Once upon a time in Hollywood, Caroline LeGrand fell in love with Los Angeles.
"I'd spent 25 years living in London and finally decided that I'd had enough," explains the British-born interior designer.
"I needed a change of scenery and for me, Los Angeles is such a cool city with a great lifestyle — it was more or less my only choice."
What began as a casual holiday romance quickly burned into a steady love affair with the City of Angels. At the advice of a local real-estate broker, the designer began actively scouting rental properties from afar, building a lengthy list of 35 prospective summer homes. A sun-soaked bungalow perhaps, somewhere high in the Hollywood Hills, a pied-à-terre that LeGrand would eventually call home. There was no better place to thaw out after London's gray and bitterly cold winters. After committing to the sunsets, the canyons — and even the traffic — LeGrand was sold.
"I basically signed the lease on this place right there on the spot, went back home for three weeks, and did all of the interior shopping and styling remotely from London — through my Miami and Palm Beach suppliers," LeGrand explains. "I not only ordered the carpet and the wallpaper, but also managed to find someone on the ground to coordinate my purchases and deliveries, in my absence. Within three days of receiving the keys, I realized I was moving in to a totally new, interior-designed home."
If you close your eyes and try to picture the quintessential Hollywood pad, LeGrand's might just be it. White-washed weatherboards and panoramic patio views are among the best scenes in the city. Sprawled outdoor furniture and layered Moroccan kilims — courtesy of a thrifty friend in Marrakesh — serve as a nod to that laidback, '70s vibe, while plush gold poufs and sleek, mid-century lines give LeGrand's Hollywood home an elevated and enviable cool-factor. From the chocolate wallpaper by Phillip Jeffries in the designer's living room, to the vanilla cream Stark Carpet (fittingly named Coconut Milk) that covers the floors — every stitch of this place is fit for a movie star. Ideally, one who avoids red wine and isn't afraid to enforce a strict "shoes-off" policy while hosting. It's easy to forget that this place is, in fact, rented.
"It's the that view sold me," LeGrand pragmatically explains, when asked what first attracted her to the hillside home, embedded in Laurel Canyon's rugged landscape and located a mere 45 minutes from Downtown L.A. "I think the simplicity of the build meant that I could do something cool and easy with the interior design. But at first, I had to accept that the house was in a pretty 'unloved' state."
Despite appearances, the designer spent a little over a month bringing her rental in the rough up to par. Drab charcoal carpet was quickly replaced with a glamorous milky white, landlord-approved alternative, while accents of vintage gold furniture sourced from a handful of LeGrand's favorite West Coast consignments serve as testament to the designer's penchant for investment pieces. The luxe living space — complete with a streamlined Steve Chase sofa that literally glows — set the tone. As self-assured and glamorous as it all seems, LeGrand is the first to admit that certain elements of her glitzy design approach "would only work here," in a neighborhood once favored by rock 'n roll royalty who dared to break the rules and stay up way past bedtime, the likes of Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, and Neil Young, to be exact.
"I read, I collect, I travel, I go to museums, and I buy coffee books," explains LeGrand, when asked what drives her design and inspires her practice. "I meet interesting people and I listen to what they say about what excites or inspires them. I'll take notes and I'll observe. I am constantly absorbing information. I get inspired by the smallest of things like a napkin in a restaurant or a billboard on display. Colors, textures, cinematography — it's all one big design."
Tucked down a private cul-de-sac, LeGrand's serves as "more of a treehouse" than a conventional home. Adhering to a 1970s style floor plan, for better or for worse — this is 1,500-square-feet of California living at its best. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood with natural light around the clock, basking in a honeydew glow come sunset. LeGrand was mindful to choose wallpaper and finishes that best complement the existing '70s tiles and features throughout, in a bid to pay homage to her space, pre-takeover.
"My style is definitely mid-century modern," she explains. "But I like to also evolve within that aesthetic, so I'll take a mid-century piece and use it with a different kind of '70s interior, or a piece I've sourced overseas. I like Italian and French design, and I like to watch what architects are doing and watch their interpretations of past pieces or interesting buildings."
Tear yourself away from the patio, step inside and prepare to be spoilt for choice. The dedicated dining room, complete with a Nihil Novi-sourced vintage Italian dining table and chairs, does its best to detract from the 360-degree view of Mulholland Drive and the Canyons below. While LeGrand's approach to outdoor design is always in flux, she's regularly swapping out furniture and layering soft textiles; inside, LeGrand's mid-century prowess proves timeless. Splashes of unashamedly bold color — from the hot pink Wertz Brothers velvet chair in the designer's study nook, to the unexpected pops of turquoise throughout— it's obvious that LeGrand's home is her blank California canvas.
"I love my TV room," she admits, when pressed to pick a favorite space. "It's so glamorous, you feel as though you truly are on top of the hill with Sunset Boulevard and Downtown L.A. just beyond the sofa. I love the fact that I have lighting under my sofa. It's so old school and it would only work here! Only in L.A."
Gold nesting tables, cubes by CB2, and wall-mounted artwork that toes the line between installation and sculpture coexist alongside crisp Italian travertine lines. If it's beautiful, statement-making, and fits the aesthetic — LeGrand can make it work.
"I also love my terrace," LeGrand continues. "I keep adding new pieces, every now and then. Another four poufs made it from Marrakech in March. I love the idea that my friend buys them at the Soukh on a Friday and by Monday, it's delivered straight to my door."
"We don't live in a black and white world," the designer says, of her adventurous-yet-considered approach to color. "Our world is a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, textures, and landscapes. So why should we live in soulless showrooms? As a designer, you adapt to your client's lifestyle and their current needs. Current because nothing is permanent in life. Small kids grow up, single people get married, older people downsize. People get richer, or occasionally poorer. The home is a reflection of so much — it's a reflection of us."
Glide through to the three bedroom spaces — complete with gilded bed frames sourced via 1stdibs, Frette bedding, and a retro egg chair by Wertz Brothers — and you won't be disappointed. While LeGrand embraces a romantic and quintessentially Italian approach to decor through unique investment pieces, her home must still be pragmatic — and above all, a home.
"It's well-designed, but it also has to be practical, beautiful, and livable, but also elegant and interesting, sure," she says. "It needs to inspire me, to start with. If it inspires me, it'll for sure inspire others. I don't like formulas and I like to challenge myself through my design. I treat this space like a business card for projects."
In the more laidback of LeGrand's living spaces, the vibe is more That '70s Show than mid-century chic, complete with gorgeously worn bean bag chairs found at Orange in L.A. A wall-spanning sign reading "Zuma Beach, 1/2 Mile" (discovered nearby at Malibu's iconic Surfing Cowboys) creates a unique decor moment, a vintage find that LeGrand admits is on her shortlist of absolute favorites.
"I always go to the source for furniture, opting for the real original items," she says, with complete conviction. "I shop vintage 90 percent of the time, if I could do 100 percent, I would. It's a matter of principle and there's an environmental aspect to it. Why buy a cheap copy that'll eventually fall apart, prove more expensive in the long run, and damage the environment, when I can find the original — the real deal — reuse and rethink these pieces, in a contemporary way?"
LeGrand's ethos around shopping sustainably, embracing local vintage collectors, and creating decor "moments" with one-of-a-kind pieces, seamlessly clicks into place inside her own home. It's the perfect poster child for her design ethos and unshakeable belief system.
"We have so much around us, too much stuff, too much waste. It's time we start changing our ways and stop suffocating. I think it starts with us and how we behave as human beings and as consumers. One of my favorite mottos is "buy less, choose well and make it last.""
A refined eye and decades of experience in "choosing well" certainly helps, too. The vision boards that line the Farrow & Ball white walls attest to this. LeGrand's penchant for procuring vintage and pairing each with an unlikely counterpart or accessible furniture find (yes, there's still a healthy dose of CB2 in this home) make her space feel somewhat within reach. A beautifully curated example of what happens when travel and great taste collide at a Hollywood cocktail party.
"I am a Sagittarius, rising Taurus," LeGrand points out. "So I'm a grounded gypsy. My rising sign means that beauty and aesthetics play a big role in my life. I am not obsessed, but creating beauty around me, from interiors to dinners to parties, has always been part of who I am."
"Travel enables you to see the world as it really is," the designer continues. "It helps you appreciate the different landscapes, interiors, cultures, and colors. And it's what nourishes my soul. I would be a dying plant if I couldn't travel the world anymore. If I had to choose between an expensive pair of shoes or a plane ticket — I would buy that ticket, straight away."