Timeless – that is the most fitting word to describe Kalef Alaton’s work.  Born in the Middle East, Alaton was a well-traveled man.  His knowledge of antiquities and cultural experience had a large influence on his designs.  His taste toward an eclectic mixture of elements created timeless spaces that have survived, elegantly, for decades.  In studying his work, I learned to not be afraid of color and wild textures, how to stylize coffee tables, and how to tastefully adorn clean walls with worldly treasures – but mostly, I learned that design should be timeless.

Photographer unknown, from Architectural Digest, February 1987. Design by Kalef Alaton.

Last year I read a beautiful quote by Mr. Alaton in San Francisco Design Center’s Spring issue of their magazine, 3D, on his use of antiques: I might combine an old piece with something very modern, but I won’t know how it will look until the pieces are placed together. The concept of combining styles is similar to acquiring friends. It’s nice to have young friends and old friends, each unique.”  What a perfect analogy!

Inspiration of Mr. Alaton’s aesthetics on mixing the old with the new can be seen in this Bel-Air Estate I completed in 1987. Design by Donna Livingston Design.

Alaton’s spacious, light-filled home in West Hollywood was the perfect slate for a magnificent collection of fine arts and luxurious materials.  His consistency of using a clean background to display treasures and antiques allowed each piece to shine individually as well as collaboratively.

Kalef Alaton’s Master bedroom, with two tester beds and a mahogany Regency table with a gilded winged-seahorse base.

Alaton’s Master bath featured a Russian armchair and carved marble mirror.

Above photos by John Vaughn from Architectural Digest, May 1988. Design by Kalef Alaton.

Published in Architectural Digest in 1984, this Kalef Alaton designed home, below, seamlessly combined the old with the new.  The home’s views of Lake Washington are a breathtaking backdrop for the mix of the contemporary textiles and flooring with antique tapestries and gilded pieces.

Above Photos by Russel MacMasters from Architectural Digest, June 1984. Design by Kalef Alaton.

I recently came across the blog of photographer Aaron Leitz, who had the pleasure of photographing the same Kalef Alaton designed Lake Washington home in 2010.  As you can see in Leitz’s photographs, the interiors have gone almost untouched and remain as contemporary today as they were three decades ago!

Above photos by Aaron Leitz, design by Kalef Alaton.

Just months before his death in 1989, Kalef was selected as the Pacific Design Center’s Interior Designer of the Year – an award that I am now honored to be receiving this year at the “Stars of Design” ceremony in March.  It is an unbelievable feeling to be receiving the same honor that my biggest inspiration was awarded during his most influential time in my life!

Although he passed away at the young age of 49, he left a body of work that is a strong reference for scale, balance, and artful restraint.  Without ever having the pleasure to meet him personally, Kalef Alaton has had a profound impact on my work.  His ability to create rich and luxurious interiors that stand the test of time is a quality that I strive for in each of my projects.