Richard Hallberg and Barbara Wiseley
When three young students met in their college cafeteria in the late 1970s, there was more than lunch on their minds, Richard Hallberg, Barbara Wiseley and Dan Cuevas were dreaming of creating their own interior design career. More important, they made their dream a reality with the opening of their own interior design firms: Formations and Dennis & Leen. For almost thirty years, Richard and Barbara have been partners in Hallberg-Wiseley Designs, a firm specialising in residential interiors with a strong emphasis on architecture. From an Art Deco Mediterranean villa to Wiseley’s own home, the design team has developed a signature style that mixes antiques, contemporary furnishings, accessories and art. Renowned for their eighteenth-century style and finishes, they began learning about furniture production by commissioning custom furniture.
Los Angeles-based designer was already enamoured with the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture around him in Southern California. So perhaps it was inevitable that those graceful arches, ornamented columns and splashing fountains would fuse romantically in his imagination and lead to his splendid interpretation – both exotic and modern – in the American houses. With his photos of Spain and Morocco for inspiration, Hallberg involved himself in every aspect of the creation process. He works closely with architect William Hablinski, a frequent collaborator for the past ten years. Details are Hallberg’s obsession, from his adaptation of a Moroccan style to the tiny Gothic arches hand-carved into the capitals of limestone columns. Most of the fabrics harmonize in shades of taupe and ivory. Hallberg generally prefers solid colours: “I don’t use fabric with pattern to design a room. My pattern comes from the assemblage of objects”.
In Los Angeles, Hallberg lives in a thoroughly modern space, the epitome of California cool. What he’s created in his Montecito home is the opposite: a retreat that looks as if it’s stood there, sun-kissed, for centuries, redolent of olive groves, with fountains gurgling and bunnies puttering around the grounds. “I have the best of both worlds,” he says. The house was built in 1926 by another American besotted with Spain. Noted Santa Barbara architect Lutah Maria Riggs designed it for herself, outfitting it with furniture and rugs she’d purchased on trips to Spain with her colleague, Spanish Revival architect George Washington Smith. Riggs owned the house for 60 years. “She called it Clavelitos, which means ‘little carnations,’” Hallberg notes. But by the time Hallberg bought it, after three years of searching for the perfect house, Clavelitos had fallen into a Grey Gardens–esque state of disrepair, with overgrown grounds that looked, as he puts it, like “a crazy tropical nightmare.” Still, it had the right bones.
Today Richard Hallberg shoes no interest in slowing down or in reducing his workload. His office is flourishing and current projects include: estates in Florida and Southampton and New York.
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