Just like her brand, the entrepreneur’s abode is sleek, chic and exquisitely well-dressed
Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL
Photography by SAM FROST
“Like everything I do, I did it all myself,” says Ambre Dahan, laughing ruefully as she describes her approach to modernizing her sprawling 1920s Hollywood Hills residence while preserving its intricate period craftsmanship.
Creative AMBRE DAHAN dons SPRWMN leather leggings of her own design in her Hollywood Hills residence.
The French-born, Los Angeles-based serial entrepreneur, who just opened a jewel-box Melrose Place boutique for her SPRWMN leather leggings and denim line, applies her head-on method to everything. From her Ambre Victoria fine jewelry line and her previous role as design director at Joe’s Jeans (founded by former husband Joe Dahan) to her work on the former website Walk In My Closet and her forthcoming small-batch organic compote line Farm Spoon, Dahan is a multifaceted creative who decorates as a hobby.
AMBRE DAHAN created a checkerboard pool deck with white paint.
Inside the house built in 1929, which she shares with her 10- and 12-year-old daughters, Dahan saw possibilities where others, including her carpenters, prepped for teardowns. Her vision was to restore and repurpose the intricate, time-honored details that initially drew her to the property.
“The energy of the house is everything,” says Dahan, who discovered that it previously belonged to screenwriter Barbara Turner, actor Jennifer Jason Leigh’s mother. Once Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Single White Female, Georgia) and Dahan realized their children attend school together, the actor confided she’d been raised in the house, adding, “I’m so happy you bought it, I wanted it to be with a family.”
“I let go of owning things, but I do love objects”
In the dining room, an HERVÉ VAN DER STRAETEN chandelier and white lacquered table mingle with reupholstered EERO SAARINEN chairs. The portrait — Jeunes Bergers Peuls, 1972 — is by the late Malian photographer MALICK SIDIBÉ.
Dahan’s nuanced approach to design required expert help and she spent six months acting as a contractor with a team of artisans, plumbers and plasterers to peel back the layers of paint and expose the original architecture and woodwork. “I wanted to go back to the original. But I want to live in my time,” says Dahan, whose good instincts yielded a paneled library of hand-sanded raw wood walls that were formerly lacquered and so shiny that they looked orange. The result is a sunny, “original but modern” space for armfuls of architecture books, a Charlotte Perriand stool and an RH desk perched atop a rug from Christopher Farr. “This is how we often enter the house, through the library,” she adds.
An RH desk and CHARLOTTE PERRIAND stool perched beside handsanded wooden shelves in the library.
Regular visits to flea markets in Paris (Saint-Ouen, Paul Bert Serpette), a staple of Dahan’s Gallic upbringing, fostered an early appreciation of objects. (Now she scours the Rose Bowl Flea Market, local estate sales and online auctions.) “Taste is a thing that you learn really young, and I got exposed from a young age,” the consummate designer says. Dahan credits her father with her vignette-building proclivities, which she sees as the backbone for each of her disparate projects. “My dad is gay, and he’s always had an amazing vision for how he puts objects together,” she relates. Dahan clearly inherited his ability to rework appealing groupings of the objects she’s amassed, in both L.A. and abroad, during her 15 years in California.
A DAMIEN HIRST painting hangs above a wooden bench opposite a staircase sanded to expose its original raw wood.
“I’m so curious. I wish I was an architect and not a lawyer,” muses Dahan, who passed the bar in Paris before studying business, all at the urging of parents who felt she needed a practical education to accompany her keen design sensibility. Reworking the house gave her a new window into the design world. “I went to the marble yard myself, I wanted some bold choices. I wanted something a bit shocking,” she says. True to form, her kitchen’s Arabescato black-and-white marble countertops are intensified by floors newly painted in a checkerboard pattern. Upstairs the color is even more vibrant. “My bathroom is insane, I really wanted something purple,” Dahan says of the Calacatta Viola marble reflected in two Hubert Le Gall mirrors.
HUBERT LE GALL mirrors and bold Calacatta Viola marble are illuminated by vintage brass lighting.
“I’m always moving things around,” confesses Dahan, who is fond of reworking favored pieces. Her living room includes a snaking De Sede brown leather sofa dyed black; elsewhere in the house, Eero Saarinen chairs are reupholstered in goldenrod-hued fabric, and a formerly red Robert Kuo side table is relacquered in black. Dahan credits her ex-husband with supporting her design impulses. “Joe and I are still friends and business partners. We have a really good creative process, and I can always exchange ideas with him,” she says.
Dahan is equally enamored with new designers and works by old favorites. “I still have a million ideas to finish,” she says. The color and patina of some Kuo vases catch her eye and she contemplates bringing one to her new store. “I love Kuo, I would pick it again today,” she adds.
Feature image: A DE SEDE leather sofa snakes through AMBRE DAHAN’s living room while ROBERT KUO vases and objets are lit by a rotating SERGE MOUILLE sconce and a JEAN DE MERRY Lumière chandelier.
This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of C Magazine.
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