FROM THE OUTSIDE, Lyndie Benson’s home — with its bay windows, shutters and climbing ivy — oozes New England charm.
But over the threshold, form and geography coalesce in an easy livable elegance that is uniquely and blissfully Malibu. A surfboard hangs on the wall as art; French doors lead to an expansive teak deck that gives way to a pool, and the everchanging Pacific beyond is the backdrop to each day’s unfolding story.
Ten years ago, Benson, a fine-art photographer who also worked as an actress, temporarily set her cameras aside to ply her gift for composition to the interiors of a newly constructed 16,000-square-foot home on a 3-acre Point Dume compound.
A second-floor balcony, copious climbing ivy and French doors help give this exterior its classic elegance.
In the last 20 years, as her family moved from Beverly Hills to Seattle and back to Southern California, Benson developed interior design skills and confidence by building and decorating her family’s homes — four constructed from the ground up and 10 interiors. By now, the act of creating and pulling a room together is as natural to her as preparing a meal. Having taken on several projects for friends, she has made the transition to professional.
“It seems like I’m always doing it,” she says. “A lot of times, when I’m out, I’ll see something [a friend is looking for] and I’ll shoot it over to her.”
The family moved back to Southern California from Seattle 18 years ago, hungry for sunshine. Living on the Point, as it’s commonly known, was a dream for this native Valley girl. The iconic promontory of volcanic rock that juts from the coastline was once considered too windy for human habitation. The U.S. Army and Coast Guard used it as a lookout station during World War II. When it was finally developed, it was populated mostly by teachers, engineers and firemen, but today it is coveted oceanfront property, home to A-list members of the music and film industry.
Benson and her family bought a home built and designed by Sandy Gallin for himself. Gallin, the world famous music manager — think Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Cher and Barbra Streisand — began building and decorating homes and then flipping them as a side career. Now, having designed more than 50 homes, he’s considered a major figure in interior design with a signature style. Benson calls Gallin her architectural idol. And she seems to have absorbed his talent for creating warmth in rooms by integrating art, antiques and personal objects in a manner that is both sophisticated and fun.
“People normally pick one or the other and go with it,” says Benson about the modern-versus-traditional design. “I feel [pure modern] misses something.” Instead, Benson pairs classic, or timeless, furnishings with modern and antique art; she rolls oriental rugs over ebony stained floors and is liberal in her use of the color white.
“I like the classic feel, like the old pieces,” she says. “They work together, like jeans, loafers and an oxford shirt. Take the antique Ming ceramic ladies on the mantel beneath the Herb Ritts photograph; the Robert Graham head on a simple, dark wood coffee table that is neighbor to the ping pong and pool tables. Together, the game-room tables convert into a dining room table suitable for 16. Other notable artworks include the Irving Penn photograph Picasso A and Ed Ruscha’s painting, G, opposite the game room. Benson’s own striking photos are exhibited, too, including Girls on Boulder, inspired by her friend Herb Ritts. Benson published a collection of her photographs of Point Dume, The Point, last year. Some of the proceeds went to benefit the Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families.
Tom Baril’s photo, "Peony Buds" (1997), is the design anchor in Benson’s office; restrained choices in its environs amplify its quiet charm.
“I really wanted the space to be fun,” Benson says of the family’s home. “There’s something to do in every room.” And so you find large jars of colorful jellybeans and a popcorn maker in the den. Benson made sure her boys, who are college age, would always be happy entertaining friends at their home. There is a fire pit on the deck, a screening room ready for movie night and the beach below for gathering around a bonfire. A quick morning surf before school was a common practice.
Eight years after moving in, the adjacent property became for sale, and the family grabbed the opportunity to expand. That’s when they built a second home (third if you include the guest cottage halfway down the bluff) almost identical to the original in style.
“People say it’s their favorite house, but they don’t know why. I think people like classic things that feel solid. They know it’s something that’s going to last. They can feel confident.”
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