Naturals with Neutrals

Posted online: March 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.23.42 PM

By Christine Lennon Photographs by Lisa Romerin

Susan Keeney believes in fate. Four years ago, when she and her husband, Stephen, were on a buying trip for their antiques stores, Lucca, they purchased a monumental copper sculpture made by lighting designer Serge Mouille when he was a professor at the Olivier de Serre art school in Paris in 1977. It’s a rare piece. It weighs thousands of pounds. And they had no one in mind to sell it to, nowhere to put it. “That’s what we do,” Susan says, with a shrug, from the dining table of her new home in Montecito. “We buy things before we know what we’re going to do with them.”

The Keeneys’ taste for European antiques—a finely edited selection of items acquired during their frequent trips everywhere from Spain to Sweden—is well-known coast to coast. Stephen, a former philosophy professor, works on restorations and builds custom light fixtures, often from antique or reclaimed materials. Susan, an author and founder of cancer survivor’s group Cancervive (as a teenager, she had a rare form of the disease), is drawn to artfully made items in organic materials such as wood, leather, or stone that have acquired a muted patina.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.23.59 PM

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.24.13 PMThe couple met at an antiques show in Redondo Beach 15 years ago and have opened stores on La Cienega in Los Angles and on 61st Street in Manhattan; their Lucca brand attracts people who share their love of neutral tones, texture, and bold, intriguing pieces—including serial renovator and design aficionado Ellen DeGeneres and Santa Barbara-based interior designer Kyle Irwin to name a few. Susan also works with select interior design clients such as former golf pro Fred Couples, who has a home in Newport Beach.

Nearly every dramatic impulse buy the Keeneys make in Europe for Lucca quickly finds its way into some of the most exquisite homes in the country. Nothing seems to collect dust on the selling floor or sit in storage for long. However, they were saving the Mouille sculpture for that “one day” scenario, when Stephen and Susan (a lifelong Angeleno) would realize their dream of selling their Brentwood house, packing up, and heading north on the 101. “We have a lot of clients here. I do some interior design work as well. And we just fell in love with Montecito,” she says. “We knew we wanted to make our lives here, but we are not retired, and we want to work.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.24.28 PMLast December, after making repeated offers on what Susan describes as a “nondescript ’80s ranch house,” they purchased the property from a German industrialist and began to quickly Lucca-fy the space. They gutted it, added a soaring wall of windows inthe living room to create a view of the mountains, and installed their signature finishes: bluestone tile, Belgian-oak floors, and their favorite paint colors for every project—hushed Rockport Gray and warm Ballet White by Benjamin Moore. Outside, they bulldozed a tennis court and planted an olive grove. And they installed the Mouille piece on a flat parcel of land edged by low trees whose crooked branches echo the angles of the sculpture.

For the Keeneys, the renovation and interior design was the easy Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.24.35 PMpart. The challenge was figuring out how to maintain their business so they could spend the days when they aren’t at a hotel or on a plane in their slice of paradise. In typical fashion, Susan made a sizable leap of faith and transferred the whole operation—their offices, restoration facilities, and an enormous showroom—to a 35,000-square-foot facility in Carpinteria, the largest industrial space in the area. Judging by the reception of Lucca’s opening early this year and Susan’s propensity for bold moves and grand gestures, the entire community has benefited from her unique optimism and impeccable vision.

[HOME & GARDEN 2016]

Tagged in: , , ,

Leave a Comment