The Making of a Sacred Point

Inside the home of Cheryl Tiegs circa 1990 | originally published in Design Times

IMG_8885by Louis Postel

Cheryl Tiegs may be one of the most celebrated beauties of our time, but the house she was living in was very standard issue Los Angeles. A 1950’s-style Polynesian bungalow, it hardly made an impression.

Now it has been completely redesigned and refurbished. But don’t look for anything as flashy as the model’s bright smile. As you approach her house, you have to look closely, because the designers have taken pains to hide it.

The first things you see, in fact, are privacy screens of early-19th-century greenware ceramic tile. The screens disguise the front of the house. To add to the secluded effect, massive, roof-supporting tree trunk columns surround the screens. The front door is in 18th-century Javanese temple doorway.

The biggest challenge for designers Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and Trip Haenisch was to raise the original ceiling in the main room. They extended the room and raised the ceiling, which had been only 12 feet, to 32 feet. Five rooms had to be knocked out. Then they installed for massive columns in the middle to create a pataka, or Indonesian sacred point. The columns are steel beams clad in a teak, hand-painted and distressed to look like antique temple columns.

Cheryl was living alone with her son Zack when Martyn and Trip started work on the house. She wanted to start fresh after her former marriage. She had all the furniture and most mementos thrown out. She saw a travel brochure of Indonesia. The photos captured the sense of tranquility that would now be right for her and her son.

Martyn and Trip set out to recreate her house as an Indonesian pavilion. The partners added some British colonial influence (Martyn was born in the UK)”It’s also a mélange of things from China, Africa and found objects from places like Kansas,” Martyn explains.IMG_8878

Both Martyn and Trip started out early in life as antiques dealers before becoming designers. Martyn, who had been buying and selling antiques since the age of 12, moved to Los Angeles seven years ago. Trip, from Kansas, started out working for hotel  designer Waldo Fernandez and had a hand in all the Merv Griffin hotels. With their backgrounds, it was hardly an accident that we found many rare, intriguing pieces throughout the house that they had hand selected from their travels around the world.

There was an 18-foot dining table of Dutch colonial style once used for picnics at the governor’s mansion in Java. There was also a stunning alligator skin and purple velvet sofa in the same room. The sofa was from the shop Martyn and Trip have in LA, aptly named Martynus.

We also saw a pair of 16th-century Balinese stone baptismals from the Waldo Collection in Los Angeles holding orchids and other tropical phenomena.

As Cheryl found herself moving into this more spiritual, Indonesian-influenced environment, she married yoga master Rod Stryker. Her home was tailor-made for the new love of her life.

The feeling of the main room is very soothing for Cheryl, who travels a lot. It’s 2,000 square feet, with considerable altitude. It includes a personal area, a library and dining room. It also works as a grand entertaining space .The challenge of such a big room was to make it intimate. Martyn and Trip did this with screens: one huge Indonesian screen, and an English Regency glass and mahogany folding screen.IMG_8883

“The glass in the screen allows you to look through to the dining space, and through there to the sparkling view of Los Angeles,” Martyn points out. Helping the screens to break up the space are 18-foot palm trees. The trees grow in copper vats once used for dying batik fabrics. The vats had been buried in the ground for at least 100 years, which gives them an extraordinary patina.

The designers then had the master bedroom suite painted in ten layers of trompe l’oeil, with stencils custom-designed and hand-cut. One of the few things Cheryl kept was her collection of turn-of the-century African books and these add a lot to the warmth of this room. It’s quite masculine in tone like the main room, but with softening feminine edges such as Cheryl’s half-tester bed draped in white silk voile. The bedroom leads to a bath, a gym and a private area where Cheryl often sits and reads. The lighting is also customized for this working fashion model to apply makeup.

In this still-evolving project, Martyn and Trip just added a yoga studio. And now they are busy remodeling for Rod and Cheryl’s new twins.

Martynus, Inc can be reached at 616 Almont Drive, Los Angeles, California, 90069. 310.385.8730.

When last interviewed designers Martyn Lawrence-Bullard  and Trip Haenisch were on their way to Paris. The project involved “a Tyrolean chalet in Malibu that was a Rock Hudson’s love nest.” 

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