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How to Decorate Your Home Like It’s an Art Gallery

A Southern California family designs the rainbow into their Manhattan Beach home

Kelly Phillips Badal
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Living Color

Kaleidoscope wallpaper, colorful lacquered furniture, hip-hop lyrics made into artwork: For Paul and Mikaela Hayama, these design details work harmoniously in their custom-built modern home. “A monochromatic, neutral, soft palette was an absolute no-no for me,” says Mikaela, a legal-operations director and mother of two in Manhattan Beach, California. “With young kids, we wanted our home to feel energetic and alive. It just made sense to embrace big bold colors and textures.”

To pull off this overachieving color agenda, the couple teamed up with architect Jonathan Starr of Starr Design Group and interior designer Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design and promptly let loose with some daring decor decisions. “Our whole idea was to go modern but approachable, livable, and warm,” says Paul, a partner at a private debt firm. “It’s not the easiest combination.” Andrea de Ranieri painting. Round Pintuck Pillow, $39; urbanoutfitters.com.

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Set the Tone

With a palette of pink, turquoise, purple, black (and more) drawn from a 1970s abstract painting Murray found at 1stdibs, the 4,100-square-foot house now teases its sense of style right from the get-go. Step inside and an electric-blue entryway acts as a backdrop to a vignette that includes an oversize mirror, a console desk, and two magenta twisted-cube chairs by Frank Gehry.

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Balance Your Colors

Few spaces in the house embrace vivid hues edge to edge. Most of the walls are white—though in the case of an upstairs recreational room, mint accents accompany the clean blank backdrops. The neutral tones are a deliberate choice to help vibrant art and furniture pop and avoid clashes. “A common misconception is that if you like color, you shouldn’t paint your walls white; you should paint them blue, red, or whatever—but it’s completely the opposite,” insists Murray. “Paint your walls white, like an art gallery. Color needs to be incorporated in a balanced way. After all, you don’t want your home looking like a box of Crayolas.” Framed word art by Paper Jam Press, from $30; etsy.com. Philippe Starck Lou Lou Ghost chair; kartell.com for retail locations. Tegu blocks in Blossom, from $35; tegu.com.

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Exceptions to the Rule

Petite nooks, like the entryway and bathrooms, are where Murray breaks the Crayola rule. “Small spaces are opportunities to create little jewel boxes,” she says. “Those are great places to use patterned wallpaper or a saturated color.” Ploum sofa, from $4,875; ligne-roset.com. Boogie pillow in Boho, $65, and Dabito pillow in Calypso, $68; tonicliving.com.

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Choose a Statement Piece

Use art, like this 1970s abstract painting, to create a palette. White dining-and-pool table, fusiontables.com for retailers. Brass “Rock On” Hand, $195, and Workaday Handmade Seeing-Eye Bowl, from $58; consort-design.com.

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Mix—Don’t Match

The Hayamas eat most of their meals at a casual wood and white-lacquered table positioned right off their kitchen island. Designer polycarbonate chairs in green elevate the look. Bloom chair, calligaris.com for retail locations. Tom Dixon Melt Mini Pendant Light, $685 each; yliving.com.

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Make It Memorable

Motley-hued wallpaper and origami-like sconces create a sophisticated funhouse effect in the powder room. Cole & Son’s Circus wallpaper, $654/roll; wallpaperdirect.com.

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Bold in the Bedroom

One of the boldest decor adventures came to life in the master bedroom—a spot typically reserved for a softer touch. There, the Hayamas opted to cover the entire wall behind their bed with a soaring paint-splattered wallpaper. “It’s total eye candy, but it still feels clean because of the choices around it,” says Murray. “People often want to play it safe in a bedroom, but it’s really about how you want to feel while you’re there. astekwallcovering.com. IC Lights S, from $595; usa.flos.com. Cela Shagreen nightstand, $1,695; rhmodern.com. Softline Swivel Curved Chair, $1,409; abchome.com. Black Ink Stripe Pillow, $255; consort-design.com.

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Punch It up 
(in Moderation)

Deep taupe walls, crisp red stripes, and yellow lacquered side tables convey a meditative mood in 
a guest room. Markel End Table, $150; eurway.com.

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Put Your Own Stamp on It

The Hayamas were intensely involved in the decor choices, often using their evenings to pore over finds inspired by their travels abroad, including trips to Spain, Kenya, Thailand, and Bali. Their white powder-coated dining table—Paul’s pick—doubles as a teal-lined pool table when the cover is removed. The staircase’s sparkly quartz-tiled statement wall shines glittery light around the room as the sun passes over the skylights.

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Blend It

“We didn’t want it to read ‘too boy’ or ‘too girl,’” says Murray, referring to the custom Jack-and-Jill bath vanity in a high-gloss lacquer finish of Benjamin Moore’s Razzle Dazzle. “This color is bold enough to read either way.” Adds Paul, “We went all out, and we got adventurous. We were finally able to bring to life ideas that had been collecting in our minds for years.” Clearly, the kids approve: On move-in morning, Sia could be found bouncing on her parents’ bed, chanting “This is the best day of my life!”

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