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Actor Richard Dean Anderson Builds On His Minnesota Roots

Richard Dean Anderson at home

It's a drizzly February morning in Malibu, but the weather isn't keeping Richard Dean Anderson indoors. The wiry actor is kicking back on a well-worn sofa on his back porch, enjoying the misty ocean view with Andy, his Australian shepherd, and Daisy, a Staffordshire-Shiba Inu "combo plate." "My morning ritual is to get up and feed the dogs, take my daughter to school and come home," he explains. "I have my coffee, come out here — and fall asleep."

At 59, the man most of us know best as MacGyver — the brainy (but brawny) secret agent in the television show of the same name — sports a full head of steel-colored hair and has "semiretired" from show business to raise his 10-year-old daughter, Wylie. If the actor (and inveterate adventurer) has mellowed over the years, at least some of the credit goes to that porch and that home. Anderson was spending most of his time in Vancouver, British Columbia, working as an actor and producer on the Sci-Fi channel's "Stargate SG-1" series, when a two-acre spread with land's-end views persuaded him to put down roots in Malibu's northern reaches. The property supported an old ranch house that "I slowly watched cave in on me until it became apparent that I was going to be building," he says. "To what extent I never dreamed, but I would spend hours in the morning just envisioning how to balance the property and utilize the elements that I love, which are wood, stone and glass."

In addition to wanting to draw on those materials, Anderson, a native of Minneapolis, "knew the word Minnesota was in there somewhere. I always sort of swooned at the sight of the classic barn structures in central and northern Minnesota, where everything seemed rustic and weathered and made to age gracefully." After sketching out some rough plans for his new residence, he hired architects Erik Evens and Patricia Baker, of KAA Design Group, and interior designer Adaline Fagen, of Espace Design, to bring it to life. The house that they ultimately came up with tweaks the classic midwestern farmhouse just enough to suit the coastal site and to accommodate the actor's personal wish list. "Our charge was really to take those nostalgic remembrances of Rick's and to blend them with something that was relevant to the Southern California beach lifestyle," says Evens.

The rambling two-story dwelling is gracefully sited in the middle of a gently sloping lot, its eye-catching red-cedar siding and zinc roof only getting better with age. Inside, the ceilings are coffered with rough-hewn beams, and the floors are covered in reclaimed oak. Generously proportioned rooms, a flowing floor plan and walls of French doors leading to a 14-foot-deep porch open up the place to the views and the brilliant California sunlight. "Rick really enjoys that alfresco lifestyle," notes Evens, "so a big theme of the house is gracious living in the out-of-doors."

For her part, Adaline Fagen was challenged to "unearth Rick's style" and to make the large-scale rooms, particularly the 1,000-square-foot all-wood living room, cozy and functional. She divided the space into discrete living and entertaining areas and warmed these up with Tibetan rugs and oversize furniture. There are antiques here and throughout the house, but they tend to be sturdy pieces. And the palette takes its cue from the honeyed tones of the wood. "We call it warm cinnamon toast because it really is a place where you just feel totally comfortable," says Fagen.

Over the course of his nomadic life, the actor had managed to fill several storage bins with personal effects, and Fagen combed through these for intimate items she could showcase around the house — old musical instruments, combat helmets from Anderson's grandfather, ancestral silver spoon collections. All those glass doors limit the amount of available wall space, but the designer made the most of what's there, fleshing out the actor's collection of black-and-white photography with prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastião Salgado and working in a quirky combination of paintings and lithographs. The effect is both homey and worldly. "Rick would be horrified if you used the term elegant, but it is elegant," says Fagen. "At the same time it's not stuffy."

That's important when your client likes to play hockey in his living room. While he's involved with the launch of a new "Stargate" series, Anderson's primary occupation these days is that of single dad. He and Wylie (who handpicked her bedroom's green paint color and floral rug) are crazy about beach living — or almost crazy. "When I first moved to California, I was swimming naked in the ocean," confides the actor. "Now I'm not going in that sucker without my wet suit."

Architecture by KAA Design Group / Interior Design by Adaline Fagen, ASID, of Espace Design / Photography by Mary E. Nichols

Richard's Malibu home

Richard Dean Anderson's residence in Malibu, California, is worlds away from his hometown of Minneapolis. Yet architects Erik Evens and Patricia Baker, of KAA Design Group, and interior designer Adaline Fagen, of Espace Design, were able to create the feeling of a midwestern farmhouse. Anderson wanted the home to "speak to his childhood in Minnesota," says Fagen.

Richard's Malibu home

The living area.

Richard's Malibu home

"It's imperative that I am able to spend a lot of time outdoors," says Anderson. He and his 10-year-old daughter, Wylie, enjoy the ocean views from the outdoor living area that Fagen designed. "Adaline understood that I was a little more casual, lived more of a rustic life," he notes. The pool pavilion is visible beyond the veranda.

Richard's Malibu home

Fagen describes the master bath as both "masculine and functional."

Richard's Malibu home

Anderson prefers the room be very dark when he sleeps, so Fagen used a combination of Roman shades and draperies in the master bedroom.

Richard's Malibu home

"I like the simplicity of barn structures and farmhouses," Anderson says. "I've never lived on a farm but always envisioned it." He concedes that the design "took on more of a ranch look" once finished. The idea for the house's zinc roof stems from his youth: His parents' first home had a sheet-metal roof, and Anderson liked it. "I made it known I didn't want to live in a house without a corrugated-metal roof," he says.

Haldeman, Peter. "Midwest Meets Malibu." Architectural Digest. June, 2009: p. 78-85.