What do an 1885 Victorian in San Francisco, an 1870s Federal townhouse in Manhattan, and an 1840 Greek Revival house in Sag Harbor have in common? They’re all the former pet projects of John de Neufville, a real estate investor whose passion for renovating historic homes stems from a lifelong love of architecture. “My mother grew up in New Orleans and always had an affection for old houses,” he says. The interest in them certainly rubbed off on him.

So when he heard about a historic 1924 Spanish Colonial home while contemplating a move with his family to Santa Monica—his wife, Allison de Neufville, a fashion consultant for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Aerin Lauder, and Edie Parker, grew up on the West Coast—he knew he had landed on his next rehabilitation subject. “Despite its run-down condition, the house had this aura of greatness,” he remembers of their first visit. “We knew immediately that it was a project that we wanted to pursue.”

<div class= A Formations dining table and chairs from Janus et Cie set the stage for alfresco dinners on the back terrace. The custom banquette features fabric by Mariaflora; the cocktail table is from Hollywood at Home.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be easy. Designed by celebrated Los Angeles architect John Byers for the actor Leo Carrillo, the house was well known to the Santa Monica Conservancy’s landmarks commission. What began as a call to architect Paul Brant Williger to update the house’s four fireplaces with sensitivity to Byers’s original design quickly ballooned into a full-scale historic preservation job that spanned three years. “We were all very dedicated to doing it right,” says Williger of the painstaking attention to the details involved in revitalizing the original plaster throughout the house, correcting previous structural work, reframing the kitchen ceiling, and repairing and replacing the existing flooring and windows. “John and Allison wanted to see a house that was restored to its former glory in a contemporary way and wasn’t willing to let modern conveniences compromise the aesthetics of the house. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like a museum. It retains the character of the house but feels fresh.”

Much of that has to do with the bold intervention of Los Angeles designer Mark D. Sikes, who pored over tomes about the California-Mediterranean aesthetic and researched the history of Spanish Colonial homes of the era, paying special attention to scale and authenticity. (The latter is a larger theme in his forthcoming book with Rizzoli called More Beautiful: All-American Decoration, available online and in bookstores on September 1.)

<div class= Colorful Mosaic House tiles play off traditional details like the Nanz Company hardware and Ann-Morris pendants and stools in the kitchen, which was gutted and reframed to create more generous proportions and an era-appropriate aesthetic.

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