The larger-than-life designer, whose clients included Marc Jacobs, Aileen Getty and the iconic Tower Bar, passed away this week at his home in Ojai
Words by GINA TOLLESON
Photography by DEWEY NICKS
This week we said goodbye to a true California great, interior designer Paul Fortune, who passed away on Monday, June 15. He was a favorite of the fashion and society sets, designing their sprawling homes (Mick Jagger’s, for one) in Bel Air, San Francisco and New York with his signature style. He was also the author of monograph-cum-memoir Notes on Design, Etc. (Rizzoli New York, $55) and the mind behind such institutions as the Fake Club (a Hollywood “it” scene in the 1980s) and the new look of Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel, helping to revive the Sunset Boulevard property into arguably L.A.’s most stylish address — an epithet it still holds today.
PAUL FORTUNE at home in Ojai.
Six years ago, Fortune and his artist husband and partner of 15-plus years, Chris Brock, quit L.A. for a simpler life in Ojai. While Fortune dealt with his city-based clients from his rural, two-bedroom bungalow base, Brock would sit at the wheel, throwing his very collectible pots.
Here, we revisit the time our sister title, Santa Barbara Magazine, had the fortune (pun intended) to spend a day with the creative duo, indulging in opera, discussing David Hockney and discovering that a Paul Fortune-decorated aluminum trailer might just be the chicest guesthouse ever.
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PAUL FORTUNE with the vintage Rolls-Royce and guest trailer he and his husband, CHRIS BROCK, keep on their property.
Since moving to Ojai in October 2014, Paul Fortune and Chris Brock have by all means gotten back to the basics. Albeit, basics for this interior design icon (Fortune has spruced up the digs of Marc Jacobs’ New York townhouse, Aileen Getty’s San Francisco palatial home and art world’s “it” girl Dasha Zhukova’s Saint Bart’s compound, not to mention reviving Hollywood’s deco landmark Sunset Tower Hotel) equal a picturesque two-bedroom bungalow and a vintage Rolls-Royce on a dusty trail. Here they can drink in the “Pink Moment” sunsets on the Topatopa Mountains — a far cry from the starlets and stimuli of Los Angeles, where the recently married couple of 14 years lived the luxe life — and lead their successful design, floral, and garden businesses.
While both practice yoga and meditation daily, Brock is now exploring his pottery skills, reinventing classic deco vase shapes into large outdoor urns, and Fortune continues consulting with clients and is considering opening a gallery for “really rare and beautiful art, ceramics and antiquities,” he says.
“After 30 years, we needed somewhere that felt restorative, not redundant. We found that Ojai fit the bill”
What was the final or definitive push to leave Los Angeles?
We found that the things we liked about L.A. were fast disappearing and we didn’t like what they were being replaced with. After Les Deux Cafes closed — where we met, in fact, and which I designed and was a partner in — we didn’t really have a place to go. We like tablecloths and a place where the noise level doesn’t make your ears bleed. The Sunset Tower Hotel was a final try at restoring some of the old Hollywood glamour we loved, but it was overrun by the new Hollywood, and that was that! After 30 years, we needed somewhere that felt restorative, not redundant. We found that Ojai fit the bill. And did I mention the traffic? I can get to Ojai faster than I can get to Santa Monica.
PAUL FORTUNE designed the western-style interior of the couple’s vintage guest trailer.
What’s a typical day for you both now that you’re off the beaten path?
We do yoga and Qqigong classes with Ingrid Boulting at The Sacred Space, lunch at Farmer and the Cook, and gardening. I still work on projects and have an office in L.A. We tootle around in our 1967 Rolls-Royce and visit the amazing nurseries locally. We love going to the opera in Santa Barbara and Music Academy of the West concerts, and visit mystics and sages for chakra cleaning. We have no television and catch up with tons of books and periodicals.
Vignettes of PAUL FORTUNE and CHRIS BROCK’s home.
What is your approach to, and the aesthetic for your current bungalow?
Pared down and easy. Just the basics but with a touch of California glamour.
Any particular pieces that you will never get rid of?
My Charlie Fine painting, which got a new lease on life here and some early Roy McMakin pieces that are very Ojai. Also, our giant staghorn ferns.
What is your design signature?
The “not done, no particular period” look. Considered and comfortable. Refined. What’s wrong with a little refinement?
PAUL FORTUNE and CHRIS BROCK.
Feature image: PAUL FORTUNE and CHRIS BROCK.
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