Inside the Galerie Half home
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When the gate clicks open to the home of antiques dealer Cameron Smith and design consultant PJ Faulstick, regional vertigo takes hold. A pair of 100-year-old olive trees anchor a rustic garden reminiscent of a Tuscan hillside. Birds alight on a 17th-century French feed trough repurposed as a water feature, and reclaimed brick pavers lead the way underfoot. Hovering on the horizon behind a revived 1928 Spanish colonial house are the San Gabriel Mountains.
It’s a Californian postcard image but the pair’s home in Pasadena, a city of craftsman bungalows and canopied roads, is only 11 miles from the grit and glamour of downtown Los Angeles. “In the mornings, it’s fantastic. It’s like Wuthering Heights. The weather is completely different here, despite the close proximity,” says Smith, whose flawless eye draws design buyers and A-list celebrities to his West Hollywood outpost Galerie Half. The gallery space and store opened in 2009 on Melrose Avenue, offering a trove of European vintage and midcentury masterpieces, sourced through Smith’s globetrotting expeditions. But here, eclectic finds – 18th-century silver-leaf mirrors, ceremonial Congolese masks and Herb Ritts photography – are composed with minimalist restraint.
The couple had “lived off Mulholland in a midcentury house for eight years” before searching for a larger property in 2018. LA’s cut-throat real-estate market put paid to owning a home close to Galerie Half and the net was cast wider. “Pasadena was not on our radar,” Smith says, recalling how the property’s charm and ample proportions sealed the deal. Architecturally, the house had good bone structure but also required an extensive overhaul, and the pair’s close friends, Kathleen and Tommy Clements of LA-based mother-and-son studio Clements Design, were commissioned to oversee the project. The duo have a client list that includes Kris and Kendall Jenner, Bruno Mars and Jennifer Lawrence.
Their vision, which took three-and-a-half years to complete (Smith and Faulstick finally moved in in 2021), honours the home’s intrinsic character while injecting some West Coast verve. Detailing was key and in the foyer, a space originally punctuated by predictable majolica patterns, salvaged Belgian cement school tiles segue into oak flooring on the central staircase, creating a clean, serene backdrop. “The Clements opened up everything,” says Faulstick, gesturing towards the large skylight above the stairwell. In the bright, clear California daylight, it forms a James Turrell-esque blue oculus overhead.
We veer left off the entry hall into the dining room. Framed by an arched silhouette, it is accented by hand-crafted George Nakashima woodwork surmounted by a graphite and poppy-seed monochrome by Danish artist Rasmus Rosengaard. Smith found the piece “travelling through the internet” and crated it for several years, along with numerous objets awaiting the home’s completion. “What we loved about Cameron and PJ’s instinct is that they err on the side of simplicity,” says Tommy Clements. “Having this calm backdrop allowed these phenomenal pieces to shine. On paper, the list of things in their home seem like they wouldn’t jive, but when they were installed together, they felt natural and beautiful – thrilling.”
Throughout, the exterior stucco walls and arches remain true to the history of the house, yet by softening the edges of surfaces the look recalls the adobe houses of Santa Fe where Smith spent childhood summers. Smith’s mother went to boarding school at the local Bishop’s Lodge, now a ranch resort, and, following in his parents’ footsteps, he and Faulstick were married at the same Santa Fe Centre of Peace and Justice.
“It does sometimes feel like an adobe house – that was the inspiration we gave Kathleen and Tommy,” says Smith, pointing to an early polychrome vessel from the Acoma Pueblo tribe of New Mexico as we enter the living room, a memento that his father gave his mother around 1969 – and one of numerous Native American sculptures and ceramics that belonged to his parents dotted around the room. “My dad was amazing. He was a police chief in Fort Collins, Colorado – a very tall, rugged man who was almost delicate in his approach,” he says.
That chord of delicate and rugged resonates as we survey the room, in the fine proportions of the original midcentury Ib Kofod-Larsen Seal chairs that flank the fireplace; the earthy tone of the Jean Prouvé daybed well positioned by a window; the Clements’ custom linen sofa resting upon a well-worn Persian Bibikabad rug; and the contemporary, black Axel Vervoordt low table in one corner upon which sits a carved Bamana Jonyeleni figure from the 1930s.
“My mom freaks out when she comes in here. It makes her so proud, especially the kachina dolls and Navajo and tribal elements,” Smith says of the ensemble. The couple’s preferences for art are equally refined: some unexpected but all obtained as part of Smith’s relish for the hunt, including a full-length oil portrait of a young boy by Owe Zerge, which is mounted close to the fireplace, and a 2004 Collier Schorr photograph of pure, adolescent fantasy situated beside the bookcase. “I had a folder of things I loved more for us than I did for Galerie Half,” says Smith of the curation. “I knew that if the pieces went to the showroom, they would be gone in a week and I would never see them again.”
Smith is an inveterate virtual collector. “I do all the buying for Galerie Half and I can tell the no-nos online,” he explains. “I’ve learnt my lessons. I don’t have bad luck any more.” The Clements – and this is undoubtedly where their close bond with their client manifested – put the guardrails in place for the vision. As Smith recalls, “They definitely kiboshed some of the items I shared in my folder, so they went to the gallery.”
Upstairs, the views from the windows create focal points amid the quiet decor. “At night-time, even when we had my birthday party, everyone hangs out in here,” Smith says of their bedroom suite, which continues the home’s airy palette of wood tones and crisp, white walls offset by one-of-a-kind furnishings and antiquities. A hand-carved early-18th-century Gustavian bench anchors the couple’s bed, while matching Pierre Guariche sconces illuminate a curved headboard. A 1930s sheepskin loveseat is the picture of sumptuous repose atop an age-old Tabriz floor covering. The capstone: an anonymous, sculptural piece that was bought in Paris from an owner who had cherished it since the early 1970s.
Unsurprisingly, most visitors migrate to what the couple call “the perch”: an enclosed balcony leading off the suite, which is overlooked by a dark beamed ceiling and furnished with Japanese teak chairs and a raw-edged 16th-century stone-slab table – a veritable indoor-outdoor mise en scène. “The house still has the initial energy we were attracted to when we first saw it. To me, it still feels like a Spanish house, but one that Allie, the previous owner, would’ve been proud of,” says Smith of the bond that was struck with the former owner, a now-deceased physician who raised a family at the house. “We didn’t want to piss her off,” adds Faulstick, “and honestly, we want her energy to stay here.”
In temperate southern California, alfresco spaces function as additional rooms and the landscape grounds, created by LA designer Scott Shrader, are no exception. “My job is to bring the interior outdoors,” he says of his design, where the dining terrace is shaded by a modern steel, willow-covered trellis of whimsical romance. A set of bleached Jeanneret chairs, a 17th-century marble sink and Allie’s pink-rose bushes, carefully preserved in the renovation, add to the sense of tranquillity.
We are suspended, on the outskirts of LA, far from the madding crowd. “I kept bugging Scott about the big 18th- and 19th-century olive vessels he put out here, asking, ‘What are you going to put in them?’” recalls Smith. “He responded, ‘Absolutely nothing.’” It is precisely this sense of easy restraint that remains with me as I take my leave, the gate closing behind me.