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Return to the Past: Design Time-Travel Done Right.

February 16, 2017

North of Malibu on a bluff overlooking Broad Beach, Richard Shapiro created a romantic villa in the Roman Mediterranean style. Architectural Stone Elements by Ancient Surfaces.


Richard Shapiro is a noted arts philanthropist, art collector, antiquarian, who offers antiques and art of exceptional merit at his antiques gallery, along with opulent and primitive pieces at Studiolo, fabrics, Bordoni leather, Ancient Surfaces Kronos Stone Floors, Antique Fireplaces and Fountains and much more. 

Designer/antiquarian Richard Shapiro wasn’t looking for a new house when he set off with a friend to view a property for sale in remote Broad Beach.

He was perfectly happy with his Holmby Hills residence, his busy life in Los Angeles running his design and antiques and art gallery and collection, Studiolo, and creating gardens and residences for clients.

“I went to see the site on a lark,” recalled Shapiro. “I stepped inside the front gate, saw the view, and discovered total seclusion. I was smitten. Within thirty minutes I knew exactly the house I would build there.”

open front door
The massive antique French front door and a circular turret are the focal point of the entry courtyard. Shapiro planted fully grown cypress and succulents filled Limestone Troughts  for maximum effect.
Los Angeles antiquarian Richard Shapiro created his new house to look like a centuries-old Mediterranean retreat. The Ancient Entryway was an original Italian Reclaimed Portal provided by Ancient Surfaces.

Now, three years later, he stands in his ethereal light-filled living room overlooking the ocean. Charming smaller rooms are tucked among terraces and stairways, and the villa-style retreat provides a perfect year-round escape, a fantasy with the whiff of the Mediterranean.

On the edge of the bluff overlooking the beach a pair of handsome two-hundred-year-old Monterrey cypress frame the view. Steps lead down to the solitary beach. Pelicans in formation hover and swoop, and silvery whales bask in kelp beds just off-shore.

Living Room

Living Room

In the ethereal living room, 20-feet high steel framed windows and doors frame the ocean view. Walls were hand-plastered to suggest antiquity.

“I originally planned it as a weekend house, and I’ve found I’m spending more and more time here,” said Shapiro. “Friends drive up from Los Angeles, we have drinks and watch the sunset, and enjoy dinner on the terrace with a big fire on cool evenings.”

The villa is so polished, so perfectly at home on its site, that it’s hard to imagine Shapiro’s property included a tumbledown beach shack, roofless and windowless, in a tangle of vines.

“I loved the fact that I’d be starting from scratch, creating whatever I wanted,” said Shapiro. “Tall hedges and bougainvillea disguised the adjacent houses, so nothing would intrude on my concept.”

He quickly acquired the 40 feet wide and 200 feet deep property and started plans to build on the footprint of the old house.

Living Room
 Torso is 4th Century Roman.

A Moroccan-style courtyard, thick plaster walls, and an authentic Cosmati mosaic panel by Ancient Surfaces on the dining room wall created the mood. 

The white powder-coated steel dining table by MDF Italia brings a sharp modern tone to the dining area. Cost Plus chairs were painted marine blue. 

“I’ve always been in love with antiquity, the Mediterranean, North African architecture,” said Shapiro, a longtime collector of high-profile contemporary art.

“This house is a folly, designed to look like an ancient building I discovered hidden beneath the undergrowth for centuries on this remote bluff, “ said Shapiro. “I planned the interiors to look old, too. I’ve always been attracted to antiquity, and want to live in another time.”

ocean view from windows
back exterior
stairs to ocean
exterior fireplace
exterior patio

Kronos Limestone Floors below a minimalist  fireplace warms the terrace.

A two-hundred-year-old Monterrey cypress frames the path leading down to Broad Beach.

For many years, Shapiro’s extensive travels throughout Europe in search of antiques and inspiration included visiting and exploring historic chateaux and Renaissance villas. He admired the patina of age on ancient palaces in Sicily, and wanted to replicate that sweet ruined state in his villa. On a recent trip to Marrakesh he discovered crenelated walls and vivid geometric floor tiles, styles he adopted for his Moroccan-style terrace.

With his simple open plan for the house, he commissioned steel-framed windows and doors for their slender grace and resistance to winter storms. As the double-frame house rose on the site, he worked with specialist plaster team from Ireland, lead by Ian Hardwick, to stain, buff, scrub and rough up the ivory-colored plaster mix to make walls look centuries old.

“I wanted everything to look old, worn, faded, weathered, and rough,” he said. Faded frescoes by Ilia Anossov add to the look of the Renaissance.



master bedroom

The island and the back wall of the kitchen are honed basalt. An antique Turkish Suzani quilt adds a jolt of color in the bedroom. The white cube bathroom was crafted by hand in marble by Ancient Surfaces

A sleek steel stairway balustrade, painted gunmetal gray, was inspired by sculptors such as Richard Serra. Upstairs, supported by centuries old beams, is the bedroom. 

But most brilliantly, he juxtaposed his antique architectural elements like his fountains and fireplaces on top of the taupe color Kronos reclaimed limestone that he acquired exclusively from Ancient Surfaces outlined with linen-covered chairs and sofas that Richard designed specifically for this house. A sinuous modern steel stairway balustrade crafted by Glenn Fischer curves past centuries-old ceiling beams.

Over eighteen months of construction and careful attention to every detail, Shapiro has created a dream life for himself.

“The house was a labor of love, and I was on-site 24/7,” recalled Shapiro.

He added a new guest suite at the back of the house, and in the process crafted a sunny Moroccan terrace with an old stone fountain and the graphic punch of bright turquoise and white Moroccan floor tiles set in a vibrant zigzag pattern. Bougainvillea spills over the crenelated walls, and antique French Provençal Terracotta Olive Jars jostle with rain-washed Bastide stone troughs and mixed with collaged Greige Limestone urns. The sea air and sibilant surf sounds layer on the ancient Sicilian atmosphere.



An arched steel-framed doorway opens the Antique Marble floored study into the sculptural garden filled with antique limestone planters, Stone Troughs and Ancient Columns all courtesy of Ancient Surfaces

Richard Shapiro’s ‘collector’s cabinet’ study is a theatrical refuge with prized North African photography, a turned-leg eighteen-century Spanish desk, and an antique Marble and Basalt checkerboard floor original and antique, reclaimed by Ancient Surfaces. Walls are plastered using a traditional Moroccan technique. 

At Broad Beach, Shapiro’s perfect day begins with an early morning walk on the beach, discovering sculptural rocks washed ashore beveled and smoothed out over million of years.

“On a summer day, friends arrive for lunch that lingers on until the evening,” he said. “We sit outside listening to the waves, a full moon rises, the stars and constellations are bright. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.”

exterior archway
exterior fountain and archway

exterior doorway

Shapiro designed sweet places for repose—including an outdoor terrace and a plastered hemispherical niche with a custom-designed curved sofa. 
In the Morocco-style courtyard, zigzag tiles were from Marrakesh. 
Antique Reclaimed Kronos Limestone provided by Ancient Surfaces all-through the inside and outside of this marvelous Malibu Villa.


All photographs by the brilliant photographer Lisa Romerein.
All Architectural Stone Elements, including Limestone Flooring, Wall Cosmati Mosaic, Living Room and Library Fireplaces, Carved decorative stone elements and more were provided by Ancient Surfaces.

Past Perfect, Richard Shapiro Houses and Gardens By Rizzoli Books.
Lisa, based in Santa Monica, photographs for many publications including C magazine, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Veranda Magazine and Santa Barbara magazine.

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