By Nancy Miller
Photos by Jolea Brown
The request for an architect or interior designer to blend the styles and personalities of two people, each of whom articulates a clear vision, into one home summons imaginative skill and adroit diplomacy.
Alix and Denis Littrell, she a designer with Moloney Smith Interiors, and he an architect/ builder/ developer of Denis Littrell and Associates, accomplished the feat with exquisite results. The twist to the project was that they were their own clients.
“Having two artists trying to collaborate in the home they shared could work or not work. For us, it works. We bounce ideas off each other. If we both weren’t in the industry, we wouldn’t understand the process we go through, but since we are, it gives us a vernacular most couples don’t have,” says Alix. “But, it can be hard at times because both of us have educated opinions.”
In 2007, Denis designed and built the French Tudor Home in Cherokee Gardens. “I wanted it to fit into the neighborhood and to look timeless, as if it had been here for decades,” he says.
Fast forward to their wedding and starting a family that now includes son Alexander, who is almost a year old, and canines Maggie, a Jack Russell, and Stella, a King Charles Spaniel. “Denis did the house before I came along. I had the privilege of moving in,” says Alix.
She and her husband have similar aesthetics, but she admits that “there are compromises everywhere. We’re both very attached to our own things that we have collected over the years, so it was important that both of us be represented. Each of us has had to step back on certain elements. Whoever has the strongest opinions wins, but it’s always a blend.”
Such compromising has led to more appreciation for each other’s expertise, which extends to their businesses. She turns to him when she needs advice about architecture and he consults her about interior design.
She says his architecture speaks for itself, adding that the layout and flow of the house are wonderful and that she didn’t want to interfere much. With her interior design, she tries to be as true as she can to the style of the house. “I like to bring in fun details I have collected over the years in my travels, as well as my family heirlooms. Then it’s about having a good time. I don’t take myself too seriously and I like being playful and having juxtaposition.”
Key West was the inspiration for the décor in the sunroom that overlooks the patio. All the Littrells enjoy the space, but Alix says the room “is Denis’s baby.” He “searched high and low” for the Chinese toile chartreuse fabric for the slipper chairs that belonged to his mother. Placed on a table is a small “Monkey School” painting that mesmerized Alix as a little girl. “This room is so quiet and peaceful, perfect for relaxing with classical music. It is somewhere between inside and outside, with the light being beautiful almost all day,” she says.
Toys are a reality of life in a house with a child. They are a winsome presence in the living room where an Oushak rug, silk taffeta plaid pillows and a Rose Canton lamp set a formal tone. Club chairs upholstered in white Sunbrella fabric that can be cleaned by a spray of bleach and water are a nod to practicality. Additional seating is provided by a blue linen sofa and salmon-color embossed Hepplewhite chairs. One of Denis’s prized pieces of art, a painting by Fang Xiang, shares space with works by Chagall and Picasso and an Italian watercolor given to Denis by his mother-in-law Susan Moloney.
Of the Schonbek chandelier in the dining room, Denis says, “I refuse to sell it. It was my first major home purchase.” Alix shares his sentiments about the chandelier: “It’s the only one that will go with us when we move.” The room is an example of how she integrated her husband’s decorative items – a rug, dining table, chairs and silver, with hers – an old English hunt board and Rose Canton.
Denis purchased the lowboy in the master bedroom to give Alix for their first Christmas together. Above the bed Alix hung a Raoul Dufy painting of Venice as a remembrance of Denis’s time spent studying in that city. Other pieces in the bedroom of which the couple are particularly fond are an antique Louis Vuitton trunk, a painting by Josh Smith and a chest-on-chest that has been in Alix’s family for many years.
Alexander’s room on the second floor is decorated in a safari theme, with a Campaign-style crib, chest and side table. Lively colors are brought into the room through animals painted on a large armoire and canvas draperies with red and white ticking and striped trim.
Also on the second floor are a den and the bedroom for Parker, Denis’s older son. The Littrell’s appreciation for fine art is evident in works by Picasso and Pissaro.
Downstairs is a comfortable retreat that spares no design detail. A camelback sofa that’s slipcovered in canvas, built-in cabinets painted in French green, and two Art Deco 1920 leather chairs found at an estate sale in Beverly Hills suggest a cozy informality. In the cabinet is a collection of every “Architectural Digest” dating to 1970.
As she surveys from the foyer the living room and master bedroom, Alix says, “Our home combines a bit of formality with the casualness of the way we live. We are a family and we utilize every room. As an interior designer, I’m now in a different place in my life now that I have a child. The house doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s no way to do that with a child. Now it’s perfect in a different way.”