Mission Implausible —
Interior Designer Lisa Slayman Makes a Software
Magnate’s Orange County Dream Home A Reality


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TEXT BY KATE DARLING

       When Newport Beach based interior designer Lisa Slayman ASID, IIDA was hired to finish software mogul Frank Pritt’s ambitiously whimsical beachfront estate in Orange County, it seemed like business as usual. In two decades, the principal of Slayman Design Associates Inc. had designed the interiors of dozens of opulent West Coast homes. But when Slayman first visited the site of Pritt’s Portabello estate in Corona del Mar, her jaw dropped.
       “It blew my mind,” she recalls of the strikingly contemporary 30,000 square foot home, which was just a skeleton at the time. The voluptuous, organically shaped roof was intact but the curvaceous walls were still being framed. “I could see it wasn’t an ordinary home or a typical job site.”
       Plans for the eight bedroom home, which were conceived by Pritt, founder of Seattle software maker Attachmate Corp., looked like something from the desk of John Lautner or, even a creation of the eccentric Spanish architect Gaudíí. The mansion was to resemble a massive, futuristic mushroom, perched on three seaside lots above the exclusive Cameo Shores beach.
       “It was a massive space that was all open with curves everywhere,” Slayman says. “There was no definition between ceilings and walls. No complete curve had a singular center point; everything was a combination of arcs. This house had no architectural reference points, because there’s nothing like it in the world.”
       There were plans drawn on paper but, without a straight line in the house, Slayman knew that translating Pritt’s vision from his brain to this most unusual canvas and, eventually, to a finished product was going to be a challenge.
       To wrap her mind around what she was designing, she had to develop a relationship with the space. She spent three months looking at the drawings, walking the house and talking with Pritt to gather information. Then she used Graphite 3-D drafting software to test ideas and design the interiors.
       The curved walls made basic processes, like designing kitchen cabinets, a challenge. The open, ambient house plan demanded custom cabinetry, furnishings, carpets, fabrics and wallcoverings, which Slayman designed to complement each space. With no doors between rooms except for bathrooms, materials needed to transition well between spaces while still creating areas with their own character. An open plan that invited the outdoors in—with several patios, an open-air grotto and hundreds ofsquare feet of glass walls—presented additional design challenges.
       Slayman designed thick, textural area rugs and upholstery to ward off echoes and excessive reflections. “In the living room, the design I came up with was topographical—loose and unstructured, with high and low areas and organic colors that really created the texture and warmth that the house needed, and lent another dimension to the house,” she says.
       She put a sand texture on the walls, lending them a dimensional quality when light interacts with them. An organic granite fireplace and massive nautilus shell sculpture, carved by Texas artist Jesus Morales, anchor the voluminous living room and entry area.
       “To bring the outside in, I used oceanic, beachy colors like corals, oranges, blues and sand tones,” she says. “The colors are reminiscenteven of the red and yellow sunsets that we geton the Orange County coast, so it“s all organic and related to nature.” To warm the tone of the expansive spaces, she chose several exotic woods. Tamo ash, burl walnut, makore, anigre, koa and zebrawood are featured throughout the house. In Pritt’s office, curvaceous, golden hued burl cabinetry and aburl desk, custom carved by furniture artist Wendell Castle, complement woven leatherwalls and leather-hand tiled floors.
       Pritt being a techie, the house is as wired as they came at the time. In the kitchen, a curved privacy wall of etched glass rises from inside acounter at the press of a button, to conceal the room from dining room guests.
       The living space itself was like none other, but what made the home doubly unique was Pritt’s plan for the basement: He wanted to recreate a street scene from his hometown of Charleston, West Virginia—complete with a movie theater, café, jewelry store and bowling alley. Manhattan based architect Theo Kalomirakis planned the layout and designed realistic storefronts in the 3,000 square foot entertainment zone. Slayman designed the interiors and chose fabrics, neon lighting and other materials to bring the street scene to life. In the theater, she created an Art Deco look with tamo ash detailing, period stained glass and blue and gold carpets, which she designed and had made in Scotland.
       For three and a half years, the Portabello estate was almost a full time project for Slayman. She was on site nearly every day, working side by side with Pritt. “He had a great vision and it was exciting to help him make it happen,” she says. Now, three years later, the public is seeing photos of the estate for the first time. “I designed one of the most exotic homes in the world,” Slayman says. “Working on Portabello took a lot of skill and it was an honor in itself, and I am proud that I was able to use all my skills and vision.”




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