When the door opens to the home of antiques dealer Cameron Smith and design consultant PJ Faulstick, regional vertigo sets in. A pair of centuries-old olive trees anchor a rustic garden reminiscent of a Tuscan hillside. Birds alight on a 17th-century French feeder repurposed as a water feature, and reclaimed brick pavers lead the way underfoot. Hovering on the horizon behind a restored 1928 Spanish Colonial home are the San Gabriel Mountains.
It’s a California postcard picture, but the couple’s home in Pasadena, a city of craftsman bungalows and canopied roads, is just 11 miles from the grit and glamor of downtown Los Angeles. “The morning is fantastic. It’s like The Wuthering Heights. The weather is completely different here, despite the proximity,” says Smith, whose impeccable eye attracts design buyers and A-list celebrities to his West Hollywood outpost, the Half Gallery. The gallery and store opened in 2009 on Melrose Avenue, offering a wealth of vintage and mid-century European masterpieces from Smith’s globetrotting expeditions. But here, the eclectic finds – 18th-century silver-leaf mirrors, ceremonial Congolese masks and photographs by Herb Ritts – are composed with minimalist restraint.
The couple had ‘lived off Mulholland in a mid-century home for eight years’ before looking for a larger property in 2018. Los Angeles’ tough real estate market paid off owning a home near the Half Gallery and the net widened. “Pasadena wasn’t on our radar,” Smith says, recalling how the property’s charm and generous proportions sealed the deal. Architecturally, the house had good bone structure, but also needed a major overhaul, and the couple’s close friends Kathleen and Tommy Clements of Los Angeles-based mother-son studio Clements Design were tasked with overseeing the project. The duo have a client list that includes Kris and Kendall Jenner, Bruno Mars and Jennifer Lawrence.
Their vision, which spanned three and a half years (Smith and Faulstick eventually moved in in 2021), honors the house’s intrinsic character while injecting a certain West Coast verve. Detail was key and in the lobby, a space originally punctuated with predictable majolica patterns, Belgian cement tiles salvaged from the school transition to oak parquet on the central staircase, creating a clean backdrop and serene. “The Clements got it all open,” Faulstick said, pointing to the large skylight above the stairwell. In the bright, clear California daylight, it forms a blue James Turrell-like oculus overhead.
We veer left from the entrance hall into the dining room. Framed by an arched silhouette, it’s accented by handcrafted wood paneling by George Nakashima topped with monochrome graphite and poppy seed by Danish artist Rasmus Rosengaard. Smith found the piece “travelling the internet” and crated it for several years, along with numerous items awaiting completion of the house. “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 didn’t seem to fit, but when they were put together they felt natural and beautiful – exciting .
Throughout, exterior stucco walls and arches stay true to the home’s history, but by softening the edges of the surfaces, the look is reminiscent of the Santa Fe adobe homes where Smith spent his childhood summers. Smith’s mother went to boarding school at the local Bishop’s Lodge, now a ranch, and, following in his parents’ footsteps, he and Faulstick were married at the same Santa Fe Peace and Justice Center.
“It looks like an adobe house at times – that’s the inspiration we gave Kathleen and Tommy,” Smith says, pointing to an early polychrome vessel from the Acoma Pueblo tribe of New Mexico as we enter the living room, a keepsake her father gave her mother around 1969 – and one of the many Native American sculptures and ceramics that belonged to her parents dotted the room. “My dad was amazing. He was the chief of police in Fort Collins, Colorado — a very tall, sturdy man who was almost delicate in his approach,” he says.
This delicate, robust chord resonates as we survey the room, in the handsome proportions of the original mid-century Ib Kofod-Larsen Seal chairs that flank the fireplace; the earthy tone of the Jean Prouvé daybed well placed near a window; Clements’ custom linen sofa resting on a well-worn Persian Bibikabad rug; and the contemporary black Axel Vervoordt coffee table in a corner on which rests a sculpted figure of Bamana Jonyeleni from the 1930s.
“My mother freaks out when she comes here. It makes her so proud, especially the kachina dolls and the Navajo and tribal elements,” Smith said of the set. The couple’s preferences for art are equally refined: some unexpected but all obtained as part of Smith’s fondness for the hunt, including a full-length oil portrait of a young boy by Owe Zerge, who is mounted by the fireplace, and a 2004 Schorr Collier photograph of pure teenage fantasy located next to the library. “I had a folder of things that I liked more for us than for Gallery Half,” Smith says of the curation. “I knew if the pieces went to the showroom, they would be gone within a week and I would never see them again.”
Smith is an inveterate virtual collector. “I do all the shopping for Galerie Half and can say the no-no online,” he explains. “I learned my lessons. I no longer have bad luck. The Clements – and this is arguably where their close connection to their client came through – put the guardrails in place for the vision. As Smith recalls, “They definitely blocked some of the stuff I shared in my folder, so they went to the gallery.”
Upstairs, the views from the windows create focal points amid the calm decor. “At night, even when we had my birthday party, everyone hangs out here,” Smith says of their bedroom, which continues the airy palette of wood tones and crisp white walls offset by a furniture and kind antiques. 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 lavish rest on centuries-old Tabriz flooring. The cornerstone: an anonymous sculptural piece purchased in Paris from an owner who had cherished it since the early 1970s.
Unsurprisingly, most visitors migrate to what the couple call “the roost”: an enclosed balcony leading to the suite, overlooked by a dark wood-beamed ceiling and furnished with Japanese teak chairs and a slab-of-wood table. 16th century stone with raw edges – a true indoor-outdoor staging. “The house still has the initial energy that attracted us when we first saw it. To me it still feels like a Spanish house, but one that Allie, the previous owner, would have been proud of,” says Smith about the bond that was forged with the former owner, a now-deceased doctor who raised a family at home. “We didn’t want to piss him off,” adds Faulstick, “and honestly, we want to May his energy stay here.”
In temperate southern California, outdoor spaces function as extra rooms, and the landscaped grounds, created by LA designer Scott Shrader, are no exception. “My job is to bring the indoors outside,” he says of his design, where the dining room terrace is shaded by a modern steel trellis covered in whimsically romantic willows. A set of whitewashed Jeanneret chairs, a 17th-century marble sink, and Allie’s pink rose bushes, carefully preserved during the renovation, add to the sense of tranquility.
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 vases he put here, asking him, ‘What are you going to put in it?’” Smith recalled. “He replied, “Absolutely nothing.