KAA Design and Pamela Smith Interiors Interweave Indoors and Out for a Southern California Abode

The main bedroom, with custom walnut bed and Jiun Ho upholstered bench, has a private courtyard featuring a reflecting pool and a Japanese ofuro soaking tub. Photography by Roger Davies.

Most empty nesters downsize. Not this couple: Rebuilding on the same Southern California property where they’d raised their three children, the duo upsized from around 6,000 square feet to 10,500—and did a complete about-face design-wise. Leading the clients on their journey from traditional to contemporary were L.A.–based architecture firm KAA Design and San Diego’s Pamela Smith Interiors. A full-fledged collaboration gave rise to what’s been dubbed the Tree House. 

A cedar garage door contrasts with the motor court’s wall of board-formed concrete. Photography by Roger Davies.

The trapezoidal site was, in a word, spectacular. Set on a promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean about a mile away, the two acres were filled with mature oaks, Torrey pines, and magnolia trees—ergo the home’s sobriquet. “We didn’t want to just preserve the trees; we wanted to weave them into the architecture,” says Grant Kirkpatrick, who founded KAA more than 30 years ago to specialize in luxury residences. “We viewed the entire site as a canvas—for the house and for an
indoor-outdoor environment,” one that would encompass generous grassy lawns, a swimming pool, and even a bocce court.

The ground-level great room has retractable glass walls on two sides that open to create a breezeway. Photography by Roger Davies.

In terms of site planning, “our breakthrough was in re-envisioning how you come onto the property and approach the house,” KAA partner Duan Tran explains. “Rather than pulling off the street and directly into a garage, cars arrive via a romantic entry sequence.” The long and winding path threads through the trees and past a monumental board-formed concrete gate before arriving at a

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Southern style: Anniston native launches a design service | Homes

Alex Hechart, who grew up in Anniston, recently started a home design service with her mother, Donna Woodfin. Based in Birmingham, “Home with Hechart” offers design services as well as a shopping website for home goods. 

The mother-daughter duo offer design services by the hour (for design ideas, party prep or holiday decorating), by the room or by the project.

The online shop,, features pillows, rugs, mirrors, fireplace screens, ottomans, dressers, lamps, linens, glassware, tableware, gifts and more.

The Star posed 10 questions to the design duo:

Why did y’all decide to start a design business?

Alex: We decided to start Home with Hechart because we’ve always loved decorating and playing around with interior design together. Growing up, we were always redoing our house or sprucing up a room. We would go to furniture stores, and we were always so excited about every project. We knew that we could have fun and bring value to people who want to improve their space.

When you’re working together on a design project, who does what?

Alex: On a design project, I do most of the technical work like digital layout and design. Then, we work together on selecting pieces, colors, finishes and accessories for the room or home.

Donna: Alex will often give me several options and then let me choose which items I like best for a space. We collaborate closely on every project.

How would you describe your approach to design?

Alex: I would say that we approach design with an emphasis on traditional feel with modern touches. I’m drawn to more color, Mom is drawn to neutrals. Together, we can design spaces that feel complete and look beautiful.

Your latest project was designing Donna’s new house. What was that like?

Alex: My mom’s house was completely empty, and

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