As we neared the top of the winding, picturesque road to shoot Lauren Conrad’s house in the hills, the first thought to strike us was the breathtaking views over the Pacific Palisades. The air is definitely different up there. It’s fresh, clean, and slightly salty thanks to that ocean breeze direct from the shores of Malibu. When she needs to seek sanctuary from her very public life, this idyllic setting was the perfect retreat, an oasis of sorts, for the television personality, designer, and author to share with her husband, William Tell. “I think when you’re in L.A., it’s nice to sort of step away to a place that’s a little quieter at the end of the day,” she told MyDomaine. “So that was a major draw for us.”
Naturally, the born-and-raised California girl’s home was a master class in swoon-worthy, texture-rich bohemia, with that timeless glamor we’ve all come to know and love from her. In collaboration with interior designer Katherine Carter, Conrad struck a stylish balance between her West Coast sensibility and a traditional, almost colonial aesthetic for a clean and polished look with major Cali-cool vibes.
Aesthetics aside, the home’s abundance of natural light (which pours in from every angle) is what really had us swooning. Conrad made sure to maximize this design feature by keeping the palette neutral, only mixing in soft, washed-out colors to keep the overall feeling fresh and airy. “I like my living space to feel clean but welcoming,” she said. “I feel like your home should be a representation of your style so I like to include personal items throughout.” Ahead, Conrad shared her favorite room in the house, the danger of baking at home, her morning routine, and career advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The Martha Stewart of the millennial generation, Conrad had to have a stylish yet practical space to entertain (and bake!). So as soon as she moved in, she completely redid the kitchen, which included repainting the cabinets, adding white subway tile, and installing Mystery White marble countertops. “Mystery White is much more stain-resistant stone than Carrera, and I’m a hurricane in the kitchen, so it’s a must,“ she said.
For someone who loves to entertain, the La Cornue range was essential, as was the giant island. “When you have people over, everyone just ends up in the kitchen … so I thought that [this space] was great not only for entertaining but also for food preparation,” she said. “It’s so great to spread everything out. It’s a nice way to prepare a meal. I really love how open and spacious it is—and the storage in this kitchen is incredible.”
For these reasons, the kitchen is one of Conrad’s favorite rooms in the house. Her morning routine starts here, with a hot green tea or coffee with agave, cinnamon, and almond milk, but it’s also where she loves to bake. “I love baking,” she said. “I try to only do it when we have a special occasion, and it can be served to guests because it can be dangerous having too many sweets in the house.”
Open shelving was another important design feature for Conrad. After tearing out the old closed cabinet in the kitchen, she replaced it with natural timber shelves against the subway tiles. “It’s just easy for me,” she said. “I can grab things as I need.” This fashion-and-function fusion can be seen throughout the entire house. Any renovations were practical choices (such as in the bathroom) while keeping the home’s architectural features firmly intact.
“I definitely like cleaner-looking spaces, but I think you have to work within the bones of the house,” she said. “My last place wasn’t Spanish style at all, so I think it’s about making a place your own without changing it too much. I think when you try to completely change a space to be something it’s not, it doesn’t look as natural; it looks look a little awkward. So I wanted to work with what was here and customize it.”
Conrad’s love for open shelves extends into the dining room, where she displays her vintage bottles and antique teacup collection. “I’m not sure how my husband let me keep it there,” she said. “I just sort of unpacked it there and then didn’t say anything, and he was really cool about it.” Of the room overall, the length of the dining table is perhaps most impressive. The modern hostess loves to have friends over, and, in fact, the whole house has been designed around this passion. “I love that it’s a great space to entertain both inside and out,” she said. “I feel like a lot of thought went into the layout of this home.”
While the entire home has that Cali-cool edge, the living room is where this aesthetic really ramps up. Wanting the home to “feel very calm,” Conrad stuck to a neutral palette, incorporating midcentury-modern pieces and vintage chairs she found on Chairish. “I had them all reupholstered in neutral fabrics, but I found some great shapes,” she said. “The house has a lot of open space and natural light. I wanted to bring in a variety of white and washed-out colors to keep the overall feeling very light and airy.”
The overarching goal of the living room design was to create a space where Conrad could really unwind and disconnect with her husband. “I love our living room because there are no electronics in there—just books, instruments, and a Victrola,” she said. “When we are in the living room, we aren’t watching television or glued to our phones. We are talking or playing board games in front of the fire.”
Since this place is different from their last in both scale and style, most of the couple’s furniture was purchased new, except for one piece. “One of my favorite pieces is the brass-and-glass coffee table that I’ve dragged through several homes now,” she said. The designer utilizes this space to display all of her favorite coffee table books and crystals.
When she’s not unplugged in the living room, Conrad is cozying up in the TV room on the large white sectional, which was the first thing she ordered for the house. Because the couple couldn’t find one they both agreed on, they decided to have it custom-built from a photo Conrad found online. “The only way that my husband agreed to a white couch was if we had it upholstered in Sunbrella fabric,” she adds. “Looking back, it was probably a good call.”
While Conrad’s office headquarters is in L.A., she frequently works from home and designed a small office to ensure personal and professional don’t mix, at least not too much. She’s still learning how to separate the two—and delegate. “One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is how to delegate but not lose control,” she said. “It’s a very careful balance of you wanting to be involved in everything but knowing that you also can’t do everything. You have to learn to hire people you trust. I think being able to assemble a team is very difficult and something I’ve had to learn how to do.”
Conrad knows the importance of balance. Running a hugely successful online free-trade shop, Little Market, on top of her fashion label for Kohl’s, she recognizes how easy it is to burn the candle at both ends very quickly. “I think that I tend to over-commit myself,” she said. “It’s something that I’ve learned and I’m getting better about. I just take on a lot. Then when it comes time to execute it all, I’m exhausted and I haven’t slept, and you know, life’s all about balance. You want to make sure you’re leaving time for your personal life and to enjoy the things you do.”
Despite a very public profile and heavy workload, Conrad is incredibly private, and she definitely believes in balance. “Just know your boundaries. Like you can say, 'Listen, I would love to take on this project, or I would love to get involved with this, but I just simply don’t have the time right now.' And that time includes scheduled time for yourself.” While the latter sounds good in theory, it’s not always achievable in real life, right? Well, Conrad makes sure it is.
“I think the best way that I’ve found is just to make sure that I block out days for myself,” she said. “So whether it’s a day every other week where I just block it out and don’t schedule anything, I think that that’s okay. I think a lot of people, especially people who work really hard, feel guilty about taking a day off and doing absolutely nothing. That’s really difficult for people to do, but I think it’s important.”
To ensure the pendulum swings evenly in both camps, Conrad doesn’t stick to a traditional schedule. “I tend to work weekends, which is really nice because then if I want to take a day off, it can be a Tuesday, and things tend to not be as crowded,” she said. This interchangeable agenda also helps with her stress levels, not that this is something she experiences that often. “I don’t stress too much,” she said. “I definitely get stressed when I have a lot going on, but I always know that passes. I’ve gotten a lot better at (managing) it.”
Make sure you’re doing something you feel really passionate about, and you will feel confident because I think when you’re passionate, you tend to work a lot harder for something.
Conrad’s even keel has a lot do with the old adage: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This passion for her work is also the impetus behind her confident persona. “I think confidence comes along with feeling really passionate about something,” she explains. “If you really love something, then it’s a lot easier to feel confident in it. I think people tend to feel married to the first career decision they’ve made and they feel stuck with it, and I think it’s okay to say, 'You know what? That’s not for me—I’m going to try something else.' Careers can be long, and you want to make sure you’re in love with what you do at least some days. Make sure you’re doing something you feel really passionate about, and you will feel confident because I think when you’re passionate, you tend to work a lot harder for something.”
With such an impressive career and thriving design business, Conrad sure has her work cut out for her, but she keeps a level head, thanks in part to her haven in the hills. “What’s nice about this home is that it’s very private,” she told MyDomaine. “It’s kind of removed, you know. It feels like a getaway, but it’s home. So I just wanted it to feel like a very relaxing space.” We think she nailed it.
Up Next: The penny pincher's guide to decorating like Lauren Conrad.
This post was originally published on October 27, 2016, and has since been updated.