A 1930s-era abode is the perfect fit for two titans of the L.A. denim industry
Words by CHRISTINE LENNON
Photography by ADRIAN GAUT
Emma and Jens Grede are aware that the story of how they stumbled into their Paul R. Williams-built, Sandy Gallin- and Scott Mitchell-designed Bel Air dream home may make Los Angeles real estate hunters cringe with envy.
“We just came here, and I thought, yes, we should do it”
“I’d been in this house many, many times over the past seven or eight years,” says Jens, who co-founded denim label Frame in 2012 with his longtime collaborator, fellow Swede Erik Torstensson. (The partners also own the London-based marketing and branding company Saturday Group and are co-editors of Industrie magazine.) Jens would stop by to visit the home’s previous owner, fashion mogul Serge Azria, who would take his meetings on a shady back patio, sitting in a wicker chair in front of an outdoor fireplace, where the couple is situated today. A 110-foot-long swimming pool occupied by a pair of pink flamingo floats stretches out behind them. “I would come to ask Serge for advice, and he would sit here, where I’m sitting now, and we would discuss business.”
“Then he would always come home to me and tell me about this magical house,” says Emma, who also happens to be a co-founder of a denim brand, Good American, with Khloé Kardashian, and ran a fashion marketing business of her own, ITB Worldwide. At about 12,000 square feet, the ’30s-era gem has seven bedrooms, a library, a media room, a gym, two clubby-feeling built-in bars and impressive mature grounds. It’s just down the street from Hotel Bel-Air, and it’s as close to real estate royalty as you can get.
“When I saw Serge, he would tell me, ‘You should really move to L.A.,” Jens adds. “I would say, I would live in L.A. if I could live in your house.”
“And I would say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’” says Emma, with a laugh.
Several factors conspired to lure the young family west: Jens and Emma both wanted to be closer to their brands’ headquarters and manufacturing, and Los Angeles was popping up more and more on their cultural radar. And their young children — Grey, 5, and Lola, 3 — were getting to the age when life in an urban city like London can be challenging.
“Ten years ago, when we first used to come here, you really felt locked out if you weren’t part of the entertainment industry,” Emma says. “It didn’t matter if you were in tech, fashion or art — this was a town for entertainment people. That’s really shifted now. A lot of Silicon Valley is moving here, and there’s the art and the music scene. What’s driving culture today is food experience, travel, fitness, health, and L.A. is the capital of lifestyle.”
“A house is to be lived in. I never like anything to be too precious”
Because being in the right place at the right time is the pair’s M.O., they made the move. At first, they settled into a “lovely rental” in Beverly Hills and were “perfectly happy” with it, Emma says. Then, Azria called.
“It was a year ago,” Jens explains. “Serge finished his place in Malibu, and he said, ‘You always loved the house. I think you should live there with Emma and the kids. Why don’t you come out to Malibu and we can discuss it?’ So I went out to Malibu, and a month later we were here.”
“We just came here, and I thought, is it even a question? I mean, yes! Yes, we should do it. This is insane,” Emma adds. “I know, we talk to people who say that they’ve looked at 32 different houses and couldn’t find the right one. We just fell into this one.”
They’ve left the furnished house largely untouched, making minor tweaks and bringing in some pieces from their country home in the Cotswolds to create a familiar atmosphere for the children. It’s been a decade since legendary agent turned luxury house flipper Gallin renovated the house with architect Mitchell, but every surface — from the dark, distressed-wood floors to the coffered ceilings in the bedrooms — still emanates a quiet, contemporary luxury.
“We’ve started to change certain pieces of furniture in different rooms but very slowly and carefully,” Jens says, pointing out a couple of club chairs that have been reupholstered in sheepskin and some 1960s modern marble end tables. “You wouldn’t know it unless I told you. I think this house has a spirit and a soul, and we love what Sandy Gallin did. We’re huge fans.” There are two critical new elements that have turned this house into the family’s home. The first is their very contemporary art collection, which includes large-scale pieces from Petra Cortright and Alex Israel and leans heavily on poppy colors, specifically head-turning pink in works by Alex Da Corte, Jon Rafman and Alex Israel.
“We really bought art for L.A., because again, Jens was like, ‘If we’re going to live here, we should work with artists who are of this time,’” Emma says.
The second addition is the ephemera that comes along with parenting a couple of kids under the age of 6, including miniature cars, stuffed animals and stacks of board books, the likes of which this house hasn’t seen in some time.
“You can’t miss that very central play room,” Emma says of the children’s space off the kitchen. “When you’re like Jens and me — we both work very full time — the weekends are our moment to spend together, so we’ve made that space for cooking and dining and playing, and it flows beautifully. And there’s a lot of pink plastic in it. There’s no way to get around it.”
“A house is to be lived in,” Jens says. “I never like anything to be too precious. Different parts of the house serve different ideas. Emma feels the same way. If we have a party, we open up the doors of the living room and it’s slightly more formal. But we’ve had our kids’ birthday parties here and pool parties here. It’s made for a lot of people to be here and for entertaining, and we use it well.”
Further proof that fate brought the house into the Grede family’s lives arrived when Torstensson and his partner, Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, sent them a gift from their new vacation home in the Hamptons.
“Natalie called and said that they’d found these giant metal letters in their house, SAG, and she was going to send me the G and the A, for my brand, Good American,” Emma says. “Then we found out that the letters [as a set] were Sandy Gallin’s initials.”
“Their house was done by Sandy Gallin,” Jens says. “He and [architect] Scott Mitchell did only about five houses that they lived in together. And the crazy thing is that my partner Erik has his last house, and the house they did before that is this one.”
“It was completely coincidental,” Emma says. “We think it was meant to be,” Jens adds.
Hair and makeup by CHRISTINA CASSELL at The Only Agency using Pat McGrath Labs
Production by CAMP PRODUCTIONS
Feature image: EMMA GREDE walks through a breezeway, shaded by flowering wisteria vines, at the home she shares with her husband, JENS GREDE. EMMA wears a GOOD AMERICAN dress, $165.