Long before Abbot Kinney became a see-and-be-seen landmark in Los Angeles, it was a boulevard bearing the city founder's name. But sleek restaurants and minimalistic shops have come to line its well-trafficked sidewalks in recent years, making it seem as though the only remainders of the past are its palm trees and blue skies. That is, unless you count the property where Habitas currently resides.
Habitas Venice Beach may embody everything covetable about the modern age—it's a members-only clubhouse that features workspaces, a gym, and communal living areas. Yet, it's housed in a piece of the city's history.
"I lived in Venice for 30 years and would pass by it almost daily and wonder who lives there and what the interior looked like," says designer Jessica Sutherland, who was hired by Habitas to renovate the 1940s craftsman before its opening earlier this year.
"I loved the house from the outside and was so intrigued by it," she continues. "Once I got inside, I could feel the warmth of the family that lived there throughout the decades."
The owners of the original home—which was one of the first on Abbot Kinney—were therapists who Sutherland says created the curriculum at the Esalen Institute. The therapists primarily thought of the property as a place for family, but also used it to host lectures and other public gatherings. When Habitas bought it, it still reflected that period.
She wanted to create a design that spoke to the company's global mindset without turning away from the home's local style. It had to be a balance between the past and present; a place where people would feel familiar warmth and coziness, but also recognize current textures and layouts.
"My goal with the clubhouse was to create something unique without destroying the heritage of the original property," she says. "It needed an entrance that I wanted to be casual, yet glamorous. It needed light. I then wanted the back area to be a completely different experience than the rest of the house—more of an escape to relax and have a bite or drink."
Her aim to create an airy entrance begins in the home's living area, where Sutherland kept the original glass paneled windows and vintage aesthetic, but installed built-in daybeds under crystal chandeliers for contrast.
That same give-and-take flows into the dining room's converted space for meetings, which consists of flea-market finds and Article furniture in dark tones that "nod to the old glamour of Los Angeles," she explains.
She split the kitchen into two distinct areas where members can cook on one end and lounge on emerald seats in another. Then, she opted to gut the second story to make room for even more places to sit and unwind.
"Personally, I like to have options in my own spaces," she notes. "I like to feel as though I can go to a lighter area of a house, while also having an area that's cozy and dark, depending on my mood."
In the end, renovations were quickly finished in the two months leading up to the opening. And although Sutherland hopes that members feel at home in this classic craftsman at the heart of Venice's social scene, she's also glad that it's not entirely removed from its roots.
"A gold-cast bust of the first owners sits above the fireplace, the original blueprints are framed and hang in the meeting room, and a Polaroid of the front of the house from the 70s hangs in the entrance by the check in desk," she notes.
To learn more about Habitas Venice Beach, click here.
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