Tucked away in the historic Hollywood Dell, a 1920s retreat occupied for more than two decades by multi-hyphenate model Lara Harris is a testament to how deep a connection resident and house can have.
Twenty-three years ago, when Lara Harris was a young model, actress and recent transplant from New York (by way of Paris and her native Chicago), she fell in love with a romantic house in the Hollywood Dell.
“It was the guesthouse of the larger home next door, which once belonged to [silent film stars] Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri, and is really the grand pooh-bah in the neighborhood,” she says, pointing out of her oversize living room window to the remains of a winding path that connects the two properties, built in 1923. “When I first moved in, I treated it like a crash pad. All of the details, including the wood floors and the plaster details on the walls, were original, and my goal was really just to stay out of the house’s way,” Harris recalls. “Over the years, [interior designer] Schuyler [Samperton] has been helping me figure out how to live here.”
Samperton transformed the property from a well-preserved rental into an exquisite family home. “Back in the day, everyone I knew knew Schuyler, and we eventually met when a mutual friend made us co-godmothers of her young daughter,” Harris says. “She’s now one of my oldest friends.”
Samperton helped Harris remodel the house gradually, beginning with the kitchen and bathrooms, after Harris bought the rental property in 2000, installing stunning saffron-colored drapes in the dining room, and intuiting her friend’s changing needs. As Harris’ life has shifted over the last two decades, from being a top model for Giorgio Armani to acting to graduate school and now to her career as a practicing therapist, the space has also transitioned from a single woman’s (occasional) party house to a family home.
Harris and her husband, Ned Moulton, an investment banker and father of three teenagers, met seven years ago in New York and subsequently made this their full-time residence.
“I knew how much Schuyler understood and appreciated my home, and I love how she highlighted the inherent personality of the architecture,” says Harris, referencing the intricate plasterwork throughout the house, a wall that flips to reveal a hidden closet, and the charming original wood floors that are worn down to the nails and need to be treated with care.
“The house is cozy but minimal,” says Samperton, who added Moorish Mediterranean details like custom dining chairs upholstered in Peter Dunham’s Samarkand fabric, and side tables with bone inlay details. “We played with neutrals and textures, like an old leather chair and worn rugs that have personality and soul.”
Evidence of Harris’ glamorous history is on view throughout, with framed photographs of her from the likes of famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe propped up against the wall, and portraits by esteemed artists such as David Salle and Billy Sullivan. “I’m always worried I’m veering into Norma Desmond territory,” she jokes, referring to the over-the-top taste of Sunset Boulevard’s fictional character. But the elegant, understated address reads like anything but a museum or an ego palace.
“Living in an old house like this is a commitment and a lot of work,” she reflects. “It’s sort of like a relationship. And it’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”
Photography by LISA ROMEREIN.
Written by CHRISTINE LENNON.