Wife, mother and lover of all things macabre, Sarah-Jane Wilde opens up her home in the hills to give us a view into her over-the-top way of life.
Wearing a hooded, black mink cape and covered in jewels at two o’clock in the afternoon, blasting the audiobook of Robert Evans’ The Kid Stays in the Picture, Sarah-Jane Wilde was driving her 1975 triple-black Rolls Royce Corniche Coupe on Santa Monica Boulevard when a young man in a chrome Fisker pulled up next to her and rolled down his window. “You look so cool in that car,” he said. It was Justin Bieber. She thanked him, then drove home to make dinner for her kids.
It was just another day in the life of Sarah-Jane Wilde, wife, mother of two boys, ages 7 and 13, and jewelry designer (who made opera-length pearl necklaces with tassels of her own hair for her best friend Thom Browne’s fashion show last season). Wearing a fox coat that Krystle Carrington really wore on Dynasty, she describes her own style as “strange, grandma, 1970s, old lady and flashy,” yet says her style icons, including Alain Delon, Halston, Yves Saint Laurent and Pier Paolo Pasolini, are all men.
S.J., as her friends call her, grew up in London and Switzerland, where she attended boarding school, before going to Columbia University and the Sciences Po in Paris (she speaks six languages, including Arabic). She was a successful model and muse to designers like Martin Margiela and Romeo Gigli and went on to have a brief stint as an actress in 1995’s The Journey of August King. She says “it was an incredible experience, and I mean that in a negative way.” Wilde met Browne when they were both modeling for a J. Crew catalog. Now, 20 years later, she says they’re “kindred souls who speak 10 to 15 times a day, unless he’s abroad,” and feels incredibly fortunate to “be in my best friend’s Champagne bubble, two fashion weeks a year,” when she creates jewelry for his runway shows. “It doesn’t suck,” she adds.
Wilde insists it would be “obnoxious” to refer to herself as an interior designer as well—despite the fact that she has taken on many office and home projects, including her own. Her house, built from 1969 to 1971 by the previous owner, has a ’70s vibe that’s part original and part “in the movie of my mind, as I imagine it in the ’70s,” she says.
Wilde has a vivid imagination and an eye for the curious, obscure, imaginative and taxidermic. With vintage tiger and polar-bear rugs, a mint Knoll black leather couch, Pucci fabric on the dining-room chairs and cigarettes in the candy dishes, she proves she’s “permanently stuck in the 1970s.” She goes for, in her words, “a mix of really fantastic things with not-at-all-special things.” Witness the guest room, a recent add-on cantilevered by firm Marmol Radziner and featuring an unobstructed view of the reservoir, finished with a silver fox blanket on the bed and Costco sheepskins on the floor.
All things gothic creep up in conversation, and in her house. The living room coffee table is populated with sterling silver, rosewood and wax skulls; James Dean’s actual death mask lives in a Lucite box on another coffee table. Wilde has told her children that when she dies she wants “to be placed in her Rolls, have it set on fire and engulfed in flames, so no one else can have it.” (She calls the car her “casket.”) She swears she didn’t know that Browne’s fashion show (the one she created “hair jewelry” for) was envisioned as a theater installation of a funeral.
Not surprisingly, she loves black, but for more practical reasons. “It’s elegant, which, as women get older, is the only path,” Wilde says. Her dining room walls are wallpapered in ebony; a round cutout on the ceiling is painted with Farrow & Ball Pitch Black; and that incredible panoramic view outside—from Downtown Los Angeles past the Stone Canyon Reservoir to Century City and the beach—is made visible day and night thanks to back-painted (Farrow & Ball Off Black) glass walls in the kitchen. A koi pond on the property was originally stocked with black koi, but the fish were eventually replaced, because, well, no one could see them. “Everyone made fun of me,” Wilde says. “But I knew they were there.”
Despite the emphasis on the macabre, the residence, like the lady of the house, is full of life: Sundays are for entertaining, a time when she invites artists, directors, actors, museum curators and students for an outdoor luncheon cooked, in her words, “always by the same chef. Me.” Menus, like everything, overflow with outsized and, yes, controversial flavor: Think purple carrot, ginger and winter white truffle soup, osso buco and foie gras. “Sorry!” Wilde says of the much-debated delicacy. “Maybe one day I’ll become a vegan and wear paper jackets…but not yet.”
Photography by DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN.
Written by MARTHA MCCULLY.