For a style-savvy Montecito family, refined yet easygoing elegance allows creativity to flourish
By Carol Wolper
Photographed by David Cameron
Interior Styling: Susan Scott
“Classic with mojo,” is one way Kendall Conrad describes her style. With two stores in Los Angeles and a client list that includes some of the coolest women around, the accessories designer has carved out a niche for herself as a champion of easy, sexy elegance.
It’s an aesthetic evident in the Montecito home she shares with her husband, director and photographer David Cameron (also CEO
and creative director of Kendall Conrad Design), and their daughters Luisa, 14, and Fernanda, 12.
“I was eight months pregnant with our first daughter when we found the place,” Conrad explains. It was love at first sight. The 1.5-acre creekside property, lush with sycamore and fruit trees, provided an exit plan out of Los Angeles. “My first thought,” she recalls, “was that this was where I wanted our children to grow up.” The 1940s-era, Mediterranean-style home and garden is just two minutes from the beach and down the street from a pool and tennis club for the girls.
The abode had everything they wanted save for a bit more room, so plans for expansion quickly commenced to add a library, two bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, and a guest suite downstairs—all in the same manner as the original dwelling. A separate cottage down by the creek would eventually become Conrad’s creative studio.
The clean, open spaces are now a study in serene minimalism with muted tones and hand-stained terra cotta flooring. This neutral palette, however, receives bursts of energy with pops of color and texture: flowers from the garden, tribal rugs, stacks of books, and art, much of which is created by friends and family, including sculptor Charles Fine and painters David Florimbi and her sister Cayetana Conrad. The overall effect is a personalized, clutter-free haven with cozy nooks, never forfeiting richness and not overly precious. “Kendall doesn’t have a love of acquiring things,” Cameron explains. “Things are to be used, and if something ages and acquires a patina, so much the better.”
Conrad’s workspace maintains this air with two desks, a long table, an oversized chair to sit in when she’s sketching on her iPad, and an inspiration board to help organize thoughts while she designs future collections. Her exquisite and very functional leather bags are equally unfussy and free of any logos. When asked if her bags are meant to be something handed down from mother to daughter, Conrad is quick to add, “and granddaughter.”
In this household, family matters. As the daughter of artist-author Barnaby Conrad, she spent her formative years learning a sophisticated, yet bohemian approach to life. Perhaps Conrad’s biggest influence is the Santa Barbara coastline. There’s a calm optimism about the way she lives and works that might have something to do with all those summer afternoons growing up on Rincon Point. “We are beach dwellers at heart,” Conrad admits, which goes a long way toward explaining the light, breezy quality and spirit that permeates her home.
Anyone who has been to a party at the Conrad/Cameron domicile can attest to the truth of this statement, especially during warmer months. Dinner parties usually mean al fresco dining, Conrad’s favorite style of entertaining. The table will be set down by the creek, under the giant sycamores. The fireplace and firepots will be going, and there will be plenty of votive candles on the table and torches along the paths.
“I was taught that life is short and meant to be enjoyed. Do what you love, work hard, play hard,” she says. Listening to her stories of a childhood surrounded by people who valued conversation, ideas, opinions, food, music and fun, the message is clear: A house is meant to facilitate a life—not be the star of the show.
[C, September 2012]