In his california home, star chef Jeffery Mora proves that good design can be good for the planet, too
December, 2006 | By William Weathersby, Jr. | Photographs by Edmund Barr | Styling by Lori Dennis
Professional chef Jeffrey Mora has cooked in more than 20 countries and considers himself a citizen of the world. The chef for Los Angeles’ Lakers and Kings pro sports teams, he is also a staunch environmental advocate who prides himself on using sustainable food sources including seafood, meats and locally grown produce. When recently renovating his house in Tarzana, California, Jeffrey applied a similar eco-conscious approach. “I wanted to create a comfortable home in which aesthetics were important,” he says, “but sustainability was key. And building ‘green’ doesn’t have to mean breaking the budget.”
Jeffrey enlisted Beverly Hills–based interior designer Lori Dennis, principal of Dennis Design Group, to upgrade what he calls a “very Brady Bunch” 1960s, ranch-style house. Inspired by a house Jeffrey had owned in Big Sur and the laid-back oceanfront style of inns in the coastal village of Carmel, Dennis orchestrated a new cottage-like ambiance she dubs “Americana Ranch.” They began by gutting the 3,800-square-foot, four-bedroom house, then installed new plumbing and electrical systems, and replaced outdated shag carpeting with oak floors fabricated from reclaimed wood throughout. Reclaimed cedar frames doorways, while low-toxic paints and stains on walls and ceilings create a neutral backdrop for flea-market finds and low-cost wood furniture.
Between the living room and den, Dennis removed a wall to open up the space. “Besides expanding the main living area, it improves the flow of air and daylight,” she says. She also had the room’s fireplace refaced with salvaged river rocks and had new bookshelves constructed of recycled woods. Environmentally friendly fabrics, such as cotton and linen, upholster Provençal-style wood chairs and a down-filled sofa. Antique seltzer bottles, a tortilla press and an American flag lamp are among the “accessories rescued from a flea market” that might have ended up in a landfill, Dennis says.
In the master bedroom and bath, wood surfaces and neutral fabrics evoke a relaxed look. Jeffrey’s four-poster bed, 1890s rocker and oak dresser are accompanied by wicker-shaded sconces and neutral cotton draperies topped by a crisp valance. In the bath, tumbled stone lines the shower, while lightly stained beadboard wraps the tub. Reproduction brass faucets, reclaimed wood floors and a marble slab countertop add to the rustic charm.
With imaginative enhancements rather than a total makeover, the kitchen became a showplace for Jeffrey’s culinary artistry. Existing cabinets sport new wood doors and hardware. Inexpensive beadboard became a backsplash and copper sheeting customizes an off-the-shelf range hood above a new stove. Atop the island where cooktops once rested, Dennis inserted a butcher-block cutting board into the existing granite countertops. She picked up the distressed-pine, Spanish-style chairs in the eat-in kitchen from a local supplier for $90 each. Made from wood mottled with imperfections, the chairs also stand as a symbol for Jeffrey’s nature-inspired strategy for his house and his commitment to responsibly reusing and conserving the earth’s precious resources.
Up Close with Jeffrey
Which is your favorite room and why?
The den is the most comfortable room, with a feather couch, fireplace, large chairs, fireplace and a view of the yard.
What inspires you?
Traveling, cooking, eating, any activity on the ocean, volunteering and environmental activism.
What was your most creative accomplishment?
Being a two-time member of the United States Culinary Olympic team.
What’s your favorite time of day?
Between 5 to 7 a.m.
What gives you the most joy?
My animals—all rescues.
Which are your favorite colors?
I’m color blind, so pretty much any color I can guess correctly; mostly primary colors.
How does your environmental awareness affect the way you live at home?
I consciously use basic environmental practices, like having a recycling bin and using energy-efficient light bulbs and earth-friendly soaps and paper products. Also, my yard contains plants that are indigenous to my area.
Designer Lori Dennis offers these earth-friendly design tips:
- Use solar-control film on large south-facing windows. It reduces interior heat, allowing you to use less air conditioning, consume less energy and spend less money.
- Install color-corrected compact fluorescent bulbs. They last longer and are more energy-efficient.
- Find organizations in your community that accept recycled materials. In Jeffrey’s case, some tubs and fixtures were sent to communities in Mexico that needed them.
- Think low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) when purchasing paints or stains. Because they emit few fumes, they’re easier on your health.
- Find local sources for reclaimed hardwoods. Doing so protects forests and prevents trucking wood long distances.
- Shop at flea markets. Besides finding one-of-a-kind objects, you’ll rescue things that were destined for a landfill.
Use recycled stone and wood in bathrooms and kitchens. They are more earth friendly than plastics and composites.
Hang a Plate Display
- Determine position of center plate (one or two inches below standing eye level).
- Hold plate up to wall at this center point and mark top of plate on wall with a pencil.
- Place center plate on large sheet of butcher paper and arrange the other plates around it in a manner you find pleasing.
- Use a pencil to trace about an inch around the top rim of each plate.
- Turn paper over, hold it up to a window and trace with pencil over the curved lines you’ve drawn from the opposite side. Tape the paper to the wall in alignment with your original mark for center plate and trace over the curves to leave small marks on the wall to indicate the position of each plate.
- Attach plate hangers to each plate, measure distance from top of each plate to top of hanger hook. Measure and mark these distances below marks for top of each corresponding plate on wall, and hammer in picture hooks.
- Hang plates on picture hooks.