Katherine Ross and Michael Govan marry classic design and cutting-edge art in their Hancock Park home.
Chic in a violet Kirstie Kelly dress, Katherine Ross strolls through her home, pointing out her collectables.
She still remembers buying that set of limited-edition Christian Dior glasses on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, and the “tribe” of Skookum dolls were like her “little family” before she got married. Then we climb the twisting staircase and venture into her boudoir, where a folk art wedding table is adorned with sacred objects: a miniature jewelry box from when she was born; a silver wishbone from her dear friend Sandy Hill; a papier mâché vase made by her 5-year-old daughter Gabrielle.
It’s no surprise that the former LVMH (Moët Hennessy/Louis Vuitton) vice president and her husband, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director/CEO Michael Govan, share a highly evolved palate. Ross held court as head of public relations at the luxury goods conglomerate until January, 2009, and Govan was deputy director at the Guggenheim as well as president and director of Dia Art Foundation in New York before decamping to the Golden State. When the family relocated in 2006, Ross and Govan updated the 1920s museum-owned home to capture the modern, loft apartment-living they loved in New York.
“When we moved into this house, every single window had a curtain,” says Ross. “We stripped them all bare.” Painting the walls white and staining the wood floors an ebony hue immediately transformed the character of the three-bedroom Tudor home they share with Gabrielle, and Ariana, 15, Govan’s daughter from his previous marriage.
Each room blends personal objects and classic design—offset with eye-catching artwork. Walk into the foyer and you’ll spy a Korean moon jar next to a dreamy photograph by Catherine Opie, or a perky sunset print by Andy Warhol hanging above a white Eero Saarinen table surrounded by office chairs in vivid, sun-burnt orange.
“The idea is that it’s timeless, not some ’60s minimalism,” says Govan. “If you pare things down in a certain way, you often see more, not less.”
In particular, the public rooms feature a compendium of such classic furnishings with thoughtful color-bursts of art.
An iconic Castiglioni Arco lamp drapes over a Charles sofa by B&B Italia in the living room—next to a Brody Condon modified computer game of Elvis gyrating against a hot-pink background. Another Saarinen table rests in front of a Warhol Camouflage print in the breakfast nook. In the library, two soft-purple Arne Jacobsen egg chairs face each other, next to another Condon creation—this time, of Timothy Leary’s pal Baba Ram Dass.
Of all the home’s art, Govan seems partial to the digital pieces. “People don’t realize how powerful it is to live with,” he says. “It’s the way of the world now. Ariana makes videos with her friends for fun. And, like David Hockney, Gabrielle is drawing on her iPad.”
The family initially vowed to hang only one artist in each room. “It’s about being minimal and specific,” says Govan. “It’s not using art as decoration—that’s the key for us. For example, I would never put flowers in front of a work.”
Citing a strong point of view, the couple doesn’t use decorators, preferring instead to buy multiples of their favorites. “We like what we like,” says Ross. They estimate that they own something like 12 Saarinen tables and five Charles sofas among their three homes. (The family has an apartment in N.Y. that they now rent out and a house in the Hamptons.)
Other objects Ross simply purchased on the spot. “I saw it, and I said, ‘I’ll take it,’” she says, smiling at the “very James Bond” Willy Rizzo coffee table she discovered at Blackman Cruz. The circular disc opens to form a bar, and a bucket-shaped hole is filled with ice and Champagne.
Entertaining is key. At LACMA, museum directors have a long history of wooing and socializing from Hancock Park. Whether cocktails for 100, an artist’s lecture or a quiet dinner for 18, Govan and Ross needed a large, open kitchen that could accommodate caterers, plenty of storage and a backyard that could be tented. Before he passed away, New York event kingpin Robert Isabell even drew a floor plan for Ross to help her figure out how many people she could actually fit in the house for a dinner party.
The word on the street is that Govan-Ross soirees are as unfussy as their home.
“It was artistic but low-key,” recalls one guest who attended the LACMA holiday party. “It felt very neighborhood-y. There were people draped over the armchairs of the sofa—drinking, chatting. You could tell that everyone was there because they liked them, not just to do business.”
“It’s not so much about the art on the walls,” LACMA and MOCA trustee Jane Nathanson adds. “They always have stunning flowers, a fun mix of people, and a relaxed atmosphere. They live artfully.”
BY ELIZABETH KHURI CHANDLER.