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By Amanda Eberstein | Photo: Bethany Lynn Nauert | February 2, 2017
International “it” girl Erica Pelosini plants her flag in the hills of L.A.
Upon entering the Beverly Hills home of Erica Pelosini—a striking midcentury stunner perched on a quiet street at the top of Coldwater Canyon—one would immediately assume that she is a quintessential California girl. As she sits outside at a chic white iron table, decked out head-to-toe in a cozy camel cashmere ensemble that perfectly matches her tanned skin and long wavy locks, she sips on green juice—made from fresh farmers market produce—while a golden retriever puppy plays by her side. But one word out of the pint-size style star, and her thick accent boldly reveals her strong Italian roots. “I feel like I am in Tuscany right now,” Pelosini exclaims as she gazes out over the tree-lined valley, which stretches over neighboring estates and hillsides, with views that extend through the early morning mist all the way to the sea. “It looks like we are in the countryside. I have a yard full of rosemary. I have olives, and we have lemon trees over there. I want to plant figs next.”
It is this unique combination of suburban simplicity and cosmopolitan sophistication that brought the Florence-born stylist and creative director to land in L.A. with her husband, Dutch shoe designer Louis Leeman, 2 ½ years ago. “Growing up, we had a house in the historical center of Florence, which was beautiful with fresco all over, and then we had a house in the countryside, which was only 10 minutes away, where we would spend weekends,” she explains. Pelosini recalls spending her days outside, often driving 45 minutes through the winding streets to the sea. One of her first jobs in the fashion world—besides a stint at Vogue Japan where she worked with Anna Dello Russo—came through a childhood friendship with Daniele Cavalli, the son of legendary designer Roberto Cavalli, who recruited Pelosini soon after high school to work for the storied brand. “I basically started to do all of the styling and art direction, choosing the talents and the photographers, and it was so exciting because I was superyoung,” she says. “We would go from factory to factory throughout Italy by helicopter.” After meeting Leeman—then working for an esteemed tailor on London’s Savile Row—the peripatetic couple eventually settled in Paris, where they remained for nine years. Together with Pelosini, Leeman launched his line of refined, Italian-made men’s footwear—sleek, stylish boots, shoes, slippers and sneakers—while Pelosini continued to expand her fashion portfolio, working for Vogue Japan and serving as both muse and stylist for brands like Emilio Pucci, Christian Louboutin, and Salvatore Ferragamo (she still serves as an ambassador for Louboutin and Ferragamo).
But, eventually, the allure of Los Angeles would become undeniable. “Everybody has been asking me how I ended up here because it doesn’t make sense!” she laughs. “I was living in Paris, and I loved it, but I missed the lifestyle, where you can live right outside the city center and be so close to the sea.” Pelosini would often travel to L.A. for photo shoots and other work, and also to visit her hair colorist of 15 years, Johnny Ramirez of Ramirez Tran salon. Eventually, one last visit with Leeman to Hotel Bel-Air turned into a six-month stint. “It ended up being a dream,” she says. “We didn’t want to leave!” So, following the couple’s star-studded Capri wedding in 2014, the newlyweds returned to the City of Angels and set out to find a new home to call their own.
As fate would have it, shortly after hiring a real estate agent, a rare architectural gem hit the rental market. “Our realtor told us the owner was difficult because this house is like his baby,” Pelosini says. “We went to see it and immediately fell in love.” That house—stylish and compact, just like Pelosini—is a 1961 midcentury marvel designed by architect Donald Polsky, a disciple of Richard Neutra. And the owner is Bill Hair, an investment manager and longtime partner of iconic television producer Darren Star. Hair first discovered the house—located on a tiny four-home street at the very top of a hill—in 2002. “I had two dogs and they had gotten out of the house, and they were picked up by a woman who actually lived one house north,” her recalls. “I was just stunned by how beautiful it was.” In addition to the property’s inherent design credentials, Hair was drawn to its unique site, with stunning 360-degree views from the Hollywood sign to the ocean. “You don’t get views like that in Los Angeles,” he says. As soon as the house became available, Hair snatched it up.
Although the bones of the home were still intact, there was work to be done. “It was not in great shape, as the house had been a rental for many years,” Hair recalls. “And in order to expand the house, there had been a few additions that didn’t really make much sense.” Hair enlisted the help of Scott Prentice, a renowned L.A. architect who specializes in preserving historical works by Neutra and the other masters of his era. “This was a project of editing. Stripping it back to its original condition, but at the same time opening it up,” Prentice says. “With this beautiful all-glass house on a hill, it seems like it is already built into its surroundings. But I think we increased this connection even more.” Using Polsky’s own floor plans and archival images by legendary photographer Julius Shulman, Prentice removed clumsy additions that had been made to the master suite and garage, and restored the sightlines extending from one end of the house to the other by removing hallways and internal closets added by the former owner. He also restored the living room fireplace with Arizona moonstone, re-planked the ceiling with Douglas fir and installed the home’s original Neutra-style beams. And perhaps most importantly, he added a steel support foundation to protect the architecture for decades to come. “It was a great canvas for living then, and it’s great for how it’s being lived in now,” Prentice explains.
Once the restoration was complete, Hair set out to find modernist furnishings worthy of the pedigreed digs. “It was a total learning process,” says Hair, who chose to rely on his own intuition, rather than an interior designer, and found many of his most significant pieces from auctions like LA Modern and Wright in Chicago. The result is a swinging ’60s-style house that looks like it could be a set for Tom Ford’s A Single Man. In the dining area, Vladimir Kagan’s iconic biomorphic table and side chairs take center stage, while over in the living room, brown leather Mies van der Rohe Tugendhat chairs sit across from a gray flowered pair by Florence Knoll. Elsewhere in the residence, there are treasures such as an Eames chaise, Jens Risom red leather swivel chairs, Paul McCobb side tables and even a limited-edition print by Alexander Calder. But, as always, the heart of the home is the view—enjoyed through floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the entire western edge. “Particularly in the winter, if the sun is at a certain point on the horizon, it adds an amazing level of warmth and expanse that just makes everything glow,” Hair says.
Although understandably attached to his home, Hair eventually made the decision to move in full time with Star, who owns an equally exquisite Waldo Fernandez-designed estate in Bel Air. “The house sat empty for just shy of a year,” explains Hair, who decided that rather than sell his most prized possession, he would rent it out fully furnished. “It was tough to part with everything that I acquired, and then I made the decision that it was just stuff and I had to stop worrying about it.” His worries ceased the moment he met Pelosini and Leeman. “It’s just a perfect fit for them,” says Hair. “They’re so terrific and extremely gracious in terms of the great care they are taking of everything.” The two couples have become close friends, and Hair and Star’s golden retriever even inspired Pelosini and Leeman to get their own, an adorable puppy named Cashmere. Just like his stylish mother, the dog has quickly become an Instagram star, which has led to Pelosini’s latest project, Naked Voyage by Erica Pelosini. The new collection—designed by Pelosini for Naked Cashmere—contains chic cashmere travel essentials like sweaters, pants, scarves and blankets inspired by her jet-set lifestyle. “These are the pieces you need wherever you go,” Pelosini explains. “When you go to fashion week, when you go to the Cannes Film Festival, when you go on holiday, you want to bring these with you.” Or—as is the case with Pelosini—perhaps they are best enjoyed while lounging outside in the backyard. After all, in the end, there is no place like home.
Scott Prentice Architects
VENDORS AND DESIGNERS
All kitchen appliances and bar
La Chaise chair, lounge chair
Pensi kitchen stools and
gray floral armchairs
Los Angeles Modern Auctions
Vintage pieces throughout
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Tugendhat chairs, gray suede chairs, chocolate-brown Barcelona daybed
Biomorphic dining table, side chairs and glass coffee table
Vintage pieces throughout