No exaggeration, Dominic LaFerla has created his own Versailles.
Nestled on two large lots on a quiet street in Walteria, there is a 2,300 square-foot home that surpasses anything viewed at Hearst’s Castle or the most decorative homes just to the east on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
LaFerla is the longtime owner of Dominic J. LaFerla & Sons which custom designs walls and ceiling ornamental staff. He's provided the palatial plaster for the rich and famous all over the world.
And now, semi-retired, he has turned his main house into an opulent art gallery, opting to live in a second structure on the same property.
Found inside the well-secured gallery are nine hand-detailed ceiling domes, life-sized marble statues, elaborate painted mantles, walls and pedestals for pieces in his collection that include Baroque and Neoclassical frescos, mythical goddesses, angels, coat-of-arms, marble lions, desk sculptures and ornate wall paintings.
Every available space is filled with more vibrant color and gold than the eye can bear.
“My whole plan was to make my home appear as if you are walking into a jewelry box,” said an undaunted LaFerla whose parents thought he was addicted to his artistic endeavors and surprisingly didn’t offer much encouragement. “I’ve been working on this house almost all my life.”
At a youthful 84, LaFerla only holds a seventh grade education. Still, he is a global master molder who has also perfected the art of carving, sanding, plastering, painting, chiseling, scraping, and stippling—literally, all facets of the arts.
His delicate paintbrush techniques and self-made tools leave nothing to a viewer’s imagination as he generously brings to life breathtaking visions dealing with light, color and textures.
The gold paint, which he uses liberally, costs $150 per gallon.
He buys plain marble figures ordered from Italian sources. The artist then details them out to his own liking.
The mottled and streaked plaster domes and alcoves in the house, however, are about as near to the real McCoy as the eye can attest.
LaFerla said some of his visitors have been moved to tears upon entering the front door.
Further, he said he owes everything he has accomplished to his long-time partner Dave Jindra of San Pedro who has worked faithfully by his side for more than 36 years. Jindra pushed him to take on big jobs around the world, when he said he didn’t have the guts to do it himself.
“Dominic is a little more flamboyant than I am,” Jindra said about their individual styles. “He loves the ornate, almost grotesque stuff, I’m a little more old world—but I couldn’t have worked for a nicer, more creative individual.”
Since about 1967 when LaFerla first bought the property, he and Jindra have continuously built up, torn down, then built up again the inside of the Walteria house.
LaFerla has redesigned three of his nine spectacular ceiling domes and is almost a lone expert in the field of dome artistry.
Even today, he isn’t satisfied with what appears to be the most elegant office money could buy. LaFerla is toying with the idea of tearing its dome out and starting over with a new design.
LeFerla said at one time he knew he was impossible to live with due to his unconditional striving toward artistic exactitude.
Years ago, his obsession cost him a marriage. But, he said, time has a way of remedying past mistakes. LaFerla is marrying his beloved Victoria for a second time in a couple weeks.
“This property is his masterpiece,” said an amiable Victoria LaFerla waving her hand around a rococo-inspired bedroom Louis XVI would have approved. “Dominic is a perfectionist in everything he does.”
Both LaFerla and Jindra agree they have done a lot of experimentation that has paid off through the years.
“You are not going to see any competition in my field,” said LaFerla who is a homebody and seldom ventures out of his elaborate hide-away.
“I’ve been offered big jobs in Italy and around the world, but I’d rather stay here and do art work and sculpture than go on a two-week vacation where nothing is produced at the end of it.”