Handbag designer Tyler Ellis is the daughter of American fashion icon Perry Ellis and television writer and producer Barbara Gallagher, and much like her late father, she has a taste for what might best be described as modern classics—a deftly calibrated mix of simple, timeless lines and contemporary panache. The style applies not only to her own luxury creations—a staple of Hollywood’s endless red-carpet parade—but also to the chic, breezy Brentwood home she shares
with her husband, investor Benjamin Shriner. Seduced by the property’s French-inflected, classical-meets-Deco architecture and its abundant Italian cypresses, the two purchased the house five years ago and called upon its original architect, William Hefner, and Ellis’s longtime interior designers, the Los Angeles–based AD100 firm The Archers, to reinvent the place to reflect the young couple’s taste and spirit.
“It felt like a little piece of Europe that landed in the center of L.A. We loved the traditional architecture and wanted to keep it serious and sophisticated, but on the inside we wanted to give it a more youthful character, with bright pops of color, lots of fun, and little bits of happiness everywhere,” Ellis says of the design mandate.
Hefner designed the 2005 house for a pair of empty nesters with a penchant for Gallic design, and for this return engagement, he was asked to expand the square footage of the upper floor, in the same vocabulary and materials palette, adding an additional bathroom and dressing room, a hidden TV lounge within the primary suite, and a third guest bedroom and bath. He also designed a new back house containing Ellis’s home office, a lounge and theater, and another guest suite. “Our goal was to make the whole compound consistent, to keep the language classical as a counterpoint to The Archers’ more contemporary interventions,” the architect explains.
The Archers have worked with Ellis since she was 18 years old, first designing the interiors of a decidedly modern house of glass and steel in Malibu, followed by an apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan. “We had a clear understanding of Tyler and Ben’s lifestyle and adventurous tastes, which allowed us to establish the project’s broad strokes rather quickly and gave us the luxury to experiment with the details,” says Archers principal Richard Petit.
Those details, intended to move the house’s aesthetic from its original conception as a country château to an urbane hôtel particulier, are subtle but captivating. The Archers replaced the antiqued glazing in the bronze entry doors with sparkly reeded glass—a tip of the hat to the great Andrée Putman—and substituted the ormolu-mounted antiqued mirror that lined a broad niche in the dining room with a graphic composition of black and silver-gray mirror inspired by a 1979 Ettore Sottsass vase for FontanaArte. “They weren’t major changes, but they entirely changed the complexion of those spaces,” Ellis observes.
For the furnishings of the home, The Archers drew inspiration from the late designer Henri Samuel’s iconoclastic Paris apartment, where period rooms were leavened with anachronistic, idiosyncratic elements. “Instead of Samuel’s collaborations with people like Balthus and Guy de Rougemont, we commissioned special pieces by Frederik Molenschot, Piet Hein Eek, and Vincent Dubourg, and paired them with unique and early production pieces by Studio 65, Mario Botta, André Dubreuil, Diego Giacometti, Joseph-André Motte, and Guillerme et Chambron,” Petit says of the alchemical decorative mix.
That heady brew coalesces with particular brio in what Ellis calls her “brandy room”—a dazzling library-cum-lounge, enrobed in dark blue lacquered walls, where a Demétre Chiparus bronze panther stalks a Jeff Koons pink balloon swan, a flock of 19th-century Chinese-export porcelain parrots gossips on one of a pair of Piero Fornasetti leopard demilune commodes, and an Yves Klein Monogold table alights on a custom silk carpet in a riot of peacock colors.
Among Ellis’s personal treasures is a Richard Avedon portrait of Ellis père positioned at the base of the grand limestone staircase. “We get to say ‘Good morning’ every day when we come down from the bedroom,” Ellis says of the photograph’s prime location. And while they’re at it, they can also greet artist Paola Pivi’s life-size polar bear sculpture, covered in wild pink feathers, which commands the stair hall. That’s something you don’t see in your average French château.