Visit Cliff Fong’s lavish home in Los Angeles

For designer Cliff Fong, serenity can be found in a simple, sustainable lifestyle. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 1953 ranch-style house he moved into four years ago in a quiet neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles.

Here, Fong, the director behind Los Angeles-based design firm Matt Blacke, followed the visual vocabulary he often uses in his projects, combining vintage Scandinavian and French masterpieces with understated yet opulent floor coverings, contemporary art and family heirlooms that tell a story.

A partition wall by Jean Prouvé separates the living and dining areas. The sofa is by Børge Mogensen, the pendant by Serge Mouille and the console by Charlotte Perriand. The rug is by Woven and the artwork above the console is by Darren Bader.

William Abranowicz

Fong had been looking for a new home for about nine months when he found this, a mid-century home that had undergone extensive renovations in the 1990s, retaining post-modern remnants as quirky cutouts and finishes. Some of these details worked with his vision, while others, like the original mismatched mahogany floor, had to disappear. “It was a pretty nondescript structure,” says Fong. “But the great thing about it being simple was that I could easily see where changes could be made.”

Fong made numerous interior changes: he replaced the floors with poured concrete, expanded the entrance of the house and created an addition for a new bedroom suite. Outside the house, he cleared a thick thicket of bamboo to make way for a garden full of tropical plants and palms. To set the mood for the dinner parties he likes to organize, Fong devised an entertaining oasis on the terrace, where a table under an iron canopy sits with an artichoke lamp by Poul Henningsen – the kind of find you can easily imagine among the inventory at Galerie Half, the influential Los Angeles design store co-owned by Fong.

one bedroom has a bed with gray linen sheets and duvet, a geometric pattern carpet, a wood and leather armchair, a sculpture on the floor and two works of art on the wall by the door to the dressing room

Artwork by Gonzalo Lebrija (left) and Lita Albuquerque flank the door to the walk-in closet of the primary suite. The bedding is by Matteo, the chair is by Mats Theselius and the table is by Chuck Moffit. The walls are painted in Smoke Embers by Benjamin Moore, the tapestry is by Woven and the sculpture is by Michael Wilson.

William Abranowicz

The real star of the garden is a wall featuring Fong’s collection of over 400 species of orchids. These, along with the many other plants in the garden, are irrigated with wastewater from the concrete koi pond that Fong has built. “Much of my inspiration comes from nature,” says Fong, who calls himself an “armchair botanist.” He fondly remembers the time when his mother let him take over the family basement as a 10-year-old. “I had ten aquariums there with all kinds of reptiles and amphibians,” he recalls. “When I got this house, I wanted to relive the things I loved so much as a kid and relive them as an adult.”

These kinds of circular moments recur throughout the house. In a particularly telling gesture, Fong placed a family heirloom from his parents — a 19th-century black-lacquered secretary — in his son’s bedroom. To liven up the youngster’s space, a paper Japanese puffer fish hangs from the ceiling, which picks up the primary blues and yellows found in a Gina Beavers painting hanging over the bedroom door.

in the walk-in closet is a set of shelves with shoes and objects, floor-to-ceiling cabinets and open storage shelves along left and right walls, a large mirror is on the back wall and the owner's dog is on the right

Fong designed his walk-in closet around a vintage Le Corbusier shelf. The cabinets are custom made, the vintage pendant is Dutch and the artwork is by Dan Finsel.

William Abranowicz

Fong’s primary suite is an entirely more modernist affair. Inside the cabinet, a Le Corbusier rack acts as an island, influencing the custom cabinetry and millwork in the rest of the space. Another icon, Jean Prouvé, designed the desk in his bedroom. The chair, also by Prouvé, was one of the first investment pieces Fong bought when he made the transition from fashion to the interior world some two decades ago.

Today, the house reflects both Fong’s stripped-down sensibility and his active imagination. Natural light and strategically placed windows bridge the gap between the designer’s layered interiors and the generative presence of nature. A slanted window above the bookcase in the living room abstractly frames the vibrant skies of Los Angeles. Opposite the Børge Mogensen leather sofa that dominates the room, a Jean Prouvé wall divider separates this space from the dining area, centering on a Charlotte Perriand table and stools. A skylight cut into the space above a back door lets in pure, unobstructed light, some of which is absorbed by a dark circular painting by Michelle Grabner. A circular window in the foyer completes this light-filled story, ensuring that the home’s opulent exterior is not forgotten with every step.

an outdoor patio under a steel pergola has a wicker bench, a dining table with chairs and a hanger above, the ground has concrete tiles atop stone pavers, a koi pond and hanging pots of plants

The garden terrace is equipped with a Van Keppel-Green table surrounded by Mathieu Matégot chairs. The pendant is by Louis Poulsen.

William Abranowicz

The greenery creeping its way in complements Fong’s go-to palette of gray, brown, black, and blue. Everything in this 2400 square foot home is perfectly balanced. It’s a lifestyle change for this former jet setter who now enjoys nothing more than a quiet evening at home with family and friends. “This house gave me the freedom to revisit things I enjoyed that had nothing to do with traveling the world or being in fancy hotels,” says Fong. “The advantage of getting older is that we know our limits and our strengths. I think a house should be an extension of that.”

April 2022 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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