Wednesday, July 13, 2011

House of Windsor--Intimate by Design

If you're anywhere near Los Angeles, don't miss House of Windsor. It closes to the public at the end of this weekend! This is by far and away the best showhouse I've ever experienced, on either coast.
I'm sorry you'll all have to wait for the rest of the house photos to be published by Veranda. But here's my favorite.

Generally speaking, I am not the hugest fan of showhouses. They either run tastefully bland or overly dramatic. But this was Design Nirvana. The brainchild of Windsor Smith, the house was constructed from the ground up in one of the most exclusive enclaves in Los Angeles. Smith acted as architect, designer and creative director. It was her concept of a home for the modern family lifestyle (if the family were incredibly cool and had what I estimated to be around $15.2M--no joke). To help realize her vision, Smith hand-picked designers she felt best understood her philosophy. Indeed the house was a collaboration of people with impeccable taste and a serious art and antiques acumen. Every corner of the house was filled, rather curated, with beautiful objets d'art. Yet, it felt more livable and conducive to a happy family life than any residence I've ever encountered.

It was a good traffic day in LA, so my girlfriend and I arrived unexpectedly early for the panel discussion/party. We practically had the place to ourselves. I climbed the stairs above the garage to see the room designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard. I was greeted by the most exciting space. It was a "den" of sorts, for the man of the house, who Martyn envisions as "modern, hip, sophisticated." (We all design in the mirror don't we?) This man cave, with its funky 70's vibe, spoke to his whole vintage-sexy-rockstar aesthetic.

Just as exciting, was spotting Martyn in the corner. I would have thought I'd play it cool, but no. I literally rushed to him, gushing about how much I love him, his work and the room. Like the consummate professional celebrity, he was ever so gracious and calm. (Who doesn't love their own groupie?) I so appreciated the time he took showing me around the space, pointing out the different pieces, noting the pedigree of each. And we are talking serious pedigree. "There's over a million dollars worth of things in here, Dahling."

The room boasts an array of vintage furniture that would make collectors of any era drool. From the full collection of Damien Hirst skulls, to the rare art photography, to the 70's pop art-inspired fabric from his own line, the room oozed Martyn's special brand of sophistication and sex. There was even a Pierre Cardin chess set, circa 1973, that you know he would expect this hip modern family to use nightly, or at least when the master of the room required company.

It was luxurious yet felt like somewhere you really wanted to hang, not that I felt at liberty to throw myself on the vintage sofas. "Today's luxury is really comfort," he has said. "A modern family wants to be able to sit everywhere, eat everywhere, enjoy everything." While he considers comfort luxurious, he doesn't believe in living with the mundane. "I don't believe in saving the best for Sunday. Enjoy everything you own everyday." I couldn't agree more.
I've already finished her book, Summers in France, which she's signing for me here. Loved it.

I could go on and on about the panel's insights into lifestyle design for today. I enjoyed the very articulate Smith's musings about this idea of creating rooms to purposefully bring families closer together. I love this idea of living authentically, simply, and beautifully in a decompartmentalized, yet intimate home. (This was my personal take-away, anyway; my words, not hers. If only I'd had a transcript of hers!)

But I equally enjoyed their entertaining stories of Smith and Ireland meeting in a Mommy-and-Me! Or the one in which Ireland dragged Smith from an impromtu, wine-filled lunch to a nearly forgotten appointment with her "trainers." When a befuddled Smith, decked in Ireland's too large sneaker and sweats, demanded, "Where are we going?" Ireland cried, "I work out with the Russian Olympic team, Darling. Now hurry up!" Sure enough, the day wound up with the two women doing lunges with, honest to God, a hulking Russian Olympic team.

Kathryn Ireland was more hysterical than Bravo could ever portray. She is the absolute embodiment of the term "joie de vivre," or as my mother likes to call such types (and not with the least bit of affection!), "a real bon vivant." She alone could have held my attention all night speaking about her passion for food, wine and horses. "Before I wanted to sleep with men, I wanted to sleep with horses," she quipped. Some in the crowd stirred uncomfortably until she finished, "Honestly, if I was a really good girl, my mother would let me sleep out in the barn with my pony." No wonder she urged Smith to erect a barn on the horse zoned property, which she transformed into the ultimate equestrian atelier, complete with a farm table, sofas and a bar. Purple lemonade, anyone? Though she's now "on the tequila diet!"

You really have to experience the whole thing to understand why I have had such a hard time editing this (still too long) post. Windsor Smith's kitchen alone could inspire a book. So could genius Peter Dunham's killer room I'd claim for myself. I won't even start on the magical indoor/outdoor flow with lush gardens meant for long afternoons of wine and cheese (did that!).

At one point the very vocal Kathryn Ireland urged the moderator to "Move along. Or we'll lose the crowd!" If she only knew, I could have stayed all night.


  1. Passing out with ENVY!

    What a marvelous time!

  2. House of Windsor is one of my favorites!.. Glad you had a great time.

    You look great in the photo's!

    Have a great weekend!

    Marnie. x

  3. I can't believe I missed the open house. I found your link from twitter... so jealous you got to meet these amazing people!!!

  4. loved this!!! loved your stories about kathryn. oh, I wish i could have toured this with you - on my own, i would have been too shy to talk with martyn and kathryn. just noticed how both their names are spelled with Y instead of i!!!!

    loved this!!

  5. I wished you all had been there with me! Would have made it even more fun. Joni, I would have made sure you and Martyn were sharing cocktails by the end. He really is amazingly unpretentious, almost humbly gracious. He made an effort to reach over Kathryn's gorgeous farm table and say, "Good bye, So wonderful to meet you," to this nobody/stalker/fan. I won't start up again about the details of the house. I just hope they publish soon!

  6. So wish I could have been must have been such a thrill!!


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