Inside Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s Nurturing Los Angeles Refuge
Cadiz, who grew up in Hollywood and worked for years as an ornament decorator before moving into residential design, clearly understood the task. “Viola and Julius have such vibrant personalities, but their home was very minimal – 50 Shades of Grey,” notes the designer. “They wanted something not too loud or pretentious, something comfortable, a place to relax and recover their energy. But they also wanted something special, a feast for the eyes and the soul. Finding the right mix was key,” she continues.
Cadiz and her team oblige their high-profile clients with soothing and sophisticated interior ensembles where understated backdrops are punctuated with vibrant artwork and decorative accents, many in the form of graphic backdrops: a metallic Matthew Williamson design with a dragonfly motif – symbolizing transformation and self-realization – on the ceiling of the primary dressing room; a coral-colored palm paper in the guest room; and, in the home gym, a dynamic hand-screened wall covering derived from Andy Warhol’s Polaroids of Muhammad Ali. “When you think of The Champ, you think of his courage and resilience, his contributions to the US and the world,” Tennon says of the, um, tough model. Adds Davis, “Having him there, watching you, really keeps you on the treadmill.” (Based on the physique of her incredible performance in The Woman King, the motivation clearly paid off.)
A custom sectional covered in a Schumacher fabric is joined by a Palecek cocktail table and lounge chairs in the family room. Photograph (above fireplace) by David Ballam.
Despite their busy careers and hectic schedules, when at home Davis and Tennon enjoy spending time in the kitchen—centered on an island lying beneath glass globe pendant lights—that isn’t just a showpiece. “Right now we’re getting ready to have 50 people over for Thanksgiving and Viola and I are doing all the cooking. We’re not playing,” insists Tennon, before offering some sage advice for making a delicious smoked turkey. If the kitchen is the social heart of the home, the couple’s bedroom, bathed in shades of pale yellow and ivory, is its tranquil soul. In addition to using plush appointments and muted colors, Cadiz expanded the bathtub to accommodate the couple’s penchant for bathing together after long days on set and in the spotlight. “We talk, we laugh hysterically, we reconnect,” Davis says of the necessary coziness. “Our definition of home is a sanctuary, and this is definitely a sanctuary.”
The color palette in the master suite opens up a level to the cozy living room off the bedroom, where pinks, golds and shades of green enliven the tranquil backdrop. Furniture includes a pair of mid-century lounge chairs picked up at an estate sale in Hancock Park. “It’s nice to have furniture that tells a story, things with a story,” Tennon says, describing the old pieces and auction finds that pepper the house. Indeed, he’s something of an authority—in addition to his extensive acting and producing credits, he spent nearly a decade working at a furniture showroom in Santa Monica called Prince of Wales, which specialized in antiques and reproductions. English.