Bona fide antiques and some age-adding craftiness turn a new house on the Pacific coast into a timeworn Mediterranean villa
FOR HOMEOWNERS AND NOVICE interior decorators wary of money-pit projects, the phrase “black hole” might be off-putting. But Los Angeles designer and antique dealer Richard Shapiro loves the idea of creating a tiny section of the universe that allows for travel through space and time.
“I’m trying to fool myself,” Mr. Shapiro said of the Malibu beach house he erected in the image of a typical, centuries-old Moroccan villa in Tangier. “I want to build something so authentic that I’m transported away from where I am.”
“Past Perfect” (Rizzoli), Mr. Shapiro’s new book, with Mayer Rus, details his methods, many of which came into play in a corner of the property’s library, shown here. Unevenly pigmented plaster and distressed floor tiles simulate the wear and tear of time. Antiques, of course, instantly suggest another era, but Mr. Shapiro avoided predictably old-Moroccan décor by giving his room a back story that allowed for eclectic elements: He imagined a worldly traveler who’d settled down in the North African port city with a lifetime of accumulated treasures. This left room for both a 17th-century Cyprian fireplace mantle and the bottom half of a 19th-century oil-derrick model that Mr. Shapiro picked up in France and repurposed as an end table. And where he needed contemporary pieces such as the daybed and the lamps for comfort and practicality, he chose neutral styles that didn’t spoil the fantasy—and helped him maintain a livable balance between history and home.
1. Consider the Ceiling
Much character can be added from above. The hand-painted chevron pattern pays homage to a classic Moroccan design, while gnarled, 17th-century beams from Provence give the appearance of a structure being taken back by nature. Similarly distressed 19th-century beams can be found at hoffmanreclaimedlumber.com
2. Don’t Mess With The Mantle
The fireplace can’t be a reproduction that looks like it’s been newly cast from composite stone,” said Mr. Shapiro. One- up his 17th-century Cyprian number with an equally crude 16th-century limestone mantle reclaimed from the Island of Malta ($15,500, Ancient Surfaces, 212-913-9588).
3. Mask Modern Comfort
Historical projects can feel museum-cold, but this corner’s simple daybed invites guests to relax without undermining the fiction of the room. Try the Restoration Hardware Belgian Track Arm Slipcovered Right-Arm Chaise (from $2,095, rh.com). The textiles covering Mr. Shapiro’s piece and pillows hew to a blue and white palette. Ralph Lauren Home’s Joelle Ticking (left) and Adamson Stripe also mix but don’t match. ($147 and $72 per yard, Ralph Lauren, 212-434-8000)
4. Pull In a Chair
A seemingly disparate piece, like the 19th-century Italian chair (part of a set of four) can save a room from coming off as a mere reproduction. A good stand-in: this Swedish Gustavian-period chair, also 19th century. (A. Tyner Antiques, $4,250 for pair, 1stdibs.com)
5. Minimize The Electrical Footprint
Natural light comes through the handmade glass of the courtyard door and the windows—without curtains or blinds to detract from the antiqued walls and the 17th-century fireplace. Lamps, like the small wall fixture whose shade Mr. Shapiro decorated with his sketches, are small and unobtrusive to maintain the illusion that the room predates electricity. The Oxford Wall Light keeps a similarly low profile (from $1,650, Soane Britain, 646-201-9553).
6. Embrace Imperfection
Some “ravages of time” needed to be executed in a jiffy. Mr. Shapiro had every edge of the slate and sandstone floor tiles chipped and eroded. He coated walls with Moroccan tadelakt plaster tinted a light blue-gray that adds even more convincingly decrepit roughness. Pigment your plaster with Benjamin Moore Blue Nose 1678 in Aura Interior, Matte Finish (from $26 for a quart, benjaminmoore.com).
7. Mash Up Accessories
The eclectic combination of a hand-painted Moroccan panel, 16th-century Syrian tiles and ceramics from Fes reflects Mr. Shapiro’s fantasy that his Malibu house was built by a well-traveled collector who settled in Tangier in an unspecified bygone era. Mix sources and ages with Antique Italian Tiles, above, top ($125 each, il Buco Vita, 917-946-3085), and a Rustam Usmanov Uzbekistani Decorative Plate ($375, daraartisans.com).