Herman’s House | The magazine
Acclaimed ceramist Josh Herman was playing with glazes when he came across green hues for table tops at Paradisaea, the highly anticipated Bird Rock restaurant opening this fall. Herman’s tiles play a starring role in the modern tropical project, from the onyx and gold hearth awash in its signature volcanic glaze to the oversized tactile pieces framed in the wooden dining tables. Paradisaea will be pretty much the only place in the world where people will be able to see the artist’s tiles, other than being down the street from the Herman family home.
Herman, whose amorphous sculptural pieces end up in celebrity collections too important to name, is not a tiler by trade. But when he and his wife (and studio coordinator) Rachel were researching backsplash options for their low-slung ranch home, they had an epiphany: what better way to showcase their mid-century-inspired aesthetic and taste for saturated colors and texture?
“When we started, I had no intention of doing a house full of Josh Herman ceramics,” he says. “But I don’t always know where things are going. It is organicity, naturalness and deployment. This is a principle that I subscribe to in my life and my ceramics, and it has carried over to the house.
The first step: find the best talent in the region. The Hermans worked closely with Cheryl Carnation of Eyelet construction, which elevated classic ranch styles with contemporary amenities including a state-of-the-art galley and 11-foot glass slide. David Skelley, owner of Boomerang Modern in Little Italy, which carries Herman’s work, was hired to curate the art and furnishings. Outside, landscape architect JC Miller of Miller Studio in Palm Springs has created a modernist Shangri-La.
Herman’s tile-making experience began in the kitchen, the couple’s favorite place to spend time with their two teenagers. Geometric tiles, fired in a painterly-quality turquoise glaze, are paired with walnut cabinetry and a wood-clad ceiling. The tiles were so successful that he turned his Barrio Logan studio into a full-time production facility for Herman for the next eight months.
Charged with creativity, Herman went bold with shapes, finishes and colors, from punchy primary classics to dramatic inky shades. In the laundry room, a stripe of yellow energizes a minimalist white workspace. A sexy guest bathroom features a dark navy design with an infinity sign, and even the pool and outdoor areas are covered in unique tiles.
The house’s piece de resistance surrounds the living room fireplace, a large-scale, three-dimensional “mural” of white organic shapes speckled with black lava glaze. With built-ins in walnut and a Saarinen uterine chair and ottoman in paprika, the space looks so mid-century chic it could lay the cover of a Architectural Summary back in the late 60s if it wasn’t for flat screen television.
Framed by a wall of windows, the half-acre backyard rivals destination botanical gardens.
Miller’s poured concrete steps and curved planters filled with greenery and small trees define the outdoor living spaces, while an eclectic mix of exotic San Diego-appropriate plants dot the landscape. At the top of the hill, Herman planted 25 fruit trees, all pruned with his meticulous artist’s eye. He also collects bonsai and crested succulents (the mutated plants resemble his own sculptures).
“When you walk into the living room and look at the hill, it’s like a painting,” says Herman. “In the spring, the fruit trees bloom and in the winter, the succulents bloom. It is constantly developing and changing.
A favorite compliment from Herman’s mother-in-law: “When the people are gone, the house works.” Filled with art, upscale yet laid-back, it comfortably fits any situation, from teenagers relaxing by the pool to hundreds of guests mingling.
Herman credits the results to working with a dream team. Call it another win for the San Diego design scene, as has Paradisaea, a group effort spearheaded by world-class interior designer and part-time La Jollan William T. Georgis. Housed in a glamorous historic Art Deco building, the restaurant looks more like Beverly Hills than Bird Rock, thanks in part to Herman’s work.
“One thing Bill wanted was Southern California and local craftsmen to be part of the design,” says Herman. “I am continually amazed by the caliber of artists and artisans I meet on design projects here.”