Glenn Lawson and Nima Dabestani value alignment in all areas of their life. The couple met in Los Angeles 11 years ago on the day after Thanksgiving. “We had both seen the Muppets movie that day, which was odd — but it’s how we each knew the other wasn’t a psychopath,” recalls Lawson, 50, a furniture designer and co-founder, with his business partner Grant Fenning, of the Los Angeles home goods company Lawson-Fenning, which is known for its own line of vintage-inspired handmade pieces and for its collaborations with a roster of other California-based designers. Eight years later, the couple eloped, making “the very wise decision of doing it over Thanksgiving weekend so it’s a nice, clean, anniversary,” explains Dabestani, 40, an actor and producer. “That gives you some insight into our relationship,” Lawson notes.
And into their design philosophy. Lawson describes himself as a purist whose aesthetic “is rooted in the history of Southern California architecture and design.” So in 2020, when he and Dabestani purchased a second home in the hills of Santa Barbara — a 90-minute drive from their Spanish-style main residence in Los Feliz — they wanted the interiors of the property to reflect its vintage. “If I’ve got this 1975 house, I want it to feel like 1975,” says Lawson of the three-floor, 2,200-square-foot, redwood post-and-beam, which looks out toward the Santa Ynez mountains.
The house’s previous owners had kept it in excellent condition, so Lawson and Dabestani initially planned to update only the windows and doors, as well as to reface the kitchen. “But as we spent more time in the place, we kept getting ideas for things we wanted to do, so we decided to just go for it and do a full renovation,” Lawson explains.
The couple chose their longtime friend Christos Prevezanos of Studio Preveza for the project — not only because he was already so familiar with their style, but also because they knew he would eventually spend time in the home as a visitor. “He’s designing it for us knowing we’re going to have him up here,” says Dabestani. “What’s the kind of space he wants to be a guest in?”
The answer, apparently, is an expansive one with awe-inspiring views and slightly more color than Lawson is used to. “I’m very neutral,” he says. “If everything could be brown, I’d be so happy. But Christos pushed me and brought in blues, oranges and ochers.”
The main living area of the home is on the second floor, where the trio chose to do away with a bedroom in order to create a 1,100-square-foot open-plan lounge, dining space and kitchen. “The ’70s was the first era in which people were like, ‘We don’t need a formal living room,’” says Lawson. “It’s really about living, and not this facade of living — especially in California, where people were a little more open-minded about what was possible.” Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic vistas animated by paragliders, hawks or rolling clouds, depending on the day. “It’s almost like a painting, or a giant TV,” says Prevezanos.
“Being able to clear my head and have this palette to focus on is the dream,” says Lawson, who designed the room’s cozy L-shaped white wool bouclé sectional, which Dabestani compares to a teddy bear. Arranged in front of it is a vintage ’70s Dutch tile-top coffee table, and to its left is a cubic lava rock side table from the contemporary Mexican brand Ayres. “We’re big fans of surfaces that aren’t precious, so you can just put a drink anywhere,” says Lawson.
That idea extends to the kitchen area, where Prevezanos suggested a thin Caesarstone countertop that would be durable enough to withstand hot pans and sharp knives. The push cabinets as well as the paneling in the adjoining dining space are oak, the latter brightened up with a chromogenic photograph of desert hills in Death Valley by the Sante Fe, N.M.-based artist David Benjamin Sherry and a figurative painting by the Southern California artist J. Carino. The oak was sourced from Lawson’s native Wisconsin, and the wood dining table — a Danish piece from the 1970s — was purchased at auction in Copenhagen. Dabestani is especially fond of the upholstered window seat behind the head of the table, which is covered with speckled taupe fabric from the American design company BBDW and is the perfect spot for postprandial lounging. “It’s nice to have our families here, all sitting around,” he says. “You don’t have to end dinner, but you can still be more comfortable.”
Upstairs, the couple transformed what was once the living room into a primary bedroom that opens — through a wall of built-in, hunter green closets — to a private patio with an outdoor shower. Under the room’s oversize globe-shaped Isamu Noguchi Akari pendant lamp sits a wooden Lawson-Fenning Chilsehurst bed with an upholstered headboard in soft gray Rosemary Hallgarten fabric and a pair of Ceramicah lamps. The couple pushed out an exterior wall, which had formed part of an adjacent foyer, to create a 72-square-foot light-filled bathroom lined with unglazed, sand-hued Clé tiles and lit by an Allied Maker wall fixture. On the landing just outside their room is a BBDW desk — where Dabestani likes to work — and a 1970s wooden Mexican hand-shaped chair. Lawson prefers to spread out and draw at the dining table.
The lowest level of the house is reserved for overnight visitors, of which the pair have had a steady stream since refurbishing the house. “We love the separation of spaces, so that the guests have their own floor,” says Lawson. The two bright bedrooms, explains Provenzano, were inspired by the 1970s and ’80s New Jersey homes in which he spent time during his childhood. “I wanted it to feel almost like a kid watching ‘E.T.,’” he says of the decision to install cobalt blue wool carpet, stained oak paneling and retro plaid curtains in both rooms. The movies “Poltergeist” (1982) and “Big” (1988), and the children’s TV show “The Smurfs,” which first aired in 1981, were also among his visual references. In one of the rooms, a corkboard hangs on a closet door. “When people come up to stay, they can pin something up,” says Lawson. “So we’re inviting all of our painter friends, and then we’ll sell it to MoMA,” Dabestani adds, with a laugh.
The wall-to-wall carpet is, perhaps, the ultimate display of the couple’s commitment to ’70s style. “It was so foreign to us; we’d never done carpeting in anything before,” Lawson says. Happily, they love the added depth and comfort it provides, as well as the sense that they’ve returned the home to its roots. Says Dabestani: “It felt like we were doing right by the house.”