 20th-century international art of various genres, mediums and periods. Her appreciation of that background is evidenced in the art that populates the house. Pieces range from realism to postmodernism; from European to sub-Saharan. It’s an eclectic range that echoes the house in diversity and contrast.
From the bright pops of color in the furnishings to the Vasarely and Hunt pieces that accent the spaces, Lisa’s love of color and texture fills the house. Warm bamboo floors and off-white walls provide a counterpoint to the exposed steel beams and support angles that evoke a factory feel.
“We brought what people think of as industrial design elements down to a human scale and infused warmth through other materials and art,” says Lisa. Her home office is filled with blueprints, books and objects that inspire design, and light floods into the second floor space where she focuses on creating custom interiors.
A Le Corbusier pony skin chaise floats in front of bookshelves, and the entire vignette is visible through the glass balcony walls overlooking the foyer and living area. Custom built-ins through the hallway create further vignettes for the paintings hanging above each floating console.
The master bathroom provided a place to leave a distinctly personal embellishment. The diamond from Lisa’s engagement ring is echoed in the protruding geometric forms that hang from the bathroom ceiling like large contemporary stalactites.
The main living area of the house is comprised of the kitchen and family room that open up onto the expansive backyard via a wall of glass doors. Casual, comfortable and user-friendly are the key words Lisa employs in her own home with their two daughters. From cooking meals together to watching movies to hanging outside by the fire pit, Lisa and Marc have made their home a place to relax and enjoy their children and friends.
Although Marc practiced for 24 years with the esteemed firm of Landry Design Group in Los Angeles, he joined Lisa’s firm in 2015. Their new venture promises to bridge all aspects of the design process with a diverse portfolio. Like their dining room that features a B&B Italia red dining table surrounded by African fertility deities, Lisa and Marc appreciate a range of styles and genres.
Marc is a licensed architect, and Lisa’s long career in design combines with his skills to create a full-service company in Welch Design Studio. “We are comfortable designing any style of home where we challenge ourselves on a daily basis in developing fresh ideas while looking at problems in new ways,“ says Marc.
Architecture can dominate or recede; design can embellish or envelop. In the home of Lisa and Marc Welch, materials, ideas and art collide to create a distinctly individual home. However, it is both the individual parts and the unification of the whole that make their home a prototypical postmodern house.
More than a pipe dream.