Titans Merge on L.A.'s Most Magnificent and Mysterious Mansion
Using icons of business and design as inspiration, the best designers in Los Angeles created a truly spectacular show house at Greystone.
What do you get when you mix some of the world’s best designers and epically influential leaders, put them together in one of the country’s most notorious mansions, then add a dash of French sophistication and Hollywood glamour? That would be “Titans of Business and the Best of Design: A Show House at Historic Greystone Mansion.”
It’s impossible to overstate the spectacle of this showcase house event, the first of hopefully many all across the country from the new Design House International. Together with the Friends of Greystone and City of Beverly Hills, they managed to put on the mother of all design events in Southern California.
UBIFrance, the French Agency for International Business Development, also added its design event “Art de Vivre a la Francaise/The art of living the French Way,” to the mix, sending some of France’s most eminent designers to use the country’s most elegant resources in the rooms assigned to them.
Twenty-five of L.A.’s most talented and creative designers were invited to create spaces using prominent clients or historical figures as inspiration for their rooms. Even the choices the designers made for their sources of inspiration were wildly wildly creative, ranging from grand historical figures like William Randolph Hearst, Howard Hughes and Julia Child, to fashion designers like Chanel, Halston and Schiaparelli; to latter-day visionaries such as Paul Mockapetris, the creator of the Domain Name System, Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets and Philip and Gayle Tauber, founders of the Kashi Company. It doesn’t get much more diverse than that.
Rampant creativity was evident in every nook and cranny of the mansion. Even the famous basement bowling alley, noted for being the set of a seminal scene in the film There Will be Blood, was decorated, with red-dressed mannequins flowing from the adjacent, Valentino-inspired billiard room. Glamorous designer Alissa Sutton chose the fashion icon for her inspiration because, “He and I share a devotion to uniqueness and dedication to beauty.”
Lawrence Lazzaro of Nicholas Lawrence Interior Design used Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, as his inspiration. A network executive might seem an unusual choice, but Greenblatt’s remarkable taste and sense of what works (he’s presided over hit TV shows as diverse as The Voice, The Borgias, Six Feet Under and Beverly Hills, 90210), prompted Lazzaro to create an intimate, elegant and cohesive room with a few interesting nods to Greenblatt’s shows, like a skeleton lamp and a sculpture made of piano hammers. And of course, it's the perfect place to watch television. Facing the big screen is a Lazarro-designed, Stickley-inspired sofa that is actually comfortable – the perfect marriage of form and function.
Many designers used elaborate furniture, fixtures and installations specially created for the exhibit. Paul L’Esperance and Daelen Cory of L’Esperance Design, for example, used William Randolph Hearst for inspiration, brought in remarkable animal chairs from Maximo Riera's collection, based on probable residents of Hearst's private zoo. Inspired by the tycoon’s taste for the striking and cutting edge, they perfected techniques for chroming intricately carved antiques, and projecting digital artwork on walls and ceilings, giving the impression of fine artwork and built in design elements, which can easily be changed at whim.
Also creating design elements specifically for the show was Kelly Sutton of Kelly Sutton Design, who used crystal titan Nadja Swarovski as her inspiration. She had crystals actually woven into the carpet, and created a glimmering mobile-like emerald crystal sculpture to hang over the bed.
Some fascinating elements of this particular show, however, go unseen. Greystone has a reputation for being haunted, and Designer Victoria Reitz of Victoria Reitz Design, who designed the third floor hallway and the famous murder room and has been an integral part of organizing the event for several years, has seen and heard evidence of ghostly habitation. She recounts tales of body imprints in fluffy chairs where no human has been sitting, mysterious movement of heavy sculptures and furniture (to the ghost’s particular taste, perhaps?) and heavy, secret wall panels sliding before her very eyes, untouched by human hands.
Greystone, also known as The Doheny Mansion is the site of one of L.A.'s most notorious and unsolved murders. The mansion was built in the late 1920s by Edward Lawrence Doheny, who was one of the first to find oil in Los Angeles. When the estate was completed, he proudly presented it to his son Ned, Ned's wife Lucy, and their five children. Alas, five months after they moved in, Ned and his friend Hugh Plunket were both found in the mansion dead from bullet wounds in an apparent murder-suicide, but no one knows for sure what really happened. Speculation, as well as inexplicable occurrences, linger on.
The ghosts, of course, stay with the house, but all the furnishings and design elements had to be cleared out in late November. But that doesn't mean they're forever unavailable. Some of the pieces the designers used and created for the event have been posted for sale at OneKingsLane.com and others can be obtained by contacting the designers. Visit the Design House International site for a full list of the designers and their inspirations.