Style in the private sector is finally becoming unfettered from fashion. Cocooning has begun to ripen with a new sensibility, and Angelenos are re-defining space to personalize their private worlds. For instance, there’s the couple — a happening real estate agent and artist — who live in a ’50s modern apartment filled with a major international art collection, some soft squishy seating and two rectangles. The first rectangle is a huge dining table that easily seats 12, because they like to entertain; the second is a baroque lion-claw-footed pool table smack in the middle of their glassed-in space. Both are lit by otherworldly glowing white light fixtures made of African silk embedded with wide stripes of seashells on the bias. This house gets to the heart of L.A. entertaining: the mix of the intimate and the grand.
A pair of writers recently moved into the home of their dreams, a Craftsman cottage overlooking downtown. He, a sparkly-eyed curmudgeon, turned a guest room into a punked-out version of an author’s dungeon, complete with funky old desk, tons of literary memorabilia, and meaningful garnish: a world within a world where he couldn’t be more isolated or happier. She, a literary socialite who throws open her salon at the drop of a hat, refurbished the rest of the house with her collection of plushed-out and restored Victorian and Stickley furniture that conveys the wit of the 19th century with the comfort of the 21st. Her renowned parties are like summer retreats at the Algonquin by way of Musso & Frank.
And then there’s the makeup artist, a single man who turned a 10-year-old three-bedroom in the Hollywood foothills into a one-bedroom bachelor pad complete with a private studio and gym. Walls came down, light came in, terrazzo was poured everywhere, and this very ordinary house is now a spectacular two-story loft with a view, a pool, a Jacuzzi, fountains inside and out, and a lifestyle to die for — but not in a The Player sort of way.
Three different homes, three different worlds, but all these people share a few things: They know who they are and how they want to live. And they understand that living in Los Angeles isn’t supposed to be like living in, say, New York. They respect the geography of the city — its climate, its light, its city-life/country-life dichotomy, its multilingual/multiracial character. These common denominators are the very fabric of L.A.’s new style. By looking inward — rather than trying to emulate more established cities — we are finally discovering our own true character.
Recently, I spent an evening at Cheebo, a fairly new restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, due east of the Strip. The first thing I noticed was a smiling face and waving arms beckoning me to the door, then I noticed the absence of guards, goons or anybody with a list. I walked into a complex of rooms drenched in a vivid orange-creamsicle color that should have been sickeningly sweet but was in fact delicious and flattering. The walls were tall and covered in lots of L.A. art. The rooms were spacious and filled with lots of L.A. people, all of whom had left their attitude at the door. No flash, no decorator tricks, no lounges crammed with wannabes and no pink poodles. The food was fantastic, the music hot, and the people cool. A very modern, very public moment. An ordinary night with friends turned out to be all about what makes this city extraordinary: honesty, clarity and personal vision. The world can have our old movie sets. We’ve internalized our glamour. Welcome to L.A.