Luxe Living: Jonathan Genton

[cs_dropcap column_size=”1/1″ dropcap_style=”box” dropcap_size=”0″ dropcap_color=”#fff” dropcap_bg_color=”#d7df21″]Real estate developer Jonathan Genton has worked on large-scale master communities throughout California and Hawaii. Most recently, he’s joined with a management team from the Four Seasons Private Residences, global architecture firm Callison RTKL and Webcor Builders on the rise of the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles, a 12-story luxury condo development set to begin welcoming residents in mid-2019. DIGS talked with the founder and CEO of L.A.-based Genton Property Group ( to discover more about this high-profile project, what prompted his real estate direction, and other developments.[/cs_dropcap]

How did you decide on a career in real estate development?

JG: Growing up in L.A., I was always fascinated by architecture and planning. At the time, I didn’t understand what a developer was, so I was naturally drawn to the architecture, urban-planning and finance aspects of real estate. I pursued these disciplines while at UCLA and saw them all come together in development. I haven’t looked back since.

What does it take to bring a property such as the Four Seasons Private Residences to market for the first time?

JG: This is a world-class property surrounded by the low-profile neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and the fashionable North Robertson District, where the views are nothing short of spectacular. Bringing a property of this caliber to market for the first time takes an enormous amount of patience and dedication. To have a vision with a team and partners for this type of development is of utmost importance, and it takes intent, focus and passion to pull off this sort of project. Every day is a surreal moment for our team—seeing our vision come to life.


What’s significant about the development?

JG: The coveted, 12-story tower comprises 59 custom for-sale homes crafted by the world’s most iconic hospitality brand. Offering dramatic views of Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills, exclusive amenities include a sensual pool, spa and chic lounge, a sprawling indoor-outdoor fitness center, a spacious IMAX private theater and screening room, and dining experiences by Four Seasons. A penthouse sits at the very top, taking up the entire top floor and top roof terrace. This property is extremely private and rare for a location like this in L.A.

You talk about setting a new standard for luxury living in Southern California. What does that look like to you?

JG: Providing a service-rich environment in a dedicated residential tower. The Four Seasons Private Residences brings the best-in-class brand to curate the daily art of living by creating a private enclave where services are catered to the individual without sharing services or amenities with a public-facing commercial property.


What makes for the perfect residential condo space?

JG: A private and service-rich environment that takes advantage of light, air and space in the simplest of forms.

Describe your dream residential project.

JG: The Four Seasons Private Residences is my ship in a bottle. This development takes everything—from my earliest memories of seeing beautiful architecture, to what I’ve learned throughout my career—and puts them together, ultimately creating this masterpiece.

What was your first residential development and what made it successful?

JG: Years ago in Westlake Village, I was the development manager on Lake Sherwood and was exposed to a variety of buyers who, in the end, sought an experience and a special place. Throughout my career I have tried my best to accomplish the same sought-out-feeling, only now I do it from an urban context.


Tell us about current and future events and trends in L.A.’s luxury marketplace?

JG: I think L.A.’s luxury marketplace will see a greater adoption of condominiums in general. Living in vertical buildings is not what L.A. is known for, but we will see a trend and then a wave of vertical living experiences across all levels. I think the expectation for taller, more elegant and distinctive buildings is coming too.

If you weren’t working as a developer, what would you like to be doing?

JG: I am a builder at heart and have always been fascinated by functional and mechanical design. So, something in industrial design would probably be my next industry of choice.

What is forthcoming for you and GPG?

JG: fter the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles project, my team and I will be exploring the opportunity to create housing for everyone. We’ll be taking the experiences of the luxury product and applying its essence to all projects across the demand spectrum.

As Told to Wendy Bowman  |  Photography / Renderings courtesy of Callison RTKL. Portrait Courtesy of Genton Property Group.

Q&A: Aaron Kirman Major Asset

As a young boy growing up in Los Angeles, in a family of modest means, real estate entrepreneur Aaron Kirman used to ride his bike to an upscale neighborhood in the Valley just to glimpse all of the expensive homes for sale. He also begged his parents to take him to open houses. Despite suffering from severe learning disabilities—including dyslexia and a speech impediment that prevented him from saying the letter “R”—he entered the real estate ranks at age 18 while attending USC and never looked back.

Fast-forward to today, and the 39-year-old is one of the most successful real estate agents not only in L.A., where he is based, but across the globe as well, amassing an exclusive client roster rife with CEOs, celebrities and royalty, selling $3.5 billion in homes to date. He also appears regularly on CNBC’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich, and was named the 12th top real estate agent in the U.S. by The Wall Street Journal in 2016. Here, Kirman, president of Aaroe Estates, the luxury property division of the John Aaroe Group, divulges to DIGS how he got into real estate, his personal abodes, the secret of his success and more.


I put myself through college selling real estate. When other kids were in school and partying, I was working and obsessed with real estate and doing deals. I fell into a cool niche selling architectural homes by R.M. Schindler and John Lautner, and people started to recognize my name. Then I was an executive and ran the architectural division at Hilton & Hyland for about nine years, and shifted into the estate division at John Aaroe Group about five years ago. Now, we have the largest market share of the most expensive homes in country.


It just continues to grow with some of the country’s most expensive estates. We recently sold the Danny Thomas estate for $65 million, which was the second-highest sale in Beverly Hills. I now have about $650 million in active inventory. We have five estates above $50 million; I like to specialize in uber-high-priced and very unique homes. I’m also working on building my team, which has been a fun challenge. We have about 30 on our team. I’ve been selling solo for many years, and now have the dynamics of a team. I like to call them my kids, even though some are 60 years old. I like to watch their careers grow; it’s been inspiring for me. They need me, and my portfolio and contacts, and I can teach them.

TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE HOMES YOU HAVE IN YOUR INVENTORY RIGHT NOW. Some of my actives include the Edie Goetz estate in Bel Air for $79 million (where the socialite lived and hosted extravagant parties), and an $85 million mansion in Beverly Hills that both Cher and Eddie Murphy lived in at one time. From there, I have a stunning $60 million compound on the ocean that was in a TV show and has been leased by some of top celebrities in the country, and a gorgeous, uber-modern $49 million house owned by fashion designer Charles Park of Sugarlips. I also have a bunch of beautiful moderns priced from $20 million. I still love listing some of my old stuff, like a beautiful [Richard] Neutra in Hollywood Hills. It has significant architecture, and I’m looking for the right buyer who’s going to restore it.


I’ve worked with sheiks from the Middle East, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia; celebrities from Orlando Bloom to Rihanna to Nicki Minaj; and fashion designers like Jeremy Scott. Everyone is so interesting, and they all have a unique story. What’s fun is the diversity, from royalty to celebrities to CEOs to just ordinary people. I also love helping my friends buy their houses and seeing the growth of some of my friends. I’ve represented some friends who were buying starter homes 20 years ago and now they’re in $15 million houses.

IS THERE ONE TYPE OF ARCHITECTURE THAT PARTICULARLY APPEALS TO YOU? I’m personally a big fan of Mid-Century homes. Houses done in the 1960s, and sometimes ’50s, were so advanced and ahead of their time, with walls of glass and indoor-outdoor spaces. Some of those architects were masters at figuring out the right house to put on the right site. Lately, I’ve been a fan of transitional architecture, where you have a traditional style and more modern interiors. I’ve seen a lot of that during my travels in Europe.


Los Angeles is the hottest real estate market on the planet; it’s crazy how hot our market is. There is so much wealth all over and so many people from across the globe—from Europe, Asia and the East Coast—are pouring money here. L.A. is hotter than New York and other markets that used to be bigger. We have some of the most expensive sales in the world right now in Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills. The price increases we’ve seen to date are astronomical. We have had four sales of about $100 million, and that’s crazy. We never would have been close to demanding those dollar amounts 10 years ago. It’s amazing, and it’s only going to go up. L.A. is cheap, according to the world market. You get so much bang for your buck here for whatever your budget is: more land and space, and that’s what’s driving our market to be so good.



One is privacy, which is the most important desire for people with wealth, and the second is grounds or view. We have sold homes with almost every amenity possible—from theater-sized media rooms to wine cellars that could hold 80,000 bottles—but, primarily, people want land, privacy and a view.


I sell really big, gorgeous, opulent homes…and I like simple, beautiful homes. I live in a high-rise, and I just bought a house in Beverly Hills with walls of glass. It’s a modern house with a pool, great indoor-outdoor flow and an open floor plan, and it’s great for entertaining and living a happy life. I personally don’t have a desire to live in a huge house, although I do love to sell them.


I love my master bedroom; it’s my retreat—my space where I have my privacy and my time alone. There’s nothing like being able to go home and rest in your room at night. In my high-rise, I love my view. I’m on a high floor and can see the entire city—from Downtown to Century City—and that’s also pretty great.


Being able to live the life I choose to live. That doesn’t necessarily come in the form of material objects. I’m blessed to have pretty much any material object I desire, but it really means to live a great life and to spend time with friends and family, to eat well, and to travel and see the world. I live a very wonderful life that is well-rounded, and I’m proud of that. It’s not easy to do that at the level of real estate I do. I take time for family, friends and myself.


In general, successful people are very strategic; you have to be. You have to be ahead of the curve, and able to make the curve. You have to be creative. Successful people don’t want to follow the pack, but they have to be ahead of the pack. Strategic alliances, partnerships and team work also are important. Marketing and advertising are super important as well. Even print; people say print is dead, but I disagree. People still love to read, and that’s what sells. Tech is uber-important in the national and international world; we’re spending more energy and money on that. Social media is super important, and continuing to develop contacts and the networks we have. Taking time to tell stories about the properties and clients, even ourselves, is important. I always like progressing and finding bigger and better ways to do something.


The world has changed, and it’s a really competitive business. But, if someone wants to get in it, they need to be passionate and prepared to work super hard and find what is going to make them different so they will stand out from the crowd. The main piece of advice is you should specialize in something and be unique, and if you do that, you will have a great chance at success. For me, I like to tell the story of someone with a modest upbringing who had challenges growing up, and for the grace of God and luck, has sold $3.5 billion of homes to some of the most famous people in the world. I like people to know that they can do whatever they want to do with hard work. It’s not always based on who you know and having a privileged background. I look back and I’m super grateful, and sometimes I pinch myself and say, ‘Wow, I did it.” But I always knew I would and I feel like we’ve just begun. I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re just beginning.


I love to travel and explore the world, and I mediate every day. I love dinners with friends; I just spent a Sunday by the pool with lots of friends. I love to be by the water, whether it’s a pool or the beach. I also love to bike ride. I just like to live.


We’re doing a lot of TV these days. I’m a spokesperson for CNBC’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich. I love getting interviewed on TV about where the market is and where we’re going. I also love building a team that’s already one of the most knowledgeable and successful in the country, and getting bigger and better every day. I’d like to expand our market share. We have the best inventory in L.A. and abroad, but I would like to develop more international and national alliances.

Photography Courtesy of Matthew Momberger and Michael McNamara

A True Original

Revolutionizing and Nurturing Authentic Furniture Design


USC alumnus Jerry Helling has revolutionized Bernhardt Design, one of America’s oldest furniture companies, all while tirelessly working to preserve authentic design. Approaching furniture ideas from fresh perspectives and investing in LA County’s young designers, DIGS gets a snapshot of this visionary’s direction.

Since the onset of his career, Jerry Helling, president and creative director of Bernhardt Design, has elevated the company from a family-run wooden furniture business to an internationally acclaimed design brand with a conscious. Celebrating his 25th anniversary with Bernhardt, Helling has accomplished much for the future of streamlined furniture design.

Famously known for collaborating and nurturing fierce talent from all over the world, Helling has brought under Bernhardt’s umbrella such talents as Ross Lovegrove, who designed the famed Go chair, and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, designer of the cheeky backless-armless sofa in the brand’s recent Colours collection. With a vast hit list of unique and groundbreaking designs from great creatives, Helling shares,

“There’s no particular formula I use to find great designers; I am just attracted to really talented people…not necessarily furniture designers, either. They are typically photographers, fashion designer, artists, or the like. This allows a fresh perspective and approach to design.”

Bernhardt remains a family-owned business, one with a history of being lovingly committed to community and environmental welfare. Helling himself holds an even deeper conviction to maintaining design authenticity and nurturing young talent. One initiative dear to his heart is Be Original Americas, a program created to educate consumers and designers on why we should concern ourselves with original design, which is not limited to furniture design or apparel design or art, but is an architectural, museum and music issue, as well. Helling was the first president of the program—originally a collective idea encompassing 10 different manufacturers and designers that addressed compromised designs (aka knockoffs), taking the problem from a conversation to action. The group offers education through lectures, events and teaching young designers one on one. Now on the board after years of service, Helling explains, “There are environmental, performance, and social issues about where and how these products are made, and in the end, copying a design is stealing.” Thus, the Be Original website calls designers, decorators, architects, musicians, interior designers and anyone in the creative field to join the initiative to protect design originality.

On a similar note, Helling is part of a handful of programs for design students and young designers just starting out, including Tools for School initiative, Contempto and The Carrot Concept in El Salvador, yet his self-proclaimed favorite project, ICFF Studio, is based in Los Angeles County at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Here, students gain professional hands-on experience such as seeing a product from conception to completion then through the sales and marketing process, and, finally, to retail. Bernhardt Design, meanwhile, presents these designs at market, and even pays royalties to students for their original work. Every other week each fall, Helling actually works in the school’s studio, where six local LA design students recently won candidacy for the Bernhardt ICFF scholarship project.

Furniture by Bernhardt Design is available locally at Twentieth in Los Angeles as well Hive Modern. Outside of growing the company’s brand, Helling desires to encourage the design community to strive for accountability and originality to preserve and protect the industry as well as nurture and protect talent.

Written by Joclene Davey | Photography courtesy of Bernhardt Design


Magic Touch

Interior Designer Tamara Kaye-Honey taps her own instincts to conjure truly mesmerizing designs

Written by Abigail Stone

“I was doing people’s houses and pretending I knew what I was doing. Of course, I’d gone to design school so I had the basics, but I didn’t have any subcontractors or any resources out here,” says interior designer Tamara Kaye-Honey, describing her early industry forays. It’s clear that the fearlessness apparent in her work isn’t an act,but an integral part of who she is.

Witness her first big break, which took place while she was having her hair done. “The owner of the salon said ‘I’m going to redo the space and we’re going to hire a big design firm and this is what we’re going to do. What do you think?’” Kaye-Honey had a different vision and proceeded to explain. “I remember walking around with the foils in my hair and showing him.” She was hired. That strong sense of conviction, coupled with curiosity and adventurousness, has steered Kaye-Honey, in a little bit over a decade, from a career in fashion as a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman in New York, to a place on magazine interior design hot lists. Though Lonny christened her style “New Vintage,” she’s less driven by a theme than by a sense of story. “I let the architectural elements guide what the rooms wanted to be,” she recalls, referring to a house, featured in a recent issue of California Home + Design, that she conjured up for a family in Altadena. Originally designed by Reginald Johnson, who also did The Biltmore, in Santa Barbara, the sprawling 13,000-square-foot estate, built in 1915, might have intimidated another designer. Not Kaye-Honey. Seeing past its size, its dark wood paneling and its history, she transformed the home into a space that is at once stately and inviting. Modern and vintage, high and low are swirled together in a seamless mix that renders the house comfortable and playful.

She’s using those same instincts to steer her work on a mixed-use property in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District and a hotel in Santa Barbara. “It’s got a really interesting past and I’m going to use that to guide the design,” she says of her plans  for the hotel. The ability to trust her gut may be one reason why Kaye-Honey has endeared herself to some of the city’s top chefs, who’ve turned to her to interpret their passions via design. Crossings in Pasadena, Providence in Hollywood and Otium, The Broad Museum’s highly anticipated restaurant, have all been brushed with Kaye-Honey’s rich yet approachable glamour. Her work on Providence, she recalls, began with a lot of meetings, often over meals. “[Chef Michael Cimarusti] would cook for me and I would get to see his style and his passion in the food and that translated into the new design of the restaurant,” a transformation that she orchestrated in under a month. “I think we actually closed for only 11 days total,” a Herculean feat that was wildly successful. “When I did Crossings, I never thought that one restaurant would turn into an opportunity to do [Providence] and I love food and wine… so it was a natural extension and progression of my passions.” And, in the small world that is the restaurant business, it also opened the door to more opportunities. “With Otium, as you can imagine, there are many people involved: a kitchen designer, Timothy Harrison, who does the most high-end kitchen designs in the world; two contractors; two architects; myself; and then [restaurateur Bill Chait’s go-to design firm] Studio Unlimited. So I’ve never really worked in this forum before but it’s just great. I’m just going for it.”

Working on Otium has also given her the chance to collaborate with the craftspeople she admires, like lighting designer Neptune Glassworks and furniture creator Chris Earle, to design custom pieces for the restaurant. Though there are things she’d like to do in the future — “I’d love to do an airport lounge!” — for right now she’s excited about the adventures unfolding right in front of her. “We’ll see where it goes. I think part of the fun is not knowing where it’s going to take you.” Wherever the journey leads, Kaye-Honey will always conjure up beautiful spaces.

House of Honey

1518 Mission Street, South Pasadena, CA 91030 — 626.441.2454
525 San Ysidro Road, Montecito, CA 93108 — 805.969.7444

Winning Spirit

Byron Scott on performance, private passions and keeping his famously even keel.

Written by Constance Dunn | Photography by Paul Jonason

In 1983 Byron Scott received a phone call that changed his life.

The Arizona State star basketball player was a transplant from Inglewood, California, who had dominated the Sun Devils squad since 1979 with record-busting seasons that earned him a place in the university’s Hall of Fame. It also gained him an entrée as first inductee into the school’s Pac-10 Hall of Honor, among a heap of other accolades. At the moment, though, he was just waiting on some news.

“I was 21 years old,” recalls Scott, settling into his chair. “I had been drafted by the Clippers, which was one of the happiest days of my life. To be drafted into the NBA, that was a goal of mine for years. Ever since I was 8 years old, I always told my mom and dad I was going to play in the NBA, so that was a goal I was about to see come true.”

“Then my favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers, called me and told me they’re about to make a trade,” he continues. “I nearly died and went to heaven when I got the call that I was traded to the Lakers. It was obviously the best thing in my life. I was a boy from Inglewood, California, who had been watching the Lakers for years, and now I get the opportunity to play for my home team, the team that I love the most.”

In the 30 odd years since that call, Scott has held onto a continuum of success—first as a player, then as a head coach—in a demanding and sometimes fickle industry. Here, he shares some secrets to his longevity.

Powered from within and above

Novelist George Orwell once famously said, “At age 50, every man has the face he deserves.” If true, Scott has piled up his fair share of merit. His complexion has the smooth suppleness of a man at least a decade younger. His hazel eyes strike amber in the sunlight and he’s maintained the taut physique of a disciplined athlete. “I was nervous my first game—until I got on the court and the ball was thrown up into the air, ” says Scott, recounting his fledgling steps on an NBA court during game time. “You forget about everything else that’s going on and you really focus in on what you’ve got to do.” It makes sense, considering that the young athlete had already logged countless hours of his life on the basketball court before he strolled into the Great Western Forum, a bona fide pro who could snap into game mode in an instant. But there was something else at play—namely, the cool assurance that come what may, everything would be just fine. “Something my dad and mom taught me from a very early age is to shoot for the stars,” says Scott. “They always told me to go at it 110 percent. But if you don’t make it, at least you can look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what? I gave it everything I got.’”

In other words, instilled in Scott, perhaps before his fingers had ever touched a basketball, was the idea that winning in the conventional sense did not automatically mean that one had won in the personal or spiritual realm. And vice versa. “I have an inner peace within myself that keeps me grounded, and keeps me level,” Scott says slowly. “I never really get too high or too low. I kind of take everything as it comes. Even during stressful situations I always want to have an even keel.” An asset of temperamental gold for anyone, it’s doubly so for any sports professional on the front lines, where one might be lauded as a miracle-maker one day, and branded a pox on the game the next.

This internal balance, or equanimity, is an indelible part of Scott. And sheer talent aside it, along with his faith and resolute attitude of gratitude, accounts for much of his long track record. “I truly know that everything that I’ve gotten in life, I’ve earned. I also know that a lot of what I’ve gotten is because I’ve been very blessed from up above,” he says earnestly, pointing skyward. “My Heavenly Father has blessed me tremendously to give me the talents he has given me, and I don’t take that for granted.” But no man is an island, or in this case, just an athlete and a coach. And there is more to this man than the game.

Big time love

This past August Scott kicked off the inaugural year of his new youth basketball camp, which helps boys and girls ages 8 to 17 hone the fundamentals of the game, from handling and passing to footwork and rebounding. “The kids were great,” reports Scott. “Just being in the gym for me is heaven, and the thing that I love most is interaction with the young people, being able to talk to them on a day to day basis, and for them to get to know me a little bit. At the end of the day, they see this guy on TV and now they can relate to him a little bit more because they’ve spent a week with him, and they know he’s more than just a basketball coach.”

It’s a youth-focused endeavor in a long stretch of them for Scott, who started the Byron Scott Children’s Foundation in 1986 (now the Byron Scott Children’s Fund), fueled by a desire to help children with cancer. “A young man named Marshall Brady, his family sent me a letter when he was 3 years old and in the hospital in remission,” says Scott. “I went to visit him, fell in love with the family and decided right then and there we had to do something for kids.”

Scott reports that Brady subsequently kicked cancer and went on to graduate from USC, where he played in the band. Meanwhile Scott’s organization, with its longtime focus on children’s health and cancer research, has been undergoing a shape shift. “I still have a big-time love for children,” he says. “Now I am looking for different avenues to try to reach the kids.”

 A suit tells a story

Scott’s consciousness of his good conditions makes him quick to support those who serve on the front lines, the military. “The reason that we’re here doing this today,” Scott says, “is because of the things they do on a day to day basis, and the way that they sacrifice their lives for their country so we can sit here today.”

Scott’s appreciation currently takes the form of participating in a Suit for a Suit, which is a pro-veteran’s organization that sources smart business attire for returning soldiers who are headed to civilian job interviews. “They got in touch with me a little over a year ago. Once I knew it was legit I wanted to get involved. I felt that, I got a ton of clothes, let me just give as many suits as I can to our soldiers.” says Scott, who personally has a yen for clothes, and understands the transformative power of dressing well. “I don’t think we understand how tough it is,” he says of soldiers transitioning back to civilian life. “I think we as citizens should do everything we can possible to help them to re-adjust back into society, so they can live a very prosperous life.”

The no-stress express

Another keen passion of Scott’s is music, a topic that visibly energizes him. “I like listening to a little bit of everything,” he says. “Even rap. But R&B is my love, contemporary jazz is my love, and it’s something I want to get a little more involved in.”

He listens deeply, immersing himself in the mood of a composition, plucking out lyrics and floating along with lilting melodies. Perennial favorites include Anita Baker, a personal friend of Scott’s, along with groove-makers from the 1960s and 1970s like The Isley Brothers, The Whispers and Earth, Wind & Fire. “I really love R&B,” says Scott with a grin. “It probably goes with my personality. I like it nice and mellow and smooth.”

Scott’s interest in music has lately gone beyond the aficionado stage. He’s the executive producer of a new smooth jazz-funk album by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame bassist Chip Shearin. “He’s one of the best bass players in the world, but he’s always worked with other people,” notes Scott. “He decided to go on his own, and I’m one of the guys who said, ‘I got your back. Let’s do this and see what happens.’”

Both sides now

Meanwhile his day job since that fateful 1983 phone call has revolved, year in, year out, around pro basketball. An NBA player for 14 seasons—11 of them with The Lakers—Scott kicked off his coaching career in 1998 as assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings. In 2000, he took over as head coach of the New Jersey Nets. Fourteen years later, after returning to his home team, the team he loves the most, The Lakers, for a second act.

As a coach, Scott’s leadership style is embedded with the experience of having been one of the guys lacing up his sneakers and heading onto the court each night. The difference between being a player and a coach? Shifting from a singular perspective to a collective one. “As a player I always felt that I could affect the game because I’m out there on the floor,” Scott explains. “As a coach I have to rely on these guys to affect the game, and have faith in me that the plays we have presented to them, they can go out and implement.”

“As a player you only have to worry about you, but as a coach you got to worry about the whole team. You’ve got to somehow convince them that the ultimate goal and the agenda should only be to win.” To win on the courts, yes. And if Scott had his way, for each to win in every other meaningful aspect of their life.

Creative Sense

LA Aesthete Ruth De Jong brings her many artistic talents to bear through art, design, and the family-run firm De Jong & Co.

Written bu Jenn Thornton|Interior Photos Phillip De Jong|Headshot Courtesy of Aldo Filiberto

A wellspring of artistry, Ruth De Jong doesn’t so much as tap into creativity as she does seize it, and with an unstudied air that denes her multifarious work. Since seguing from painting to production design (for the likes of the Paulomas Anderson epic ere Will Be Blood and, most recently, a buzzed-about new television series for Showtime), she’s also forayed into interior design with LA eatery Son of a Gun and the design enterprise she launched with her brothers, De JONG & Co., which debuts a new furniture line this year. Here, De Jong dialogues about her serendipitous path from painter to polymath.

Professionally, how did you get your start?

After graduating in fine arts from Texas Christian University, I was planning to go to grad school to get my MFA in painting, when Production Designer Jack Fisk and I had a long conversation about art direction and production design. It was a bit serendipitous, but he had a similar background in fine arts. He asked me to join him on a film [There Will Be Blood] he was preparing to design. So I decided to see what it was all about. I deferred grad school for a year—thinking, of course, I’d go after the film. I have yet to go back to grad school.

What prompted your interest in art and design?

Fine art, painting and photography were always passions of mine. My father was a photojournalist, and my mother was an art historian. The arts were always around me growing up. Once I started designing sets, I fell into a passion for interior design. My early exposure to the arts heavily influenced the way I approached my design projects, and still do.

What is your driving creative force today?

When it comes to production design, the challenge of creating a world I’m not familiar with. For interior design, I always want to shape a space using beautiful pieces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing, all the while creating an emotion within that space.

You delve into so many artistic realms—a renaissance woman.

I guess one could make that assumption. My problem is I can’t just do one thing. I envy folks who have one craft that they hone their whole life. I thought early on  that would be painting for me. These days, I’m lucky if I find time to dedicate to my painting; I know I will again one day, but right now it’s a lot of designing sets and spaces! I love that they all influence one another.

So interior design is an extension of production design for you?

Yes. It started at the different homes I lived in, around Los Angeles. I constantly began rearranging furniture, art, objects and painting walls! Soon, friends began asking me to help them decorate and design their homes and apartments. That led to designing my first restaurant in Los Angeles, Son of a Gun… I thought of the concept very much as a ‘set.’

My brothers and I then began talking about the idea of starting an interior design firm and custom furniture line. As I was designing various interiors, Peter was designing and building furniture, and Philip was taking beautiful images. We came together to collaborate on all fronts and opened our doors in January of 2014, with the idea that we can make our own furniture and use that in the spaces we design.

How essential is collaboration to your work?

Collaborating is a beautiful thing that I love very much; the sharing of ideas and concepts and then putting those in play together. … There’s a beauty to all the moving parts.

What is it like to work with visionary directors like P.T. Anderson and Terrence Malick?

Never a dull moment. There is always something to be learned, discovered and unturned. Working for Paul and Terry is exciting, a constant ‘mission to accomplish.’There is a richness I take away from each project, and I’m thankful for all those experiences.

What’s happening with De JONG & Co.?

We recently wrapped up designing the interiors and furniture for the Nashville restaurant 5th & Taylor. We are currently rounding out our line of furniture this year with the inclusion of a coffee table, bed, side tables and more seating pieces. And we have several residential properties we are in the middle of designing, both the interiors and custom furniture pieces.

Medium aside, what do you want all your work to communicate?


De Jong & Co


Handcrafted Nature-Inspired

Meet the creative couple behind marlowe+jay, the go-to Etsy shop for young L.A. bohemians and their tots

Written by Michelle Lyn
Photography by Paul Jonason

When artsy couple Ben and Shannon Watkins had their first child, they made her a teepee for Christmas. Friends started asking for them too, and before they knew it, demand was so high that they decided to launch marlowe+jay. Branded after their children’s middle names, the growing art and design business uses all-natural, non-toxic and recycled materials, expanding beyond teepees to make block-printed tea towels and tablecloths, indigo-dyed throws, hanging driftwood mobiles, succulent planters and hand-screen printed wall art.

Here, Westside DIGS sits down with the L.A. couple for a behind-the-scenes look at their success.

What is the inspiration behind marlowe+jay?

We’ve always been pretty artistic people (I’m a graphic designer and Ben is a filmmaker), and that’s one of the things that drew us to each other. Creating—whether it’s painting or block printing, filmmaking or designing housewares and plant sculptures—has just always been a part of what drives us. We like to call it ‘surf ranch living for the modern rustic home.’

How would you describe your style?

Our lifestyle and personal style tend to be intertwined. I’m a California girl, and Ben was born in Hawaii and fell in love with California when he moved here with his family as a teenager. We’ve lived near the beach for most of our lives and have strong ties to California and its landscapes, whether it’s the ocean, mountains or desert, and that love is definitely reflected in our home. Incorporating natural, textural and handmade elements make your surroundings feel personal, lived-in and vibrant. 

What’s a typical weekend like for you?

We’re big on relaxing as much as possible with one another. We think time is the most precious thing, and just hanging out together as a family—in the sun, in our backyard, in our neighborhood in Venice, or out in nature—is truly priceless. Our kids, Una and Zephyr, love playing in water, digging their hands in the soil or sand and creating mud pits and forts.

Most weekends you can find us at our favorite Topanga beach spot. Ben is a serious waterman, and he likes to surf or swim with the kids and take the family on an occasional sailboat adventure.

Where do you find your design influences?

We’ve always been drawn to natural materials like wood, plants and fabrics, and to pieces that feel like they’ve been loved and come with a story of their own. Finding the perfect vintage textile or one-of-a-kind piece from a local artist is pretty exciting. A lot of our art and designs are influenced by both native California culture and global textiles and patterns.

Who is the marlowe+jay customer?

The marlowe+jay customer appreciates the unique style and handmade details in the products, and the simple natural lifestyle that is reflected in the brand. 

Etsy has a great collaborative community of artists and craftspeople, and gives buyers access to affordable and really eclectic art and products. Our generation relies on social media to help with cross-promotion and getting the word out. There are so many great little businesses out there and it’s awesome to see how supportive everyone can be, especially when most companies don’t have a brick-and-mortar store. Follow us to see what comes next! 


Real Estate Insider: Sean Dinneen

As told to Danielle Accovelli
Photography by Kieron McKay

With an industrial real estate broker as a father and a natural talent for closing a sale, Sean Dinneen seemed destined to work in the industry. After a successful career in commercial real estate, Dinneen made the bold move to residential real estate, focusing on the buying and selling of homes in the South Bay and becoming a top-producing agent in the area.

Here, Dinneen shares with DIGS his residential real estate expertise and passion for the place he calls home—the South Bay. 

How did you get started in real estate?

I grew up with real estate, so I knew I would end up doing it in some capacity for my career. Before he retired, my father, Dennis Dinneen, was a very successful and well-respected industrial real estate broker in the South Bay. He opened the South Bay office for Lee & Associates in 1990. After graduating from college, I worked for the Xerox Corporation, helping build a solid foundation for my eventual career in real estate. After Xerox, I began working with a small commercial real estate firm representing major institutional landlords and mom-and-pop owners, helping them buy, sell and lease their industrial warehouses. I knew I eventually wanted to work with my dad at Lee & Associates, but wanted to cut my teeth on my own before I did. I went on to fulfill a lifelong goal to work with my dad before he retired and, as you can imagine, it was a lot of fun! After working in industrial real estate for over 10 years, I switched to residential, down here at the beach, where I grew up. I started with South Bay Brokers, where I was fortunate to learn under the guidance of Jack Gillespie and Jim Van Zanten, the company’s very knowledgeable founders.

Why focus more on residential real estate?

Residential real estate was always in the back of my mind, and I always wanted to work at the beach. After working in commercial real estate, I was still young enough to shift focus, so I went for it. Since I grew up here, I really enjoy helping people find a home, and for them to be able to experience the same beach lifestyle that I very fortunately enjoyed.

What makes the South Bay market so covetable?

Too many factors to list. It also depends on where you are in life. For families with children, schools are a big factor. In more of a macro sense, the extremely healthy lifestyle and accessibility. No matter the time of day, you see people out being active. Whether it’s running, walking the dog or surfing, there is something for everyone here that adds to their quality of life. Also, with South Bay’s close proximity to LAX, the mountains and the desert, there are no limits to what you can do. There have been a number of times when I have been up in the mountains snowboarding in the morning and at the beach in the afternoon. Not too many places where that is possible. It’s pretty amazing.

What’s your advice to families looking to buy a home in the South Bay?

Have patience. Especially for first-time homebuyers, this type of strong market can be very intimidating. Multiple offers, usually from buyers who have missed out on other homes, make for an accelerated buying process. In a more balanced market, buyers have the luxury of taking a breath, and a more normal deal cycle, with maybe a round or two of negotiations. Now, for a property in demand, you really need to go “all in” the first time to edge out other buyers.

How has being born and raised in the South Bay contributed to your success?

Having been very fortunate to spend my whole life here, I’ve immersed myself in all aspects of life in the South Bay. I have an intimate knowledge and true passion for the area that I can share with my clients to help them find an area that suits them best. At one point or another growing up here, I knew someone who lived in almost every part of the South Bay, and this experience allows me to share my insights about a specific area.

How does your experience in commercial real estate give you a competitive edge?

When in the commercial side of the business, I worked with everyone from large institutional landlords to small mom-and-pop owners. Working with such diverse clients has taught me how to navigate complicated nuances in a transaction to bring it to a successful finish. Occasionally, a client may be selling or looking to purchase an investment property, and with my background and expertise, I am able to not only look for and help underwrite a residential investment, but a commercial investment as well.

Elaborate on your work with Giveback Homes.

I am a proud, donating member of Giveback Homes. Through Giveback Homes, my clients and I partner to create social change through buying or selling a home. I make contributions from commissions I earn to build homes for families in need. When my clients buy or sell a home, they are directly responsible for helping build one for a less-fortunate family. It is very exciting!

What do you enjoy doing when not selling real estate?

I enjoy spending quality time with my wife, Teresa; playing with our 2-year-old daughter, Gracen; cooking; golfing; playing beach volleyball; and spending time in the desert or up in Lake Tahoe. 

Glamour Girl

Whether curating spaces, creating custom furnishings or staging homes, interior designer Christina Karras has the edge.

Written by Jenn Thornton
Photos courtesy of Rick Mendoza

How did you get your start? 

I grew up in Northern California during the 70s, when sophisticated bohemian was all the rage.  My parents were really into mid-century modern, but with a groovy flair. It was from them that I learned how a serious antique could mix with a flashy statement piece.

When I left home, I followed my dream of being a performance artist in Los Angeles and San Francisco. My world consisted of wild artists, musicians and the other avant-garde fringe-dwellers who would eventually become my first set of clients. And, since my Hollywood Hills home became the hangout for all the late-night parties, I naturally wanted to create a haven for my guests, one that really enhanced a cozy, sensual vibe, but with an edgy rock ‘n’ roll slant.

What influences you?

Fashion and movies, as I feel they are often so ahead of the curve—the amazing set design from a stylized film that transports me somewhere exotic; or a haute-couture runway show decadently staged in a French chateau; or hours spent in the pages of a vintage photography book looking through the lens of a renowned artist.

I grab inspiration from so many different places: celebrated eras, nature and its grandeur, street art, even my own earthy upbringing. With time periods, I enjoy the sensuality of the 1920s, the edginess of the music scene in the 60s and 70s, mid-century design. It’s a constantly moving target, I guess.

What is your driving creative force today?

Right now it’s more about color and texture. I admit I don’t much like to follow “rules,” as they seem to change all the time. Ultimately, I believe that a home needs to bond with the people living in it.

How does Southern California factor into your work?

I adore Old Hollywood glamour. There’s definitely a kind of history you can only find here. Plus, how lucky am I that I get to work in the eternal sunshine of Southern California? Outdoor spaces, specifically, have become a big source of focus and inspiration for me.  I also find great joy in a well-done poolside. 

And you love texture.

Layers and textures are the key to my work. If I listed everything I planned to put into a room, it might seem like a cacophony of design, but when everything is in place, there’s a harmony to it. Everything is finely curated, so nothing is random. I think that gives a space depth.

What are your other design signatures?

Lush fabrics, casual elegant flow between rooms, playful outdoor spaces, bohemian living. I am often drawn to a sensual, earthy palette, but also love couture and high-glamour. I guess you can say unpredictability might be a hallmark then. And, by that I mean, I don’t design with a theme in mind or for everything to match.

The whole idea is to craft a vibe—something intangible, maybe something even you can’t quite articulate, but that transforms the experience of everyone who enters the room.

Do you have a pet project?

My pet project is my showroom on La Brea. I have a new bad boy furniture collection coming out, plus a textile line full of velvets and linens. I will always hold the resort I did in Costa Rica very close to my heart. It was a crazy amount of work and travel, but I fell in love with the raw, wild jungle and slowed-down pace of life. I was honored to work with Bernard Judge, who was the architect for Marlon Brando’s Tahitian island compound. I learned so much about flow and expanding on natural beauty; that is where I began to spread my wings. As creative director of the project, I was able to really color outside the lines from the ground up.

What’s next?

I am currently working with a group of music producers and writers. I started with the company headquarters in West Hollywood and now am doing a lot of the homes of the musicians who work there. I just finished a speakeasy atelier [ShayQ] in Hollywood and got a taste of what it would be like to do a boutique or a hotel. 

Christina Karras
456 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles 90036

Real Estate Insider: Keith Kyle

Keith Kyle of South Bay Brokers

As told to Danielle Accovelli

Photography by Kieron McKay

After rising to the top in a successful sales career, Keith Kyle found his true passion in real estate—and in the South Bay. A Hermosa Beach resident for 17 years, Kyle has cultivated a client-driven philosophy focused on building long-term relationships. Here, South Bay DIGS chats with this top-producing agent about his market-savvy, staying on the leading edge of technology, and passion for the place he calls home.

South Bay DIGS: How did you get your start in real estate?   

Keith Kyle: My wife was actually the one who thought real estate would be a perfect fit for me, and she was certainly right. I started in 2006, which was toward the end of the real estate bubble, and it quickly became a very challenging market. However, from 2007 on, I have been a top producer and my business has grown every year since.

SBD: What, specifically, makes you so passionate about the industry?

KK: It’s hard not to be passionate about real estate, as it allows me to play such a big role in what is ultimately one of the biggest decisions in people’s lives. Real estate is a great long-term investment; for some it’s purely a financial decision, but for most of my clients it’s a life decision—helping them find a home that will have an impact on the rest of their lives.

SBD: Briefly describe your philosophy as a real estate agent. 

KK: To put my clients’ needs first. It sounds a bit cliché, but it really is central to the way I work, and in my eyes it has a direct correlation to my long-term success. It has allowed me to build long-term relationships, which has meant repeat clients and a great deal of referral business.

SBD: You have lived in Hermosa Beach for over 17 years. What makes the area so appealing for homebuyers? 

KK: Hermosa Beach and the South Bay offer an incredible lifestyle that is hard not to love. We have the weather, the beaches, the award-winning schools, and we’re close enough to LA, the Westside and Hollywood to make it ideal for commuters, but with a much more relaxed pace of life. Something I love about the South Bay is that it is a destination town, which means that the people that live here do so by choice and most share a similar passion for the beach lifestyle.

SBD: How has your passion for the South Bay community contributed to your success in the industry?

KK: In any job that involves sales it makes a huge difference to truly believe in what you’re selling, and the beach lifestyle and sense of community in the South Bay is something that’s easy to be passionate about. We have fantastic towns here in the South Bay with great schools; it’s hard not to be enthusiastic… It really is a great place to call home. That honest passion is seen by both homebuyers and sellers, which has translated into a very successful real estate career.

SBD: How does your expertise and knowledge of both the local market and area give you a competitive edge? 

KK: Not only is it critical to have a realtor that knows the intricacies of our local cities and neighborhoods, but with so many homes selling off market, my connections with other top local realtors are equally valuable to my clients.

SBD: Your goal is to have long-term clients. How do you cultivate these lasting relationships? 

KK: It’s all about trust and looking at every relationship with a long-term mindset. Ultimately, when I put my clients’ long-term goals ahead of my own, it helps develop clients for life. This can mean telling a buyer that they should hold off on putting in an offer on a home that’s not quite right, or telling a seller that they should wait until a more high demand time of year. It’s likely cost me a sale or two, but ultimately it’s earned their trust—earned clients for life— and has helped grow my business through referrals.

SBD: What are your firm’s main areas of expertise?   

KK: Our agents are all full-time and very dedicated, and our focus is primarily on residential real estate in the Beach Cities. However, with the recently announced merger with Vista Sotheby’s International Realty, we will have an even greater focus on the local luxury residential market.

SBD: What distinguishes your firm from others in the same market? 

KK: One of the many things that separates my business from others has been my long-term focus on technology and how it can help both my clients and my business. I have always tried to be on the leading edge of online marketing, using everything from professional property videos to customized property websites to social media. I want to make sure that the world sees my clients’ home in the very best possible light.

Real Estate Insider: Courtney Self of Hunter Mason

Courtney Self started Hunter Mason Realty a mere five years ago after a 28-year sales career that started right out of high school. South Bay DIGS chats with this Realtor of the People about why she loves multi-family real estate, first-time homebuyers and Old Town Torrance.

As told to Constance Dunn
Photography by Kieron McKay

What first brought you to real estate?

Courtney Self: My mother. I tell her all the time, [chuckling], ‘This is all your fault.’ We moved from Boston to Tucson my senior year of high school. My parents had retired and bought a mobile home park there, about 75 units, along with apartments, a laundry room and overnight RV rentals—a whole business. My mom was really excited and wanted to go to real estate school because she felt that it would help her manage the properties. She said, ‘You want to come with me?’

So I went to real estate school with her at night. I was 17. Then right out of high school, during my first year of college, I sold real estate.

You started your firm five years ago. What made you think, personally, the time was right?

CS: A couple of things. First of all, I had been in real estate for so long—28 years. I still loved it, but at the time I wanted a new challenge. And what could be more challenging than starting your own company?

 Initially my goal was to get out of selling and just support the agents, but after a while I thought, ‘Unless I’m out there selling, I have no idea what my agents are up against. I’m not as in-tune with the market.’ So I still sell real estate—I’m what you call a ‘selling broker.’ I’d also like to bring my children into the business when they’re older. They’re 10 and 13, so they have a little ways to go. But since I named the company after them, they have to do it [laughing].

Your firm has a broad mix of specialties, everything from short sales and foreclosures to mobile home parks. Is there a particular specialty the firm is presently focusing on?

CS: No, because all the agents are independent contractors. We have about 30 of them, and they work in their own areas and price points. I do referrals, so I end up working with a certain type of person rather than a specific type of property or geographic area, although you’ll find a lot of my sales are concentrated on North Redondo Beach town homes and Old Torrance multi-family. I personally love multifamily. That’s really my passion in real estate.

What do you love about it?

CS: I really enjoy working with people, and I develop a really strong relationship with my clients. When I say ‘multi-family,’ most of it’s two to four units. I’m not dealing with these multi-million dollar investors. I’m dealing with people who own a duplex or a triplex. Or, maybe one rental property.

My husband and I own about 18 units, and it’s the best way to make money. We bought our first property, living in one unit while renting out the other units. Then we moved onto the next property. We kept them all and before we knew it, we had a pretty good-sized investment portfolio. I strongly believe in income property—especially for a realtor—because we’re self-employed. We have no retirement fund. If you don’t have money set aside, what are you going to do?

Are there any nearby geographic areas that you feel are undervalued, or where perhaps first-time homebuyers are smart to take a look?

CS: I love first-time buyers. They’re so excited, but it can be a challenge to get a decent home in the South Bay for a price that a lot of people can afford. Old Town Torrance is great. It’s an area that I’m always promoting. It’s the original downtown part of the city of Torrance and there’s great historic value there, too.

 Also, if someone is looking to live in a nice, single-family home neighborhood—tree-lined streets, mature landscaping—and they need to live near the freeway, I take them right down to Long Beach. Long Beach, particularly the Bixby Knolls and California Heights areas, are great. So is a little neighborhood further south, which is actually in North Orange County, called Los Alamitos. I have a lot of people who want to live in Palos Verdes and they end up buying there. The schools are excellent and you can get a little more for your money.

You’ve been very successful in what can be a competitive business. What attributes do you think are essential for doing well in real estate?

CS: Well, you have to be able to firmly grasp the concepts in the contracts. Understand that you’re dealing with someone’s largest single investment in most cases, and you have to treat it that way.  You’re not just out there selling a toaster or TV—you’re selling someone’s home. You have to truly know what you’re having your client sign up for.

 And you have to have a passion for being successful. It doesn’t mean you have to love real estate, live and breathe it, but you have to really want to be successful because this business, it can be tough. It’s one of those businesses where you don’t come in in the morning and clock out in the afternoon and you’re done for the day. This business is with you 24-7. I always tell my agents, ‘Real estate is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.’

Jeff Marshall

Overseeing up to 30 potential properties in various states of completion each week, Jeff Marshall— owner and principal of one of California’s leading home staging operations, Marshall Design Group— is on the speed dial of real-estate agents statewide. Here, a conversation with the industry hot property.

Written by Jenn Thornton

Was design always your passion?

Jeff Marshall: Remodeling and bettering properties is just in my blood. Ever since I was a kid, my parents have been buying and selling real estate. I guess I’ve got drywall dust in my lungs, and I’ve always loved being a part of transforming homes into showcases.

What influences you creatively?

JM: Music has always played a huge role in my life and is definitely [an] early catalyst… I started playing the drums when I was about 7 years old. I’ve always found my center and true joy behind the kit. … Music inspires me, and I’ll often lock on to a new creative idea while in its grasp. I was heavily into theater throughout high school, performing as an actor, which even led to some professional roles later on. Over the years, I’ve been involved in the production side of media projects, helping to produce creative ventures for talented up-and-comers. These projects keep me surrounded by amazing performers who continually inspire me, and those creative juices flow over into the design work I do.

It’s about meeting new people, learning and listening. As a home stager, I’m trying to tell a story with my furnishings, like building a composition, creating a vision of the kind of life that could be lived in that space.

Every vision needs a visionary.

JM: I often say it would be great to have a crystal ball to know who the buyer of a particular house was going to be—that way I could dress it to meet their tastes. But being crystal ball-less means I need to make decisions that will hopefully prove inviting to the majority.

Beyond intuition, what’s your approach?

JM: I like to get to know the clients as well as possible; learn about their lives, where they’ve traveled and what they’ve brought back, what their long-term goals are for the property, etc. I also like to know about where they’ve lived before and what they liked or didn’t like about that home. Are they mercurial, always changing styles of furniture and decor, or are they grounded in traditions of style that need to have an important lasting presence? The detective in me wants all the facts before deciding how to proceed.

And then?

JM: I’ll make suggestions on improvements, carpet, paint, fixtures, etc., and then I’ll race to the next project… all spread out, from Laguna Beach down south, all the way up to Santa Barbara. We not only offer staging services for properties being marketed, but also a comprehensive interior design service.  We’ll make recommendations on everything from landscaping to bathroom fixtures. We’ve even started to manufacture our own line of custom furnishings.

As a family business, what does Marshall Design Group offer clients that is unique?

JM: We pride ourselves in offering a truly personal experience. Like a doctor on call, I’m always reachable, and if there’s something we can do to help our clients feel good about our service, we go after it. There’s nothing better than hearing that a property we staged is in escrow and that everyone was happy with our work.  I look at each project as an opportunity to build a relationship that can last longer than the current project I’m furnishing.

In what way is Southern California a factor in your work—do you pull inspiration from a sense of place?

JM: I just love Southern California… there’s truly no place like home. The easygoing lifestyle here has infiltrated my bones and definitely finds it’s way in to my design direction.

What’s ahead?

JM: We recently staged a landmark property in Bel Air that will be sold for about $40 million. It was a tremendous affair, with every member of my family pitching in—even Mom and Dad helped shop for lamps! We continue to gain a positive presence in Orange County and Palm Springs, and it’s exciting to see the company grow.

Marshall Design Group
310.435.5293  |

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