Laure Joliet
A high-functioning kitchen, with open sight-lines to communal spaces and kids' play areas, is a Bestor signature.

Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor transforms a “generic” three-bedroom in an oak-studded neighborhood into a cozy-modern dream house for a creative young family.

Christine Lennon  – March 3, 2021 | Updated March 20, 2021

We only recommend things we love. If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.

Los Angeles-based architect Barbara Bestor has created some of California’s most playful and inventive buildings. She’s the design force behind the 100,000-square-foot Beats by Dré compound in Culver City, the Snap, Inc headquarters in Santa Monica, and the Ashes & Diamonds winery in Napa. But unlike many of her esteemed peers, Bestor is still as excited to re-imagine a quaint neighborhood coffee shop, or a small-footprint home in an artsy enclave like Bend, OR or Ojai, CA as she is a hipster mega-plex.

So when a Sonos creative executive with a young family approached Bestor about renovating his ranch house in the Arbolada neighborhood of Ojai, known for its tree-studded lots and peaceful winding roads, she jumped in with her signature magic, building a “low-key design-y” house with a bold color story.

Laure Joliet

A surprising jolt of sunny color is hidden behind a glossy, sliding pantry door.
More Videos From Sunset

“I don’t know what you call this kind of house. It’s kind of a craftsman ranch, maybe? It’s a real California typology that just says ‘regular house,'” she says. Bestor distills her approach to re-habbing less-than-exciting architecture and creating a comfortable family home to a four-part plan. “You open up the inside, add better bathrooms, build a great kitchen and incorporate some pops of color, and—Bob’s your uncle—you’ve got a great house.”

Opening up a warren of smaller rooms into a central living space is one of Bestor’s tricks for creating modern living spaces. Light fixture by Muuto. Tripp Trapp adjustable high chair by Stokke.

Laure Joliet

Soft Douglas fir wood paneling, plywood, and graphic tile from Granada are three staples of Bestor Architecture’s residential design work. She calls herself a “reformed modernist,” with a less austere perspective. “I like things to be comfortable, smart, and pretty,” she says. “I can’t really hang with granny wallpaper, but I am always thinking, ‘How do I warm something up?'”

Turning a garage area into a primary bedroom expanded the footprint just enough to accommodate the owners’ growing family. Jasper Morrison makes the global ball light fixtures.

Laure Joliet

Architect Barbara Bestor in front of her office in Los Angeles.

 “Anything that’s nailed down,” meaning all of the permanent surfaces, “I like to keep natural wood and white paint.” Benjamin Moore Atrium White creates a clean slate for design elements to shine. “Then I like to use really intense colors in small quantities so they’re a moment of delight, like in a pantry, or with a light fixture, or on a door,” says says.

Laure Joliet

A glimpse from the primary bedroom to the office reveals a bold yellow wall painted in Bestor’s favorite yellow, Bumblebee Yellow by Benjamin Moore.

“It’s inexpensive to add highlights with paint,” adds Bestor. “I’m not averse to totally immersive crazy stuff with commercial projects, but for residential work it’s just by nature a little more low-key. And when you’re in this amazing natural environment, it’s really about the outdoors.”

Laure Joliet

Granada tile in a graphic pattern and a glossy yellow Dutch door are a great combination for a kids’ bathroom that doubles as a pool bath. Bath and shower fixtures are Waterworks flight. The tub is from Kohler.

Laure Joliet

Natural wood drawer pulls, white subway tile, and simple light fixtures in both baths create continuity and flow through the house. A Muuto E27 in blue, and yellow film poster.

A mix of vintage and inherited furniture, nothing too design-forward, balances out the more aggressive design touches—like an electric pink front door and taxi-yellow light fixtures. As long as colors are all around the same intensity, like this pure orange upholstered chair and primary red high chair, they’ll play well together.

A vintage piano, mid-century cane seat chairs, and a simple stone fireplace mantle maintain the balance between modern and comfortable—nothing too precious.

Laure Joliet

Laure Joliet

Bestor, who is the mother of two grown daughters, is uniquely tuned in to the needs of modern families, and designs homes that are easy for kids to live in. While the main spaces are largely clutter free, the kids’ rooms are a different story.
A media room with a work desk and Tolix stools is painted a deep shade of cool blue. Bestor added windows to the backyard to let in more light, and to connect the interior and exterior living spaces.

Laure Joliet

Bestor’s approach to the exterior paint scheme was inspired by the surrounding environment, with a twist. “I tend to match the color of a house to the trees around it if an owner will let me,” she says. “You use white paint on a house if you want to call attention to the architecture, like sculpture. But if you don’t, you can use adaptive color, so it blends with its surroundings. We tried to match the exterior paint to the green of the oak leaves. And they were game for that pink door, which is a deep, deep glossy color that will last forever.”

A pink door and deep green exterior color make surprisingly compatible friends.

Laure Joliet

As the light changes throughout the day, the exterior paint color shifts from deep khaki to a lighter, yellowish green.

Laure Joliet

The existing pool and landscaping remains relatively untouched. “We added a fire pit, and that’s about it,” says Bestor. “Right now, we’re building an ADU on the property as an in-law suite, so the house keeps changing and growing.”

The exterior of the house remains largely untouched, save for a paint job and simple outdoor seating.

Laure Joliet

Bestor’s Paint Box


Read the 2021 Wellness Issue

To read: Click on the right and left arrows at the edge of the box to turn pages; to make the text larger, click on the fullscreen icon in the lower-right corner (desktop) or in the center (mobile).

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!