Eagle Rock’s Drool-Worthy Flamingo Estate

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Alongside the renowned Parisian design firm, Chandelier Creative founder Richard Christiansen turned a decrepit onetime adult-film studio into a colorful paradise.

There was no real-estate agent involved when Richard Christiansen found what would become the home he’d been planning for and fantasizing about for years. There were only bees. See, the founder and creative director of bicoastal agency Chandelier Creative is also a beekeeper, and met the original owner of what he now calls Flamingo Estate because the 94-year-old wanted bees of his own. Christiansen’s friend lived across the street, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, and told him about the eccentric, longtime homeowner. Curiosity piqued, the then New Yorker went for a look, and the former owner, wearing a red silk bathrobe and leopard-print G-string, showed him around the leafy grounds.

“It was really a teardown, like Grey Gardens, but as soon as I saw it I said, ‘Oh, my god, I’m going to buy that house,’” says Christiansen, looking back. After Christiansen cultivated a casual friendship over several years, the man finally offered him the fantastical pink 1940s hideaway for a reasonable price—interiors unseen. What Christiansen discovered upon finally stepping foot inside were film canisters of adult-films stacked throughout, a cinema with stadium seating, and even a swing in what’s now the kitchen. “I think he saw me and was like, ‘You’re going to get it; you’re not going to get weirded out.’ And I wasn’t—this house has an amazing energy,” says Christiansen.

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The exterior of Christiansen’s office building—housing his antique papier-mâché desk from JP Demeyer—is clad in green tiles from Morocco. “When the sun hits it, you could fry an egg it’s so hot,” he says. “But it also has this beautiful glow at sunset, these tiles reflect the light so beautifully.”Around the same time, Chandelier Creative was working with André Balazs, whose Chateau Marmont was being updated by Studio KO designers Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty and who asked if they could oversee the redesign of the house. Christiansen was blown away, and embarked on “this amazing adventure of working with them that completely changed my life: all serendipity of the wonderfully weird sort that defines L.A.” Together they visited markets in Paris, and traveled to Morocco—the creative director’s first trip, even though he’d collected scrapbooks full of design inspiration from the country over the years.

Yet almost more important than the house itself, to Christiansen, who grew up with horticulturist parents on a farm in rural Australia, was bringing back to life seven acres of gardens. He’d yearned for one while living in his shoebox New York apartment. Before construction even began, he created a master plan with Studio KO landscape designer Arnaud Casaus, “because it takes a little while for everything to start looking like it’s meant to be here.” They went to Baja, Mexico, and nurseries in Ojai to buy flora—cacti, fruit trees, herbs, and even native Australian plants—that they planted together amid existing palms. There’s bright purple sage, Japanese plums, mugwort, macadamias, rhododendrons, agave, plumeria, camellias, and poppies. Obsessed with frangipani, Christiansen spent years posting on Craigslist before he finally found a few trees to move in with a crane.

architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a blue bar room with wood and leather stools and bottled of liquor on a window sill
Christiansen calls the Studio KO–designed bar—with its Baccarat crystal decanter collection, mirrored ceiling, and midcentury stools—“always a crowd favorite.”

“The most impressive room is the garden; it’s amazing,” he says, estimating that overall they planted 1,000 trees, including 400 in the orchard. “Creativity from Mother Nature is much better than any Pinterest board.” He grows or raises almost all his food now—there are chickens and bees, of course. At large dinner parties guests not only enjoy the estate’s hillside bounty on their plates (from corn to fava beans to avocados) but can also smoke cigarettes made with tobacco grown on the property, thanks to full-time horticulturist Jeffrey Hutchison, who makes sage bundles and balms with herbs and beeswax, too. (He’s aiming to eventually make whiskey with their corn, and Christiansen plans on selling his honey this year.) Community-minded, Christiansen plans to open the grounds to garden enthusiasts and school groups; host small seminars, salons, and moonlight harvesting sessions; and start a gardener-and artist-in-residence program, allowing people to stay and work there.

He was allowed a bit less freedom when it came to the actual house. “When Studio KO came on board they said I wasn’t allowed to bring even a teaspoon into the house that they didn’t approve,” says Christiansen. And they stuck hard to that edict. After tearing the place down to the studs and building it back within the same footprint over the course of two years, the duo did tight edits of pieces in his storage units on both coasts—things he’d bought shipped during a decade of travels—and they all shopped together in Parisian markets and at auctions. The creative director, having sent Fournier and Marty some 10,000 photos, was very clear about what he wanted, and they “took the ideas I had and gave them jet fuel,” says Christiansen. Not that the process was without any squabbles.

architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a living room with pitched roof a fire place and colorful furniture
A floral sofa by Belgian designer Jean-Philippe Demeyer sits in the living room with leather Brazilian chairs, a Gabriella Crespi coffee table, and a carved wooden elephant chair from Ibiza. “It was just sitting there in a hotel restaurant and we were like, ‘Can we buy it?’” David Hockney’s Caribbean Tea Time screen—like complementary Ken Done works in other spaces—adds even more vibrancy to the cheerful, tropical space with an original fireplace at the center.

A “crazy” limestone fountain Christiansen had imported was such a point of contention it became a joke. “We fought and fought about it. They were like, ‘Find a place for it in France, where it came from!’” says Christiansen, who lost the battle.It was broken into bits that are used as pavers in the garden. (The trio work so well together, however, they collaborated again on a new bookshop and creative hub called The Owl Bureau, which just debuted down the street.)

Otherwise the collective vision was quite clear. “Someone once described it as an Epcot center, because Walt Disney is my childhood idol,” says Christiansen of his home. “Here you are in Los Angeles with a house made by two French people for an Australian person. Most of the tiles and the terra-cotta pots came from Morocco, lots of furniture came from Italy and Japan, and the lighting mostly came from Paris. It’s sort of like the ultimate L.A. metaphor—a tapestry of stuff from everywhere that just came together perfectly here.”

architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a concrete stairwell
The concrete entryway was a cinema with stadium seating when the house was an adult-film studio, and, inspired by a photo of a concrete tower in Morocco, Studio KO cofounder Karl Fournier suggested creating a floating concrete staircase leading into the colorful world upstairs for a grotto effect. “He said, ‘This place is like heaven surrounded by a garden,’” says Christiansen, and they riffed off that.
architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a blue sitting room with a leopard print sofa
Decades ago, a radio station operated in the TV room, which is now a tribute to the previous owner’s red silk bathrobe and leopard-print G-string. “We went to the gift shop of Jardin Majorelle in Morocco and bought suitcases of the blue paint they sell,” says Christiansen. A Jane Fonda print on the wall, bought at auction, is there because both Christiansen and Studio KO are obsessed with the iconic actress.
architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a bathroom with a pink and blue vanity and pink sconces
“Karl and Olivier obsessed over finding the perfect purple marble,” says Christiansen of his countertop and shower in the master bathroom, which opens to the outside and lets in plenty of natural light.
architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a green room area with a fireplace
A wooden frieze wrapping the living room was commissioned in Morocco especially for Christiansen, who has a video of an old man outside Marrakech, Morocco, hand-carving the piece while looking at his dogs’ Instagram to get their likeness (alongside his bees and garden). The striped wall panels were inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s Villa Oasis in Marrakech.
architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a kitchen with a twotone wood table and colorful marble flooring
When Christiansen bought the home, what’s now the retro-leaning kitchen was a room for filming and even had a swing in it. Its chunky new terrazzo floor was inspired by a hotel in Rome he had taken a photo of years ago. Studio KO found an old Italian man in the San Fernando Valley who was able to exactly replicate it.
architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a large open garage like space with green leather chairs and a wood coffee table
Christiansen’s office is one of the new structures on the property conceived and built by Studio KO, and holds a coffee table made from a piece of a tree struck by lightning on the grounds of Versailles. The sofa is the first thing he bought with Studio KO, at Wright auction house in Chicago.
architectural digest interior decor los angeles eagle rock tour a reflecting pool in a garden with trees and cacti
“The best room of the house is the garden,” says Christiansen, who spent years before tackling his home on plant-buying trips and with his hands in the dirt creating a Mediterranean garden bursting with rosemary, lavender, agave, and even Moreton Bay figs, a native Australian tree cultivated by Jo O’Connell, whose nursery in Ventura, California, he calls the best in the country.
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