Channeling Travel

A Tarzana couple combines a reverence for exploration and a love of art to stunning effect at their hilltop home.

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  • Written by
    Linda Grasso

HOME SWEET HOME | Michal Alpert at her front door. A painting by Israeli artist Sigal Tsabari is on the wall behind her.


For most of us, designing our dream home is a challenge. We know what we like, but how to achieve it—the transformation from vision to reality—can be trying. That is why so many of us hire interior designers.

Not so for Michal Alpert, who has left her own personal sense of style on virtually every inch of her 7,000-square-foot Tarzana home. “Look at this place,” she says with a sweeping gesture in the light-filled foyer. “Sometimes I can’t believe I was only 26 years old when we built it!”

I’ve always loved design and just the hunt. I buy when we travel—everywhere we go. I’ll find things at local markets from Paris to Prague to London. Sometimes I even go to the Rose Bowl!

Michal and her husband, Danny, who own a fine jewelry manufacturing business, built the hilltop contemporary Mediterranean home and happily raised their three sons there. In 2002, with just one child still at home, they took on a complete renovation. Michal then went about the process of decorating the house with things bought from the couple’s travels around the world.

“I’ve always loved design and just the hunt. I buy when we travel—everywhere we go. I’ll find things at local markets from Paris to Prague to London. Sometimes I even go to the Rose Bowl!” the petite brunette laughs.

With sky-high ceilings, generously proportioned windows and limestone floors, interiors are sophisticated and dramatic. In each space there is a focal point: art, most of which has a tie to Israel.

“There are just so many artists there I love,” Michal quips. One of them is Sigal Tsabari. A trio of paintings by Tsabari, including one of a scene from a Tel Aviv rooftop, appears to float in a single frame on the entry wall.

Michal has a story to tell with nearly every painting. Some of the artists are under-the-radar; others, like Nir Hod, are prominent.  

“See that butterfly?” she says, pointing to a diptych on a hallway wall. “It is by Nir Hod. My kids met him in New York, where he had moved from Israel. They told me I just had to see his work. When I was in Manhattan the next time, I went to his studio in the Meatpacking District and bought this.”

A handsome set of Biedermeier chairs is proudly on display in the living room, but Michal’s eye goes straight to the accessories that dot the various tables. “This is a 400-year-old vase I got in Vietnam, and these brushes are from China. They are for writing,” she explains, noting that she feels no pressure to stick to one particular style. “My taste is eclectic—I buy what grabs me.”

ROOM WITH A VIEW | In the sunroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, two Eames chairs flank a stunning tortoiseshell-hued Karl Springer table.



SMALL SURPRISES | Top: The “spa” room includes a striking bureau with inlaid mother-of-pearl from Damascus. Above left: A Godiva chocolate box was Michal’s inspiration for a powder room with covered walls and  gilt molding. Above right: A collection of  miniatures.


A den in ivory, brown and taupe tones is where the couple likes to relax. Vintage, fabric-covered pillows bought in India rest on chairs. The room doubles as a theatre, with a drop-down screen hiding in the ceiling. Floors are walnut parquet. A vintage Goyard trunk from Paris rests against the back of one sofa.

A sunny, white kitchen with Calcutta marble is elegant and airy. Glass-paneled cabinetry shows off Michal’s glass and serving-ware collections—from milk glass cake stands to gold-rimmed barware from Prague. Michal, a frequent hostess, insists, “I use all this stuff! When I entertain I do a sweets table, and I bring out my milk glass.”

An Indonesian day bed is the centerpiece for a spa room that opens onto a covered lanai/seating area in the backyard. “We actually have friends who like to sleep here instead of a bedroom,” Michal quips.

A stunning, handcrafted bureau with inlaid white shells from Damascus rests against a wall; a mirror over the sink echoes the intricate design. Two rattan chairs from Ikea provide extra seating.

VISION IN WHITE | The Calcutta marble kitchen center island is fronted by a wooden cutting board table made in Provence. “I bought the table up in Sonoma. Then I designed my kitchen around it. I just loved thinking about all those delicious French meals that had been prepared on it,” says Michal.



Photographed by Jeff Elson

FRESH AIR | The house has 180º views and a deck that reaches out over the hills facing south, offering spectacular sunlight.


A series of eight oil paintings of nudes by Victor Man adorns the wall of the couple’s ivory and light blue-hued bedroom. Michal created the bed, after purchasing a 5-foot piece of molding at Villa Melrose on the Westside.

“So the molding became the inspiration for my bed story,” she says. “With the help of a fabricator, I basically created my bed around that one piece of molding.”  
Double French doors, paned in mirrored beveled glass, flank the bathroom entry—hinting at a space that is any-thing but ordinary. The floor in Calcutta marble boasts an Italian-tiled mosaic that Michal helped design.

Instead of lining the wall, the tub sits perpendicular, designed so Michal could sit in the tub at night and “see all the twinkling lights up in the hills.” Walls on both side of the bathtub are lined with a collection of antique miniature portraits.

The sink, faced with antique mirrors, is a reprduction that was inspired by an 18th-century bureau Michal saw at Jean De Merry in West Hollywood. “It was very expensive—too expensive to put in a master bathroom—so with the help of the store owner, we had it replicated.”

While Danny gives Michal “free reign” to do what she wants with decor, when it comes to art, purchasing decisions are made jointly. “Art is different. And I have found that Danny has definite opinions about art—what he likes, what he doesn’t. And I like including him on that,” she says with a smile.

ARTISTIC VISIONS | Clockwise from above right: A nude by Michael Rapoport; a set of nudes by Victor Man in the master bedroom; a colorful diptych of a butterfly by Israeli artist Nir Hod.