x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Between Hollywood and the Middle East, luxury is relative

Designer Living For the architect Richard Landry, comfortable spaces and family connections are top priorities.

Richard Landry's home in Malibu, California, incorporates timber from a 100-year-old barn from his hometown in Quebec, Canada.
Richard Landry's home in Malibu, California, incorporates timber from a 100-year-old barn from his hometown in Quebec, Canada.

Richard Landry, a Los Angeles-based architect, has been named as one of the world's top 100 designers by Architectural Digest. He prides himself on having no definitive style, instead using a hybrid of "modern to classic" architecture in a portfolio that includes homes for Hollywood's elite and several large houses in the Middle East.

Did your childhood home have an influence on what you do now? I was born in Quebec, Canada, in a town of just 5,000 people. It was a conventional upbringing in a conventional home; my father was a carpenter and my mother a homemaker - but both were very creative. I felt I had a blessed childhood despite its modesty. I am told that at the age of six, however, I announced that I wanted to design houses and buildings and I never deviated from that.

Were you keen to escape your small-town roots? I didn't move too far from home when I was young; there was little opportunity and, as we spoke only French, travel was limited. I went to study architecture at the University of Montreal and then started travelling with a passion. I was fortunate to graduate top of my class and received a grant to study in Copenhagen. While there I fell in love with Europe - and a lot of my architecture takes on elements of classical European design.

Where do you live now? Mainly in Malibu, California, with my partner and our nine-year-old daughter. Our house stands on a cliff-top with panoramic ocean views and is very special. Much of the design incorporates timber from a 100-year-old barn I bought from a farmer in my old hometown and being able to use it in our everyday lives makes the childhood memories flood back. We also have a ski chalet in Mammoth Lakes, California, and a cottage on a lake in Quebec.

Do you have a favourite among your houses? I love them equally in different ways: the spectacular views and vast open spaces that surround the Malibu house; the fabulous mountains at Mammoth that we can reach in just a couple of hours' drive; and the house in Quebec is a wonderful place to bond with family and lifelong friends. The location was so important when choosing all of the houses, as was the spatial flow of the house - openness and a high level of privacy is a common bond they all share.

Have you changed much about your houses over the years? We put a lot of thought into our present and future needs when we built the houses so there has been no real need. For instance, we knew we were going to have children so our daughter's room was planned before she was born. It's very comfortable and we're not precious about it - the floors are concrete and our daughter happily rides her bike around; it was never intended to be a showpiece.

Do you and your partner share the same tastes? My taste is contemporary while my partner's is more traditional - every home we have built has been a hybrid of our tastes and pushed each of us to think outside our comfort level. It helps that I work like that professionally; our clients are often couples with vastly differing tastes and our task is to find out how to accommodate both.

What is your favourite room in your house? It's a close call between my gym - a very comfortable space that allows me to totally unwind - and our Great Room with its 36-foot ceiling and huge wall of glass. It's where we watch TV, dine and entertain. We designed the house so that everything gravitates towards that room and it's such a warm, cosy space despite its volume.

And your favourite room ever? That would be the open porch at the lake house in Quebec simply because of its peacefulness and the connection with loved ones. I get up in the morning and enjoy my latte there when the lake is quiet, then have lunch or dinner there with family and friends. The connection to that "room" goes far beyond bricks and mortar.

What for you is the difference between a house and a home? All the memories make my house a home - and because of that it's the place that, no matter where I am in the world, I can't wait to come back to. A house becomes a home when it allows you to feel secure, safe and comfortable.

What to you is the meaning of luxury in relation to your homes? Luxury is so relative. I live in a world where I create extreme homes for wealthy clients, and people ask me why anyone needs a home of 50,000 square feet; to that I say why does anyone even need a home of 3,000 square feet? Our Malibu house is 5,000 square feet and for us that means the luxury of having a gym and for my daughter to have a room large enough for space to study and play her piano. It's nice to have those things but we are not a slave to them.