One of my daily reads for fashion inspiration is the celebrity style site Who What Wear Daily. The site’s founders, Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr are two cool LA girls with exceptional taste who induce serious style envy whenever I see them photographed! Needless to say, I was excited to catch a glimpse inside Katherine’s Hollywood Hills home on Refinery 29. The stylish home she shares with her fiance, photographer Justin Coit, is relaxed, bohemian, and full of personal touches Have a look below and to see more click here to see her full house tour and interview on Refinery 29!
New York Social Diary has a great feature and house tour on textile designer Lulu deKwiatkowski and her Upper East Side home which she recently sold and will soon be moving out of. She’s been living in LA for the past three years and finally decided to relinquish her NYC apartment which she has owned for the past 13 years. de Kwiatkowski wrote a poignant and personal love letter to her apartment on her blog which really struck me so I thought I’d share it here…
“I lived in this apartment for 13 years. Started LULU DK in what became the babies room, painted and wrote my entire book LULU on the floor of my kitchen here…Wrote long love and break up letters to my now husband, experienced the passing of both my parents, organized my wedding…laughed, cried and had same GREAT parties here! So good-bye walls, floors and ceilings that sheltered me for all my growing years….and thank you Social Diary for being the last to capture the moment.”
-Lulu deKwiatkowski via Trail of Inspiration
See the full interview and house tour here on New York Social Diary
Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch
Although LA based interior designer Kristen Panitch is a traditionalist at heart, she loves turning tradition on its head. A hallmark of her design style in an ability to seamlessly integrate an unexpected mix of color combinations and patterns into a traditional setting to give it a modern edge and her spaces always exude a sense of comfort and refinement. Kristen is a designer whose work resonates with me personally so I was excited to have the opportunity to meet her during my recent trip to LA. I paid a visit to her home in Santa Monica where she also works and was lucky enough to get a first hand look inside her world. Her home is to-die-for beautiful, filled with moody colors, eclectic patterns and the most gorgeous kitchen I’ve ever seen! (It’s being shot by one of my favorite shelter mags so you’ll be able to get a peek inside soon enough!) Kristen began designing a little more than 20 years ago and recently she added another layer to her business with the launch of her new collection of stylish indoor/outdoor upholstered and wicker furniture. Read on as Kristen shares the scoop on her new line, her design career, plus gives us an exclusive tour of her pretty-in-pink office!
Tell us how you got your start in design…
I was in college working in a real estate office and one of the people in the building knew I was in school to become an interior designer and asked me if he could pay me to help him with his place. I think I was 20 at the time. It turned ot great and from there he referred me to another young person who had just bought a condo…and so there were all these little jobs that I started out doing and by the time I graduated I had a pretty good business going! Another early client was an agent here in LA and had great word of mouth and things just spread…I think I got really lucky!
What was it that initially drew you to this career path?
I think my whole life I’ve been puttering around with design. I would decorate my own room as a kid and I was always decorating my friends rooms. And I was feverish about design magazines since I was really young. After high school I went to Paris for three months and that really solidified that this was something I wanted to pursue in a real way. Also, my mother’s very close friend was an interior designer and I didn’t realize that was even a job at that time and I just thought to myself ‘wow, that’s it!’ and I went from there…
So what were the early days of running your business like?
Oh my God! Oh, it was awful! Thank God for getting a client who knew I’d never done it before because I got to apologize all the way through! I was very up front. I’d tell clients not to pay me a lot because I needed this as much as they did. I think I just got lucky to with a lot of young people who really couldn’t spend a lot of money so they were willing to just let me screw around and see what happened. And we weren’t sure how it was going to come out because, you know, they were also very young and didn’t know what they were doing so they were willing to take the risk so to speak. Luckily I didn’t have any major screw ups! I really learned on my feet…it was way better than school frankly. And I was working with tiny budgets! I was at Salvation Army and the flea markets really trying to make it work…
I actually think it’s more challenging to work with a smaller budget…
Yeah, you really have to be creative! And that original client was a huge collector so we had tons of stuff to work with. He had just moved here and his mother had tons of these beautiful porcelain dishes that we hung all over the walls and we just got to have so much fun with that project…And again I think him knowing that it was my first time out he was just happy to go along with me so it worked out.
Do you have any mentors or designers that influenced you in those early days?
At the time here in LA Michael Smith was quite well known and he had sort of a great classic, disheveled look that he was doing. I also loved Victoria Hagan back then. I’ve always been so much more driven by the architecture of a space and I still am and that was usually what informed my work. That was a period of time when I was working a lot of big, classic, traditional homes…a lot of Paul Williams and other really beautiful architecture in Hollywood which I loved and that was such a huge influence. Tearing it all back and going back to picture of where that home came from and working from that place is what I love.
When did you know you had arrived as a designer?
Wow…I guess It would have to be when I would meet people for the first time and they’d say ‘oh I love your work.’ Also I stopped for about a year to start having children and I thought maybe my moment was over. In this town if you don’t work for a year you think you’re over and forgotten but I remember people continuing to call me. They would ask when I was available again and how could we make things work and I thought to myself, ‘Gosh, I guess I’m for real!’
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Understated, elegant and comfortable. I’m definitely a traditional designer but I think I give it a modern edge with the furnishings. I stick to the classics architecturally but with the furnishings I like to loosen it up a bit.
Speaking of loosening things up I always think that LA based designers have this very organic quality of comfort and livability in their work. Is that something that’s intentional?
Absolutely! I try not to over decorate! I don’t like it when someone walks into a home and says ‘Oh who was here?’ Obviously my spaces looks done but they also look personalized by the client…it’s welcoming, it’s inviting, kids are there, dogs are there and it doesn’t just look like it’s straight out of a magazine and that is something I absolutely strive for. In fact, I’ll even tell clients that if they’re not going to use a particular room then they have to do something else with it. Everything has to get used, everything has to get lived in or it just doesn’t feel good…
What inspires you most?
Traveling is a huge inspiration. But for me it’s more about the way they live than the actual interiors. We were in Tokyo and I was crazy over the organized style of their lives. I love the way everything is compartmentalized…I really love that sensibility over there. We also went to Rome recently and while I’m not particularly inspired by their interiors, the colors and the sunlight and the gardens were so much more inspiring…And the way they live so comfortably. It’s not about ‘oh I like that chair or that piece of fabric’, it’s more about a lifestyle. We also spend a lot of time out east and I love being there. We have a house in the Berkshires and I get a lot of inspiration from that area architecturally. I’m doing some work in Maine right now and also in upstate New York and I just LOVE that area and the design there. It’s got a really good sensibility.
What projects are you working on right now?
My project in Maine is a little tiny lake cottage that’s just beautiful….and I’m doing a house in Brentwood…and I have some wonderful long time clients that just don’t want to let me go and I’m working on their house in Santa Monica. I don’t usually take on more than 3 projects at a time. That’s been the max that seems to work really well for me with kids and if I want to be around and be a mom then three jobs at a time is it. My kids are 13 and a 10 years old. There are times when I think that maybe I’ll hire an associate designer and expand but I really like to be hands on and be intimate with the projects. I also tend to start jobs from the construction level so I get to be a part of that phase and a project can last a year or more. I like having that full process so being a part of more than 3 full processes involving construction would just be too many.
What are some of your favorite places to shop?
Brimfield is my favorite! I go once a year and pack a couple of trucks. I really really love it! I definitely have my stores that I love to go to here in LA too. I’m in Hollywood at Home a lot. Peter [Dunham] happens to be one of my closest friends as well. I love Nicky Kehoe on Highland and for really special pieces I love this store called Blackman Cruz. There’s also an antiques store in Massachusetts that I love called Berkshire Home Antiques. And 1st Dibs is just fantastic! I’m always searching on 1st Dibs…
Pieces from Kristen’s outdoor furniture line.
Tell us about your new outdoor furniture line…
It all came out of really the need for finding great outdoor furniture for clients. I couldn’t really find any outdoor wicker that I liked so I finally just started to have pieces made. There were 9 pieces that I was repeating constantly on projects and pretty soon it became sort of a line. In the last five or six years I’ve done so many outdoor rooms…everybody’s either putting in outdoor fireplaces or covered porches and that’s really how people live here in California so much of the year. People really want to be outside. Now I have pieces in Hollywood at Home and its going to be up on the website by May for people to order.
A vignette featuring Kristen’s furniture inside Hollywood at Home
Is there anything else in your career you haven’t accomplished that you’d like to try your hand at?
I really would love to do a textile line! Its a lot of work and a lot of time but I’d really love to do that one day. And I want to build on the furniture. After the outdoor furniture I think I’d like to do some upholstered pieces. And maybe open up a shop.
Finally, give us the scoop on your lovely office and what a typical day here is like for you…
Because I’m at home I usually just take my computer and answer my emails as soon as I wake up with my coffee. And then usually at about 10am I get in here and I’m either with my assistant or on the phone with him and were starting the day trying to figure out what the week is going to look like.
“Sometimes I’ll meet with clients here going through all my fabrics when were at that selecting phase….And then the rest of the time I’m on the road.”
“The wall covering is Cole & Sons India Papers. I LOVE their papers and use them constantly. I went with the pink because I really didn’t want to play it safe. It’s been 5 years an I still love it!”
“The desk I had made and I wanted it big and chunky like a kitchen island. It’s great for two people and I’m sort of a mess so it works!”
“Inside the cabinets I’ve got fabric samples and wood samples…most of the drawers are different kinds of samples. I’ve also got client folders, resource folders and things like that. The amount of things I store is actually getting smaller because of the computer now. I don’t have the kind of bulk samples that I used to and it’s not overwhelming anymore.”
“I rip out every magazine! It’s usually something small that I’m drawn to.”
“I have a client who had given me a picture of this bookshelf [she points to the tear shown above of the color coordinated bookshelf] so I gave the picture to one of my guys who’s a really talented organizer and he color coordinated all of the books in my clients house and it turned out great! It was like a rainbow!”
“I love working from home, it’s great. I definitely have to shut down though. As much as I love my office I have to close the door and not come back in here in the evenings.”
Me & Windsor Smith!
Very recently I spent 11 days in LA, doing a little work, having a bit of fun and meeting some pretty amazing people including my design idol Windsor Smith whom I’m pictured with above. Right before I headed to the airport to jet back to New York I was able to spend some time with Windsor for a long chat about her design work and career as well as her newest venture, Room in a Box. I was also lucky enough to get a grand tour of her AMAZING home that we all saw and loved in House Beautiful. I almost had to pinch myself! I’ve spent a ton of time in LA since I was a young girl and this was truly one of the best trips I’ve had. During my days off from working I totally immersed myself in LA’s design scene and packed my schedule with a slew of meetings and visits to some of LA’s best design shops…all of which I can’t wait to share with you! Here are a few highlights from my trip…
My room at the Chamberlain West Hollywood
I stayed at my favorite hotel which is the Chamberlain West Hollywood and since I hadn’t stayed there in about a year, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rooms and bathrooms had been re-decorated.
The desk area in my room at the Chamberlain West Hollywood
The rooms still have that mid century modern vibe going on but they’re a bit more tailored with more pops of color than before.
Beautiful bathroom floors at the Chamberlain West Hollywood
I was totally inspired by the pattern of the tiles as well as the veining of the marble on the bathroom floors.
The wallpaper in interior designer Kristen Panitch’s Santa Monica office
I also had an opportunity to visit the home and office of Kristen Panitch, who is another one of my favorite designers. Above is a sneak peek at the wallpaper in her office. Can you say STUNNING?! Kristen was such a delight and I really enjoyed getting to know her. I also got a little peek inside her home which you’ll soon see in one of your favorite shelter magazines! I’ll be sharing a few more peeks of her gorgeous office as well as a recap of our conversation in an upcoming post so stay tuned!
Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors
During my trip I also had the pleasure of meeting a couple of my favorite bloggers whom I’ve long admired. Above is interior designer Amber Lewis who you may know from her witty and popular blog Amber Interiors. This woman is beautiful, funny and totally talented. She can DIY like nobody’s business and not only does she have an amazing home, she also happens to have the most adorable family ever. Another blogger that I was totally psyched to meet was Michal Spitzer from the blog Style Curator. She and I have been Twitter buddies for like ever so I was beyond excited to meet her in person!
Peter Dunham’s Hollywood at Home
In between all of my meetings I checked out a few must-see design shop and art galleries including Hollywood at Home ( one of my favorites!), Hillary Thomas’ newly opened Chic Shop, Nickey Kehoe and M+B gallery to name a few.
The short rib sandwich at Joan’s on Third
And what’s a great trip without great food so of course I indulged in a few amazing meals at some of my favorite places to eat in LA! Above is a to-die-for short rib sandwich from Joan’s on Third which I’ve blogged about before. I ate two of these buttery slices of heaven while in town.
Il Sole. Photo via Eater LA
I also had an amazing dinner at the newly remodeled il Sole in West Hollywood. (Get the fettuccine with prawns in a light spicy tomato sauce if you go!)
Eveleigh. Photo via Eveleigh
Another place I checked out for dinner is a relatively new restaurant that’s been getting a ton of buzz called Eveleigh which has a great atmosphere, amazing drinks and pretty good food. I think I must have hit up all of LA’s trendiest and most buzzworthy places because in addition to the above I ate lots of fish tacos, about a half dozen cookies from Milk, exactly three cupcakes from Sprinkles, one Umami Burger (which I found slightly disappointing) and more sugary sweet lemonades from Lemonade than I can count. And after about six days of straight gluttony I bought into another trendy ‘to do’ and went on a juice cleanse! (As If I couldn’t buy anymore into the hype lol!)
Juices from the Pressed Juicery
I paid a visit to the Pressed Juicery in Brentwood and got 2 days worth of cleansing and detoxifying juices which I consumed at the tail end of my trip and I have to say the juices exceeded my expectations. They were a little on the expensive side but really yummy and refreshing. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on food and I felt so much better after just 2 days of a mostly liquid diet. (I cheated a little and had salads for dinner!) I would highly recommend checking out the Pressed Juicery or a similar cleanse available in your area.
LA’s Nuart Landmark Theatre
Finally, I made it my mission to go see the documentary Bill Cunningham New York while in LA (ironic) since I wasn’t able to see it during the film’s limited run in New York. The film gave a poignant look at the life and career of the iconic New York Times photographer and I was so inspired by Bill’s intense passion for staying true to himself and doing what he loves. Go see it if you can! Also – be sure to check back over the next few weeks as I’ll be posting more in depth stories about my design adventures in LA including profiles on some of the incredible people I met and places I saw! Stay tuned!
All watermarked photos above were taken by Nicole Gibbons for So Haute
Robert Couturier in his home office with his favorite Elmo in the background.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet famed architect and interior designer Robert Couturier who invited me into his elegant penthouse apartment to talk design. Couturier lives in modernist Soho building which also happens to house the offices of his bustling design firm. The building’s elevator transports you directly into his glorious apartment which is impeccably decorated with a mix of 18th century antiques, modern classics and an enviable art collection. (It will soon be published in an upcoming issue of Elle Decor) The space also possesses a sense of refinement that makes you feel as though you’ve entered the world of someone very important. French born, New York based Robert Couturier is one of the top decorators working today. He’s been designing lavish homes of the rich and famous for more than 30 years but perhaps his most high profile project was in the late 80s when billionaire tycoon James Goldsmith tapped the young decorator to design his sprawling, 20,000 acre palatial estate in Mexico. To this day Couturier counts that project as his most proud career milestone. You might expect a decorator who works the ultra rich and lives in a world where luxury and opulence rules to be stuffy and uptight but I found Couturier to be exactly the opposite. He’s gregarious, charming, funny and refreshingly down to earth. Quite the character, Couturier listens to Eminem, is addicted to The Real Housewives of Atlanta and counts his favorite furry Elmo doll as one of the things that makes him happy! I really enjoyed chatting with him and I’m thrilled to give you a little glimpse into our conversation…
The living room of hairstylist Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen’s Manhattan duplex designed by Robert Couturier
Tell me about some of your early design influences:
Growing up my grandmother and her husband used to have mostly 19th century French furniture and I remember when I was a young boy I had a friend that invited me to his house and it was completely modern. So imagine a modern house in France in 1974. It was something I had never known in my life and I just loved the idea of having an incredibly strong modern house. When I came to New York in the late 70s, the first apartment I did for myself was navy blue and white and was all modern. And then slowly I started buying antique stuff again so think I sort of go from one to the other. I’ve also been influenced in the modern way by Jean Michel Frank. I think his style is tremendous. Also Jacques Grange because I’ve known Jacques since I was really young and I always admired him. He was always the person to emulate and he has this fluidity to his style which is heavenly.
The late billionaire Jame’s Goldsmith’s palatial estate in Cuixmala, Mexico
What has been the most defining moment of your career thus far?
Probably the work I did for Jimmy Goldsmith in Mexico. It was unequaled. I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to do such a big job again. I don’t think they come that way anymore.
What do you mean?
I think in the 80s wealth was not a dirty word and I think being rich was something people aspired to in a nice way and I think now that has changed greatly. Now the rich are being very discreet in a way that they didn’t used to be.
A chic vignette inside Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen’s New York City Home
How do you think the design business has changed over the years?
I think it has changed enormously. I think decorators like me are dinosaurs and I think eventually we’re going to disappear. People now have accessibility to everything in a way that wasn’t possible years ago before the internet. Back then people had to go through us, through our eyes and our choices. Today all you have to do is go through the websites of all the designers you like, see what you like from each of them and then you go on websites like 1st Dibs where you can buy directly from the dealers, then you go on all the blogs and ask them for opinions and you can really do your homes without people like us. You know, we’re a luxury. We’re an added expense. If you’re very wealthy you don’t really need to do it yourself so you might go through people like us but otherwise, why?
But don’t you think there will always be a group of people who will hire a decorator?
Yes, there will always be but far less than before. I think the upper end market will always be there because people are too busy but all the mid-market is gone and I think decorators are going to have to find different ways to adapt.
What do you think completes a home?
I think the presence of art really completes a home.
The entry designed by Robert Couturier for Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen
Let’s talk about some fun stuff. I hear you are a big fan of the Housewives series on Bravo?
Are you kidding, I’m completely addicted! Nene is my favorite!
I have to admit I don’t watch!
How can you not watch?!
I only watched the first season of the New York Housewives.
I like the one girl… the chef who now has another show.
Yes, Bethenny, I like her!
What else do you watch?
I watch CNN all the time. That and Bravo.
Robert Couturier’s dining room in Connecticut
Do you read blogs?
I read blogs that mention me because they come to me in a Google alert. I also love Facebook. I’m on it all the time. I did twitter for a while and then I lost interest. I felt like I was screaming in the dark. Facebook is much more interesting and relevant to me.
What’s on your iPod?
Oh my god I have 19,000 pieces of music on my iPod! I love classical. My favorite composer in the world is Johann Sebatsian Bach. I don’t think I could live without him. I have mostly classical on my iPod but I like plenty of other music. I love Eminem! I think he’s so cool! I like what he says, I like the irony and I like how crazy he is! He’s fabulous!
A vignette inside the Connecticut home Couturier shares with his partner Jeffrey Morgan
Do you collect anything?
I collect everything! All my houses are full! I collect photography. I love china. I love silver. I’m a things person I guess. It’s funny though because even though I love to have things, if all the things disappeared I don’t think I would mind. I’m not attached to very much.
So if your house was on fire there’s not one special thing you’d want to take with you?
No because it’s all insured! I’ll take my dogs and that’s all I would worry about.
Robert Couturier inside his home office the day of our meeting
Do you have a favorite piece in your home?
Him! (He glances up on the wall and points to an 18th century English painting of a very dapper man) There’s so much story behind him. I like to say that his boyfriend paid for the painting!
What’s with the Elmo behind your desk?
I love it! He used to make me laugh so hard when it first came out. The company that fabricates it belongs to a client of mine and we were out to diner and I was talking about this and he says ‘I’ll send you one tomorrow!’
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I have tremendous amounts of pleasures, but I’m not sure they’re guilty! I guess maybe I spend too much money…
Couturier next to one of his two closets filled floor to ceiling with custom-tailored suits from Douglas Hayward
What do you buy mostly?
I buy art. I always buy things I can’t afford. And my tailor.
Are all of your suits custom tailored?
Yes, it’s great. The shop that makes my suits is called Douglas Hayward in London. Another guilty pleasure is ice cream but the problem is that if I buy too much ice cream I won’t ever fit into my suits anymore!
Do you ever wear jeans?
Never. I wear suits every day and on the weekends I wear corduroys and a jacket. If I feel slightly overweight I don’t see it when I’m wearing a suit but if I have on jeans it might make me look like a mushroom top!
Currently on Couturier’s wishlist: Left – Cloud table by Joris Laarman. Right – Michael Eastman’s Havana portrait.
Is there anything you’re lusting after right now to curb your shopping addiction?
YES! You know the galleries Barry Friedman and Friedman Benda? They have the most beautiful contemporary art and furniture that you can find in the world and they have an exhibit at the moment of a photographer called Michael Eastman whose work I love. There’s one picture that he has of a house in Cuba which I would love to own. He has another artist called Joris Laarman. I love furniture that has an intellectual construct…I find it absolutely fascinating and Joris Laarman does that. He has a coffee table made of marble that’s actually a composition of clouds. He takes pictures of cloud formations and then translates the picture through the computer onto a piece of sculpted marble. I LOVE the idea of a cloud being made into a piece of marble. It’s so brilliant! I would love to have that too. I could just see it here!
Robert Couturier’s Kent, Connecticut house and garden.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working I’m in the country. I usually go on Thursday or Friday afternoon and come back Monday morning. My boyfriend is there and my dogs are there and my life is there.