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A Home Inscribed With the History of a Beach

By Alice Newell-Hanson

A low L-shaped sofa the couple made from reclaimed planks of pine occupies a corner of the main living area, near a ’50s-era candy machine filled with snacks and teas.
 
Kate Martin
A low L-shaped sofa the couple made from reclaimed planks of pine occupies a corner of the main living area, near a ’50s-era candy machine filled with snacks and teas.

While the British environmentalist David de Rothschild was at sea in the spring of 2010, crossing the Pacific Ocean on the Plastiki — a 60-foot catamaran built primarily from recycled bottles — to raise awareness about the climate crisis, the actress Karina Deyko, his wife, made her own voyage of discovery. She had recently met, through a mutual friend in Los Angeles, the actress Kelly Reilly and the photographer Guy Webster, who helped establish the tenets of rock ’n’ roll portraiture in the 1960s with his images of Jim Morrison and the Rolling Stones. Reilly had been renting a small apartment within Webster’s sprawling studio complex in Venice Beach but would soon be travelling to London to make a film. Webster wondered if Deyko wanted to come see the space and possibly sublet it. At the time, she was living in Echo Park, on the east side of the city, and “I knew that when David was done with the Plastiki he’d want to be by the beach,” Deyko says. So she took Webster up on his offer.

Kate MartinDeyko and de Rothschild sit in a pair of ’60s-era leather and chrome Carlo De Carli chairs in front of a 1930s military map found at a salvage yard in Berkeley, California.
Deyko and de Rothschild sit in a pair of ’60s-era leather and chrome Carlo De Carli chairs in front of a 1930s military map found at a salvage yard in Berkeley, California.

Webster’s building, a 3,000-square-foot compound set within an early-20th-century industrial depot just four blocks from the ocean, and divided into a handful of distinct studio spaces, had served as a shed for storing boats in the 1910s. Although Deyko didn’t learn this history until later, she immediately sensed it would be a good place for the couple, who travel widely and often, to drop anchor for a while. She was drawn, foremost, to the sense of creativity that seemed to emanate from the gently weathered structure itself, with its worn concrete floors and high wood-beam ceilings, and from the intriguing people who drifted in and out of the space. As Venice evolved from a resort town in the 1910s to a short-lived hub for oil production in the 1930s to a waning industrial and entertainment district over the following decades, when its vacant warehouses were repurposed by artists and designers — Ray and Charles Eames established their practice on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in 1943, and the architects Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry lived and made work in the neighbourhood in the ’70s and ’80s — so too did the building transform, from a storehouse to a mechanic’s shop to a crash pad for Webster’s circle of artist and musician friends. And the building’s past lives are still preserved in its architecture: Low-slung and partially wrapped in sheets of faded sky-blue corrugated iron, from the street it could easily be mistaken for a garage (there is even a peeling Texaco logo painted on the facade). “Energetically,” says Deyko, “I felt it. It was just an amazing space.” She sublet the studio, Reilly never returned to live in Los Angeles (she met her future husband during that film shoot in England) and Deyko and de Rothschild have now lived part-time in the building for 10 years.

Kate MartinLeft: Working with one of the builders of the Plastiki, de Rothschild’s catamaran made from recycled materials, Deyko constructed a lofted glass meeting room with a steel staircase in the home’s office area. Right: Propped against a wall in the meeting room is a six-foot-tall neon plastic cutout of a cat that de Rothschild acquired as a gift for Deyko from the fashion brand Stella McCartney, which had used it in a window display.
Left: Working with one of the builders of the Plastiki, de Rothschild’s catamaran made from recycled materials, Deyko constructed a lofted glass meeting room with a steel staircase in the home’s office area. Right: Propped against a wall in the meeting room is a six-foot-tall neon plastic cutout of a cat that de Rothschild acquired as a gift for Deyko from the fashion brand Stella McCartney, which had used it in a window display.
Kate MartinLeft: Deyko built several of the home’s kitchen cabinets from parts of a reclaimed barn door, sourced from E&K Vintage Wood in Los Angeles. Right: Deyko, by the southern entrance to the studio complex. The building’s facade looks much the same as it did when the space was used as a repair shop.
Left: Deyko built several of the home’s kitchen cabinets from parts of a reclaimed barn door, sourced from E&K Vintage Wood in Los Angeles. Right: Deyko, by the southern entrance to the studio complex. The building’s facade looks much the same as it did when the space was used as a repair shop.

During that decade, the couple purchased the studio and also acquired two of the neighbouring units within the complex when friends moved out. Today, they inhabit a warren of interconnected spaces that hug a central paved courtyard and together comprise not only living quarters but also an office for the Lost Explorer, the environmentally conscious clothing and travel company that de Rothschild founded in 2015. When they moved in, it was the first home the pair had shared together and “we’ve made our own history here,” says Deyko. The interiors, which are featured in the designer, store owner and T contributor Alex Eagle’s new book “More Than Just a House” (out in October from Rizzoli), have evolved with the couple, developing not according to any conscious plan but as a scrapbook might, being added to as the pair acquire souvenirs from their travels and source and hand-build furniture to suit their changing needs. They favour objects that, in keeping with their home, bear the marks of unusual histories. On the white wall above the simple poured-concrete counter of the kitchen off the main living area, Deyko has pinned baglike woven jute fishing nets she bought on a trip to Japan. And nearly every accent or piece of furniture that they didn’t make themselves — “Karina is the kind of person who will discover some amazing vintage Japanese indigo fabric and turn it into bean bags,” says Eagle — the couple found at a flea market or secondhand store, and chose for its faded upholstery, chipping paint or time-warped wood. The idea behind Eagle’s book, which offers a look into some of her friends’ living spaces, is “to document homes through their objects, the things that people collect and that make them tick,” says Eagle. But while many of its subjects acquire art and design pieces — whether midcentury Italian lamps or Nike sneakers — with the doggedness of a true obsessive, Deyko and de Rothschild’s accumulation of stuff appears more Zenlike, as if their desire is not to own their possessions but simply to appreciate them, add to their stories and then pass them on.

Kate MartinLeft: In the dining area, a handblown glass Neverending Glory La Scala pendant light by the Prague-based designers Jan Plecháč and Henry Wielgus hangs above a vintage wooden table discovered at the Los Angeles antiques showroom Galerie Half. Right: A photograph by the New York-based artist Oliver Clegg, a friend of the couple’s, occupies the wall above their record collection.
Left: In the dining area, a handblown glass Neverending Glory La Scala pendant light by the Prague-based designers Jan Plecháč and Henry Wielgus hangs above a vintage wooden table discovered at the Los Angeles antiques showroom Galerie Half. Right: A photograph by the New York-based artist Oliver Clegg, a friend of the couple’s, occupies the wall above their record collection.
Kate MartinLeft: Deyko and de Rothschild have hosted dinner parties at this custom-made reclaimed-wood table, framed by bougainvillea in an alley off the main courtyard. Right: A wooden stool found at the antiques store Bazar in Venice sits in front of an original fireplace in the living space.
Left: Deyko and de Rothschild have hosted dinner parties at this custom-made reclaimed-wood table, framed by bougainvillea in an alley off the main courtyard. Right: A wooden stool found at the antiques store Bazar in Venice sits in front of an original fireplace in the living space.

And they inhabit the space with a similarly laid-back spirit. Before the pandemic hit, guests and collaborators would come and go throughout the day and occasionally crash on a sofa. In the evenings, the couple would host lively dinner parties and movie nights. And there is a rusted 1950s candy machine in the kitchen by the living room that their friends know is always filled with snacks for the taking if they’re nearby and hungry. “You never know how your day’s going to go or who’s going to turn up at the door,” says Deyko. While this place is their home for now, they are aware, too, that they are merely among the stewards of the building, one whose history will extend beyond them. Though Webster left Venice in 2014, after suffering a stroke, “the energy here was always driven by Guy,” says de Rothschild, “It was his photography studio. It was his place to be creative, and I think it emanated out of that.” They have thought recently, as they enter their 10th year here, about whether it might be time “for someone else to come in and put their imprint on it,” Deyko says. “But I think it will happen organically,” she adds, as if the couple might simply drift out the door one day and never come back, allowing a new chapter to begin.