In their search for the good life, designers Nathan Turner and Eric Hughes discover that a small but stylish beachside apartment in Malibu is all they require
Though Eric Hughes and Nathan Turner spent their boyhoods on Southern California sands, it took decades —and a nudge from Cupid —before they had a Malibu beach house of their own. Turner, who grew up in San FranciscoEast Bay and summered in Laguna Beach, opened an eponymous antiques store in West Hollywood a decade ago, which brought him design commissions from Amanda Peet and Marcia Cross. Hughes, an Orange County native, made a graceful transition from movie executive to Manhattan-based interior designer with high-profile commissions from Sarah Jessica Parker and Katie Couric.
They crossed paths six years ago, when Mary McDonald, Turnerbest friend and his costar on BravoMillion Dollar Decorators, introduced them. It was not quite love at first sight. thought Eric was being mean to me,”Turner says, Mary explained that was just his New York cool.”As the relationship grew warmer, the bicoastal couple began dividing their time between HughesGreenwich Village apartment, where he still maintains his design firm, and Turner1960s white-box condo in Los Angeles. Hughes sold his maintenance”house in the Hamptons but missed the beach. He was in L.A. so often that he eventually leased an apartment in Malibu. The one-bedroom weekend pied-a-mer has genuine Hollywood bona fides. Iton the bottom floor of a two-story clapboard bungalow that was built in 1929 by filmmaker Frank Borzage, a best-director winner at the first Academy Awards.
Since then, however, the building had been divided into two units. Their apartment had undergone a patchwork of renovations that left the bedroom walls a melange of beadboard paneling. Instead of being horrified, Hughes and Turner found it charmingly authentic. Cream-color walls, white shag carpeting over uneven floors, and even the faint reminder of the prior tenantcats didnput them off. it needed was a couple of coats of Benjamin MooreSuper White and some sea grass on the floor and we were ready to decorate,”Hughes recalls.
Though they quickly accepted the place on its own terms, the two designers had to accommodate each othersensibilities. Hughes is known for a fresh take on East Coast style: spare white rooms with clean-lined furniture, contemporary art, and bursts of accent color. Turner likes to layer antiques, rustic vintage pieces, and patterned Anglo-Indian textiles for a California-bohemian look.
Felix and IOscar,”says Turner, referring to the neat-freak and clutter-happy characters in The Odd Couple. The Malibu apartment is their first venture as decorating partners, and their shared concept of an all-American surf shack helped establish a common aesthetic ground. Both designers agree that the enduring allure of a beach house is its simplicity. gives you permission to be completely casual,”says Hughes, who avoided fussiness with such dialed-down details as match-stick blinds and white IKEA curtains.
While many contemporary beach houses are clad in sandy beiges, driftwood grays, and sea-glass blues, Hughes and Turner paid homage to Fourth of July weekends on the Atlantic shore. The patriotic palette of red, white, and blue is never kitschy when itat the beach, says Hughes.
The informal entryway serves as a surfside version of a mudroom, with a long line of pegs to hold towels and spare swimsuits. Nearby, Hughes hung a Jolly Roger flag, which captures the boyish, clubhouse feel of their getaway. Outside, Turner parks the surfboard he used as a teen and still rides.
Tight quarters and an agreed-upon decorative vocabulary of nautical motifs —maps, flags, ropes, and sea creatures —kept Turnerhunter-gatherer impulses in check. Still, he brought in a 19th-century English writing table with a French oak chair, wedging them into a nook of the bedroom. Above it, Hughes added a framed 1980s Perry Ellis stars-and-stripes scarf his grandmother wore.
wanted things that were personal,”says Turner. then we hit the flea markets. Hard.”A vintage library pushcart became a bedside bookshelf, and an assortment of stools found a new home at a table with a base made from rusty anchor chain. The table doubles as a buffet when the couple entertain.
lunch is the main event,”says Turner. The pair shop at the Malibu farmers’market, and Turner whips up huevos rancheros and other California classics. Guests are served alfresco at a plain table dressed up with vintage crockery. Nearby, TurnerEnglish Labradors, Nacho and Daisy, await a chance to clean up any post-party crumbs.
beach is our first true love,”Hughes says. California-born, we had a real sense of what beach living is all about —comfortable, easy, nothing overwrought.”Theynicknamed their place the Boat House. second I open the door and get that gust of sea breeze,”Turner says, completely relaxed, no matter what else is going on.”