For The Hollywood Reporter's list, nearly 40 design experts and showroom heads weighed in on who matters in creating Hollywood homes today for clients including Beyonce and Jay-Z, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, and George and Amal Clooney.
Gone are the days of the headline-grabbing, Hollywood designer whose brand is emblazoned on every throw pillow and candle. Tinseltown’s new breed of influential interior designers are more discreet, less dictatorial and all about creating chic spaces where the tastes of their industry-insider clients reign. These newer interiors reflect a panoply of influences — 1930s French modernism, contemporary Belgian rusticity, louche '70s glam and the primary-colored geometry of '80s Memphis. An emphasis on vintage pieces, reclaimed materials and green building indicate a growing eco-consciousness, just as incorporating the craft of local artisans celebrates uniqueness and authenticity. A good percentage of the following interior designers — compiled in a list after consulting nearly 40 design experts, showroom heads and photographers — fly under the radar, letting their powerful and starry clients grab the spotlight.
While Sklar no longer is performing comedy sets — she leaves that to her husband, Randy, one half of the Sklar Brothers — she still has an off-kilter sensibility that endears Amy Sklar Design to a growing roster of funny men and women that includes Patton Oswalt and Rob Corddry. "We take our job seriously but gag around a lot," says Sklar, who then deadpans, "It's better that way. Trust me." Alongside architect Barbara Bestor, Sklar’s working on a house for Almost Family writer-producer Annie Weisman. “There’s nothing better than trusting an expert to do a job that so directly affects one’s overall life and well-being,” says Blockers director and client Kay Cannon of the home Sklar created for her and her husband, screenwriter Eben Russell. “Knowing she would have to hold our hands, Amy and her boundless energy, keen eye, and sharp wit made the process painless. We fucking love the design of our house. And if we had a dime for every time someone asks us where we got our 'amazing kitchen backsplash,' we'd be able to afford a vacation home for Amy to design."
Richard Petit and Stephen Hunt's boutique agency, named after the English production company behind such evocative films as The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, is known for visually dramatic, highly composed moments. Case in point: the neon yellow spiral staircase in the Silver Lake renovation for film producer Sharon Oreck and her cinematographer husband, Bill Pope. Such moments are clues to the prodigious knowledge of film, art, design and fashion that the duo — whose experiences include wardrobe stylist, video editor, painter and photography (Hunt); and theatre design and stints under esteemed designers Waldo Fernandez and Brad Dunning (Petit) — bring to every aspect of their work, including their must-follow Instagram. Says Petit, "A lot of clients would say that working with The Archers is 'fun' or 'inspiring,' and that's because we try to be as collaborative as possible.
As glamorous as her clientele — Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Joe Jonas, Kelly Rowland, The AllBright social club — Brigette Romanek launched her Romanek Design Studio from the Laurel Canyon home she shares with her director husband, Mark Romanek. The hillside home, once owned by Rick Rubin and possibly haunted, required an overhaul by the ex-handbag designer (her Rockstar purse was carried by Kate Moss, two Kardashians and Eva Mendes). Kelly Sawyer Patricof, co-founder of nonprofit Baby2Baby and wife of producer Jamie Patricof, took one look and hired Romanek for her Malibu abode. "Brigette's home is warm, eclectic and stylish. You never want to leave," Patricof says. "She gave that same inviting feeling to my home."
This bicoastal partnership — New York-based Vicky Charles was former global design head for Soho House, while L.A.'s Julia Corden, wife of James Corden, handles the business — brings an inviting clubby vibe into the homes of an astounding roster. Clients are said to include David and Victoria Beckham, George and Amal Clooney (for whom they designed nurseries in three cities), Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Liv Tyler, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
"I think I'm known for creating unique environments for people who have an honest and deep love for design," says Cliff Fong, who works out of Matt Blacke Inc. That certainly describes Ellen DeGeneres, his most high-profile client. In more than two and half decades of collaborating, they've tackled two dozen-plus homes, beginning with an apartment he says he “spruced up” while she toured early on in her career. He's also fit in work for Ryan Murphy and Balthazar Getty. “My clients learn to appreciate something that they hadn’t considered before,” he says of his knack, showcased in Galerie Half, the impeccably curated showroom he co-owns on Melrose that artfully juxtaposes African stools, weathered Swedish sideboards and French modern chairs, adding up to a relaxed and inviting vibe. On deck, a restaurant space. "We're looking forward to sinking our teeth into that," he says.
Restrained and understated, David John Dick and Krista Schrock layer the colors of the California desert into livable spaces like the Silver Lake home Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis just picked up for $3.5 million. “So many rooms are beautiful in photos, but they’re not rooms you want to live in,” says Dick. Adds Schrock, "'Warm' and 'calm' are words we hear a lot from our clients," including Innerscope Records head of A&R Sam Riback, director and screenwriter Leigh Janiak, producer Greg Jacobs and SNL's former co-head writer Chris Kelly, who raves, "Disc has amazing taste but is also great at listening to what your taste is, and then elevating and perfecting it." “We love working on historical properties,” says Dick, citing two Paul Williams homes in Hancock Park, the renovation of a Monterey Spanish-style home in Cheviot Hills for Sundance CEO Keri Putnam, and a Los Feliz home for Stranger Things co-creator Ross Duffer, complete with 12-foot-long gold velvet sofa. "We were drawn to their timeless, muted and serene aesthetic, which is sophisticated and cohesive," says Riback.
"I worked on Brooke Shields' dorm room at Princeton," says Demitri Sgourakis with a laugh about his start. Since then, the Demitri Christian Interior Design principal, whose husband is Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning director Michael Sucsy (Grey Gardens, The Vow), has worked on houses for Cher, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and Paul McCartney and is designing homes for Pat Sajak, Toni Braxton and Mary J. Blige. But even in rooms dripping with luxurious patterns and textures, like the houndstooth glam room he created for Braxton's sister Tamar, his focus is his clients. "It's really a place for them to shine," he says. “He encourages me to take risks and the result is always a 'wow,'” says Laura McKenzie, for whom Sgourakis has finished multiple projects, from a home and executive offices to two mega yachts, for her and her husband David McKenzie of Associated Television. Next: the lobby renovation of The Carlyle Residences on Wilshire Boulevard.
A chance meeting with design legend Tony Duquette changed Don Stewart's career. Design legend Duquette put the former photographer to work redoing the cottages at Sortilegium in Malibu and Dawnridge, which refocused Stewart's energies. Clients, including Chrissy Teigen and John Legend — the Desiderata Design owner is currently "adding some flavor" to his fourth project for them, a new penthouse in NYC — are the beneficiaries. "The client has to love everything. Any hesitations, and it's off the board," says Stewart. "The meaning of 'desiderata' is 'anything desired as essential or necessary.' That was the whole premise of opening my business. Make it about them. I don’t want to come in there and give it the ‘Don Stewart’ look. I’m just the filter. I take in what I see my clients responding to and touching. That’s where I pay the most attention.”
The team of Sally Breer and Jake Rodehuth-Harrison are the masterminds behind some of L.A.'s buzziest places: Hotel Covell, Cafe Birdie, Oriel and Firehouse Hotel in the Arts District. The narrative-driven design firm, which works with Katy Perry, Zooey Deschanel, Martha Plimpton and Justin Lin, often creates fictional characters to lead the process. "Working with Jake and Sally is like Oceans 11," says Magic Mike producer and client Reid Carolin: "They're effortlessly cool, smart, fast and stylish, and despite how much fun you have working with them, you get the strong sense they're enjoying themselves even more." Says Rodehuth-Harrison of the firm that launched in 2016, “We take what we do seriously but, let’s be honest, we’re not.”
It's not a coincidence that Frances Merrill of Reath Design (Reath is her maiden name) finds herself working with writers and showrunners. "So much of how we approach our projects is from a storytelling perspective," says the designer of such clients as SMILF's Frankie Shaw, Gossip Girl's Josh Schwartz and Friends' Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan. A devotee of vibrant environments, Merrill enjoys taking risks, like the black floral Togo chairs she found on 1stdibs for attorney Joel McKuin and his wife, architect Sherry McKuin. Says Being Human’s Anna Fricke and Jeremy Carver, “People always compliment our house when they come over because it feels pulled together but lived in.”
Though Jake Arnold won’t be 30 until March, his soul is as old as his English homeland. He landed in Los Angeles six years ago under the wing of glamorous interior duo Woodson & Rummerfield, then joined up with Steve Wunderlich of 4C Design Group. While the British designer's moody monochrome interiors have pushed him past 39,000 followers on Instagram, Arnold is more interested in atmosphere over strict aesthetics. At the end of the day, it's all about how you feel in a space," he says. Aaron Paul, Rashida Jones and Slack founder Stewart Butterfield and fiancee and Away founder Jen Rubio are among his clients. "Jake has the most unbelievable taste and vision, but he is just as strong in execution, whether that be a ground-up project or a major remodel," says client Katherine Power, co-founder and CEO of style media website Who What Wear. "He’s wise beyond his years, but brings an element of youth and fun to what can be a very laborious project." As to his penchant for night-hued tones in a sunshine-infused city, he says with a shrug, "Dark is everything."
Jamie Bush's list of projects reads like a who's who of media, from Crazy Rich Asians producer Nina Jacobson's Santa Monica Canyon home (he's created multiple projects for her over a dozen years); to two houses for AppLovin CEO Adam Foroughi, and the iconic Silvertop residence for Beats CEO Luke Woods. He's also designed for Snapchat's Bobby Murphy, Nextdoor's Jon Perlow and Disney's Rich Ross. "On every project, we do the interior architecture so there's a unified vision between the spaces and furnishings," says Bush, who trained as an architect. "I love how Jamie is able to weave his imagination and vision with his understanding of our taste," says Jacobson: "Whether I'm at work or home, I appreciate the warmth and originality of Jamie's taste."
While the Hallworth Design founder is happy to talk about her lighting designs for Blackman Cruz that feature in Apple TV's debut series, The Morning Show, she keeps a tight lid on the identity of her clients. But her intimate, complex and intriguing neo-Gothic interiors speak loudly to Tinder’s Sean Rad, Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Barrymore, Kirsten Dunst, Jonah Hill, Tom Hanks and Michelle Williams. They're also fans of "Bobby Dazzler," the 1955 Spartan Aircraft Imperial Mansion all-aluminum trailer, called "Bobby Dazzler," that she rents out, currently to Morning Show star Jennifer Aniston, which brings the regenerative energy of beautiful design to the draining world of long days on sets.
Though Joy Moyler Interiors is based in New York, geography hasn't prevented her from working with Leonardo DiCaprio, Adrien Brody and chef Thomas Keller. "We're known for delivering time, the most luxurious commodity," she says. “We make it easy for clients to do what they do best while we do the heavy lifting.” John Mayer, for whom she's designed multiple homes, says, "Joy made it seamless and was always available with our schedules to fly out to the site for deliveries or to meet with installers. She took care of everything. Even when there are no current projects on the table, she is always available if we are out of town and need help with something."
A mixed-media artisan and longtime resident of Venice Beach, Kim Gordon showcases steel-framed floor-to ceiling windows, hand-troweled walls and open floor plans that transform sand shacks into buoyant indoor-outdoor abodes. Says Gordon, who has worked with long-established interior designers Madeline Stuart and Kerry Joyce, "A lot of my aesthetic came from my wondering, 'It's so beautiful and the weather's so great, why aren't we just living outside? Why do people have to traipse through the bedroom to get to the backyard? Why are the windows so small?’" Geffen Records president Neil Jacobson and Laura Dern are among her growing list of clients. Says Tim Blacksmith, a music producer for the Grammy-winning Stargate who bought a $5.25 million, 4,300-square-foot Gordon design in Venice: "Straight away, we knew we had to beat the pack to get it. It's full of daylight, plants, art, furniture. It’s a creative landscape that’s extremely inspiring to our friends, clients and co-creators. My clients [Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry] come in, take pictures and want to know more."
A talent for unearthing hidden gems has endeared Los Angeles native and UCLA grad Kishani Perera to chef Curtis Stone, Bruce Willis, Rachel Bilson, Ben Stiller, Gary Oldman and Harry Styles. Says Emily Deschanel: "Kishani always came up with unexpected ideas I would never have thought of but are my favorite pieces in the end." A home for Ava DuVernay is on deck. "We have fun things coming up with very cool, creative-thinking people," says Perera. "My clients aren't looking for the beige room."
The LMID, Inc. founder has a pilot's license and a single-engine Cessna to go with it — the better to keep track of her far-flung, big-thinking clients, including James Cameron (she designed his Lightstorm Entertainment Studios). Says Jon Landau, weighing in from the New Zealand set of Avatar 2, "Lynda brings to each project two essential things: She is creative in her aesthetic and innovative in making that vision a reality." Her project in Bel Air for Michael Bay, with whom she's been working for 20 years "was our first from the ground up, so that was really special," says Murray. She recently completed a home for Greg Berlanti and his husband, former soccer player Robbie Rogers. In addition to working on a ski house for John Fogelman, WME founding board member and CEO of FactoryMade Ventures, she’s gearing up for an appearance on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and working with Lisa Rinna, an opportunity that came about via a renovation she’d done for Alyssa Milano. “That’s how it works in Hollywood," she says, "one tells another.”
Alongside consulting for LACMA'S Decorative Arts Council as chair emeritus, Oliver M. Furth shares his vast knowledge of the city's creative scene with such clients as Imagine's Michael Rosenberg, Arianna Huffington, Beautycon Media CEO Moj Mahdara, UTA's Jim Berkus and CAA's Michael Rosenfeld. "I'm often commissioning artisans to make unique furniture," says Furth, like the Eames Eiffel Tower chairs he asked Tanya Aguiñiga to reimagine in felt for Nickelodeon CMO Jenny Wall. Says comedian Clark Duke, "He loves color, he's fearless with his creative choices, and he's a patient teacher. He broadened my palette immensely while also making my house feel deeply personal." Furth is currently juggling a three-year historic restoration of an A. Quincy Jones house (“We’ve had to move slowly and carefully,” he says of the landmark home), a modern family compound on three continuous beachfront parcels in Malibu, and the renovation of a 19th century townhouse in Brooklyn for a couple in the tech world. “Many of my clients are collectors or budding collectors," he says. "I think I attract people who want to live with and learn about beautiful things.”
Their exit from powerhouse design studio Commune hasn't slowed down brother-and-sister duo Pamela and Ramin Shamshiri. The two Shamshiris, born in Tehran of an Iranian father and Roman mother, find inspiration in history, filtering it through a multicultural lens, and in their deep-seated belief that good design is the launching pad to a better life. “Our process is very similar to production,” Pam notes, “We think holistically, and have a narrative as well as experience in mind always.” Strong creatives like Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren, Beck and André Balazs gush with praise for their work. "We adore her," says client Anne Hathaway of the home Pam designed for her and husband Adam Shulman. "To have the courage to speak up about what's in front of you — as opposed to just faithfully executing what was agreed upon and put down on paper — is a trait Pam possesses that we came to value enormously." By way of example, Hathaway cites paint in the kitchen that wasn't working (Shamshiri instead went with a "light white stain on the wood, and she was absolutely right," says Hathaway); and mallard curtains that "I had my doubts about, but now I love those ducks." The actress adds, "Sometimes ambitious design can be intellectually satisfying, but feel alienating to live in. We love our home because it brings us pleasure to look at, but we love living in it — having friends over, cooking, chilling, raising our family."
"Malibu wasn't known for its architecture," says Colony native Vanessa Alexander, "but it always had this big surf break that attracted people," including clients David Duchovny and Gerard Butler. Now living in Bonsall Canyon with her husband, ICM partner Steve Alexander, the designer has helped change that. While her design for the Malibu Farm restaurants exports the more casual side of California style to Miami, Hawaii and New York, it's her interpretation of its relaxed luxury that endears her to attorney Kevin Yorn, director Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man), producer Matt Tolmach, Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth. She just completed the renovation of an original Ricardo Legorreta in Brentwood for WME agent Dan Aloni and his family. “My spaces always feel connected to the environments they inhabit,” Alexander says, “whether that’s the beach or the city, the East Coast or West Coast, an island, a mountain or anything in between.”
Clients Tom Cruise, Edythe and Eli Broad, ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner
Clients Producer Jamie Tarses, music producer Dr. Luke, The Ace hotels
Clients Stacey Snider, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Andy Cohen, Blair and David Kohan
Clients Kaley Cuoco, Mandy Moore, producer Barry Poznick, Kylie Jenner, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian
Clients Sylvester Stallone, Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen
KATHRYN M. IRELAND
Clients Steve Martin, Drew Barrymore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robert Zemeckis, Arianna Huffington
Clients Cameron Diaz, Gwen Stefani, Proper Hotel DTLA, Viceroy Hotel, Avalon Hotel, Parker Palm Springs
Clients Tom Freston, Shane Smith, Jami Gertz and Antony Ressler
Clients Amy Pascal, John Goldwyn and Jeffrey Klein, David and Susan Gersh, Gary and Jeanne Newman
MARTYN LAWRENCE BULLARD
Clients Elton John, Cher, Aaron Sorkin, Hotel California in Santa Monica
MICHAEL S. SMITH
Clients Barack and Michelle Obama, George Clooney, Rupert Murdoch
Clients Mindy Kaling, Amanda Peet
Clients Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Steve Tisch, Jeff and Laura Shell
TOMMY AND KATHLEEN CLEMENTS
Clients Jennifer Aniston, Bruno Mars, Ellen DeGeneres
Clients Courteney Cox, Patrick Whitesell
Clients Brad Pitt, Soho House West Hollywood
This story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.