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Maile Pingel | Photo: Ethan Pines | July 23, 2013
For Houston’s Charlie Chanaratsopon, founder of Charming Charlie boutiques nationwide, the best accessory is a sparkling second home in Beverly Hills.
Three months is all Houston interior designer Blair Gordon had to create one of Beverly Hills’ most glamorous homes. His immediate response to the client’s request? “I said it would be impossible—it’s a 20,000-square-foot house!” Then quickly adds, “But we did it.”
The designer first met Charlie Chanaratsopon, CEO and founder of the nationwide, Houston-based fashion accessories boutique Charming Charlie, while he was working on a project in the same H-Town condo building Chanaratsopon calls home. “We just hit it off and he asked me to do his California house,” he says.
Situated on a verdant street above legendary Sunset Boulevard, Chanaratsopon’s second home affords views of the Bel-Air Country Club but “feels like a tree house,” Gordon explains. “It’s extremely private.” The home was built in the 1950s and although greatly enlarged over the years, it retains much of its original character. “Charlie flew me out to see the house, and I was amazed that, for all the square footage, it felt really intimate. It’s still a ’50s house with all the smaller rooms of that era, but the extensions make it feel open.”
That sense of timelessness begins at the limestone pillars and black-lacquered gates that lead to the motor court. “You know you’re about to enter a special place,” says Gordon. “It’s the quintessential Old Hollywood estate, which is precisely what Charlie wanted. Its bones were great and it had all sorts of wonderful stuff, like a double-height entryway and lots of paneling.” Finishes like Carrara marble and subway tile were already in place so Gordon and his team, which included designers Emily Jackson and Amy Townsell, focused their attention on refining a neutral color scheme and bringing in a range of vintage pieces and new furnishings, most of which were custom-made. Black-and-white portraits of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack reinforce the subtle palette, and the swanky vibe.
“The interiors have a very contemporary sensibility, much like Charlie’s Houston penthouse. But this is a vacation home so it has an entirely different feel. I think we struck a good balance,” the designer reflects. “It’s not too modern.” Gordon, who has held top creative positions with Ralph Lauren and J.Crew, knows a thing or two about updating traditional design for today’s lifestyle.
Chanaratsopon, who studied finance at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles before returning to Houston to embark on his startup, comes to L.A. to relax, “but he’s always working,” says Gordon. “This house allows him to mix business and pleasure easily. His most enjoyable time is with friends, so entertaining is a big part of the home’s function. He throws great parties and utilizes every inch of the property.” Aside from nine bedrooms, the home includes a gourmet kitchen, game room, conservatory, gym, spa, library, poker room and pool. Although Gordon initially signed on for the interiors, work extended outside. “We put in a putting green, expansive patios, and a grill area—several sunken fire pits too, for the ultimate marshmallow-roasting parties.”
Of the many rooms, Gordon says that one of his favorites is the theater. “It’s got a classic screening-room feel. I designed five chaises, each slightly larger than a twin bed so that two people can fit. It’s a cozy space—a whole world of camel, cream, fox fur and suede.”
He also loves the bar. “We were driving around the neighborhood for inspiration one day and decided to go see the bar at the Bel-Air hotel,” he says. “We arrived, ordered a drink, and Charlie said, ‘I want a bar like this.’ It’s a beautiful spot, but I thought, I can’t just give him this, I have to give him more.” More included barrel-shaped barstools custom-tailored like a Brioni suit. “The result is spectacular. Whether [it’s] a party of 20 or 60, they all pack into that room. I love seeing a space enjoyed like that. I think, ‘I did it!’”
But every Hollywood story needs a little drama. In this case, a custom-built, 17-foot sofa had to be trucked from Houston to L.A. on an 18-wheeler before being transferred to a smaller truck that could pass through Bel-Air’s security gate. Alas, when the truck arrived—with the tail end of the sofa hanging out the back—entry was denied, and the sofa had to be walked up to the house by eight men. “It’s white! I was stressing out,” recalls the designer with a laugh and a sigh. “It’s funny… now.” Resplendent in its perfection, the sofa now anchors the living room, sharing space with midcentury Scandinavian armchairs, black-lacquered gueridons, and Lucite cocktail tables.
What made the project most enjoyable was the amiable relationship between designer and client. “Charlie is a pleasure to work with,” says Gordon. “He wanted to know what was going on, but he allowed me to do what I do.” So in sync are the two that the designer is now consulting on new Charming Charlie boutiques.
Nearing the end of the installation, Gordon spent a few weeks at the house putting on all the finishing touches. “I’d think about going out to do something and then realize I have it all right here. There was never a need to leave this incredible place.”