You shouldn’t be surprised if you’re slightly overwhelmed at first impression. In the lobby of a new Los Angeles apartment building, handblown glass chandeliers by a Murano-trained artisan glisten overhead. Behind the concierge desk, multi-colored patterned paper circles, inspired by Japanese kites, interweave in a radiant backdrop. Dark brown slabs of travertine quarried in Iran, then cut into slabs and polished in Italy, line the expansive floor. The gleaming blue lacquer and patinated bronze of a staircase—designed to allow the residents and their guests to proceed directly to the screening room—transform it into a grand conversation piece.
Shamir Shah cites the “richness of materiality” found throughout the lobby and the amenity spaces. But that hardly begins to describe the opulence and elegance filling the three levels, totaling 75,000 square feet, of what is New York–based Shamir Shah Design’s first multi-unit residential project on the West Coast.
The 40-story tower by Handel Architects, developed by Crescent Heights and named Ten Thousand after its address on Santa Monica Boulevard, lies on the border of L.A. proper and Beverly Hills. A porous but noticeable frontier, it separates restraint from excess and refinement from banality. The development is furthermore emblematic of a changing city, increasingly embracing height in the service of a convenient location.
Shah was enlisted, he remembers, with a mandate to design a holistic interior with one overarching goal, to integrate sculpture, painting, and photography as seamlessly as possible. “When we were developing the spaces, very early on, Crescent Heights particularly asked us for a strong art program,” he says. “That was music to our ears.”
Characteristic of his style, inspired by the simplicity of European mid-century modernists, the presence of art impresses without overwhelming. Each piece has a purpose, some sort of significance. There isn’t a better example of that than the sitting room where the portraits on the walls are of famous Californians, among them Isadora Duncan, James Dean, and Isamu Noguchi—a nod to the building’s location on the site of the celebrity hangout Jimmy’s restaurant, which once would have welcomed them.
Up on two and three, where most of the amenities are found, artworks make local references in different ways. Aerial photographs of L.A. hang in the business center. A bas-relief map of the city fills an end wall in the lounge, anchoring the long space. In the game room, equipped with a billard table and a full bar, a black- and-white photomural of the Mojave Desert stretches across one side.
Abstraction plays a part as well. A curvy plaster sculpture by artist Malcolm Hill, who happens to be Shah’s partner in life, stands guard down in the lobby—a white apparition contrasting with the grid of small bronze-colored wall tile. In the gym, hand-cut tile creates the blue, green, red, brown, and white shapes of a mosaic mural.
With the art providing the pow, Shah kept the background muted, albeit richly textured. Walls are paneled with cerused oak, raked limestone, or patinated bronze. Rugs are in neutral tones, either striped or monochromatic.
“I think of L.A. as being the quintessential multicultural metropolis,” he says. “This interior channels some of the global flavor.” Furniture and lighting represent France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Japan in addition to the U.S.
Most specifically embodying Angeleno indoor-outdoor living, the lounge opens to a garden on top of the garage. Despite the surrounding office buildings, there’s an atmosphere of privacy and serenity, the ultimate luxury in any city. “I am floored by the flora and fauna here,” he enthuses. “I think it’s incredible that, despite a constant lack of water, you have the most incredible stuff growing all over.”
If Shah sounds besotted with L.A., that’s because, as a result of his time on-site for this project, his understanding and appreciation for the city have grown exponentially. “I hear they’re building a wall to stop New Yorkers from moving out,” he jokes.