Sweet Harmony

Written by Linda Grasso | Photographed by Shane O’Donnell

When Amy and Bob Mair moved from the central to the west Valley 14 years ago, it was primarily to be near Amy’s horse, which was boarded in Hidden Hills. The couple, who work together in their music publishing business, purchased in Amy’s words, “a 1970’s turquoise stucco, split-level concrete box.” The structure was typical of the era, with scraggly-edged, dark-hued stone walls, puzzling elements like varying split levels (indoors and out) and a narrow staircase with a 90º turn that dumped out right in front of the fireplace. “Weird, right?” laughs Amy. “Why would anyone put that there? You literally couldn’t sit in front of the fireplace!”

Cut to 14 years later, and the handsome Spanish-style home and artfully-designed gardens are hardly recognizable. The dramatic transition was gradual with improvements made project by project up until four years ago. That is when the Mairs took on a major renovation—gutting all of the first floor and adding a great room with high, vaulted ceilings and wood beams, a dramatic, sweeping staircase and a new kitchen.

“It was time. Our daughter still was in high school—she always had a lot of friends over—and we work from our home. Plus, we just really love it out here, kind of away from it all. And then there’s the art,” chuckles Amy.

The Mairs, particularly Bob, have a passion for fine art. Before the remodel, the couple owned smaller pieces like photography, engravings and oil paintings. Once the renovation was complete, seeing the space they had to work with, the couple had the freedom to acquire more art—the “right pieces that spoke to us” according to Amy. Their tastes reflect the art movement that emanated from New York’s East Village in the ‘50s and ‘60s. While artists like Jackson Pollack and Willem de Kooning are the most celebrated from that era, Bob says he much prefers lesser known but equally
as talented ones. “For example, I’m a fan of George Spaventa. He created alongside all those abstract expressionists but never achieved the
name recognition.”

Bob points to a large bronze sculpture by Spaventa in the family room. “I’m a huge fan of Giacometti, for example, but he is out of my price range. Spaventa reminds me of his work. Spaventa may not have gotten the accolades, but among his peers there was deep appreciation for his work. I like to find hidden gems like that,” he says. Bob shares another place he discovers such gems: “I look to the wives of famous artists, women like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner (Jackson Pollock’s wife), for example. They got very little recognition and they were tremendously talented.”

Décor is purposefully casual and accessible. “I wanted the house to be a place that you could relax and sit anywhere. We have two dogs going in and out all the time and our daughter comes home from college and everyone is welcome here. That is how it has always been and how we wanted to keep it,” shares Amy.

Hues of warm gold on the walls allow for strong accent colors. In the great room, the orange and eggplant tones in a dramatic painting by Walter Plate is echoed by a striking rug purchased at NW Rugs. Rusty coral and turquoise hues on pillows complement the palette.

The couple hired electrician Rick Jackson (out of Glendale) to properly light their art; they also used an art installer to hang the paintings. Landscape design is by No-Ho-based Zabra Yee, known for her drought-tolerant mindset and ability to masterfully mix tones and textures.

Visitors are greeted by Acacia Puplera trees, which come December, are covered with yellow blossoms. “I chose that variety because it does not lose its leaves. I wanted to see those silvery leaves there all year long,” says Amy. Various water-wise shrubs and non-fruiting olive trees are dotted along an oval-shaped, decomposed granite path.

“It is kind of funny because we moved out here for my horse and now we don’t keep my horse out here anymore. But it’s OK. We’ve created the perfect place for us and I think we’re here to stay,” Amy says.