Like William Blake, who saw a world in a grain of sand, designer Mark D. Sikes finds a universe in the color blue. “Blue has the most beautiful range,” he says, “from robin’s egg to cobalt, from sky to indigo.” Evoking everything from celestial daydreams to the most grounded certainties, blue is also the symbol of the deepest friendships.
How fitting, then, that Sikes’s latest project for fashion designer Karen Kane and her family would be an homage to this color. The two met six years ago, when Kane hired him to design a weekend house near Santa Barbara, and have remained friends and collaborators since. “We have a common language,” says Sikes, who featured his initial project for Kane in his first book, Beautiful, and has included the newest one in his second, More Beautiful.
Evidence of their like-mindedness can be found throughout the renovation of the Kanes’ 6,500-square-foot primary residence in Pacific Palisades, California. An Italianate villa built in the 1980s (an era not known for architectural subtlety), the house felt dark and dated, with lots of “orangish pine, green slate, and cubby holes and arches,” according to Kane. Sikes reimagined it as a relaxed and gracious Provençal estate, complete with terra-cotta tiles, plaster walls, wrought-iron details, and oodles of blue and white everywhere. “We made a 40-year-old house feel like it was built 100 years ago,” he says.
And he accomplished this, moreover, without major structural changes, relying instead on beautifully crafted millwork, reworked surfaces, and an exuberant mix of textures and patterns. The result greets visitors the moment they step into the entry hall, where a sweeping staircase now features vivid Portuguese-tile risers and an elegant wrought-iron railing. Custom wall brackets display Kane’s collection of blue-and-white china and bring a sense of proportion to the double-height space. A mother-of-pearl inlay console table at the base of the stairs kicks off a theme that will reappear throughout the house, adding notes of “whimsy and dimension” to many rooms, says Sikes.