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Basic Instincts

The Beverly Hills family residence of fashion designer Jenni Kayne and realtor Richard Ehrlich offers exalted quietude for reflection and play.

Jenni Kayne and Richard Ehrlich’s house is perfect because Kayne is a Virgo. At least, that’s how she explains it. Kayne, who recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of her eponymous fashion label, attributes her acute attention to detail and overall fastidiousness to her astrological sign. It’s even written in the stars that she should be modest about her affinity for interior design, which she is, and the seemingly effortless way she created an intimate, inviting home out of a cavernous “’80s architectural” in the flats of Beverly Hills. The truth is she saw serious potential in the home she and Ehrlich purchased nearly seven years ago—back when it was riddled with mold and covered, indoors and out, with aging terra-cotta tile. That said, the transformation might have more to do with her preternaturally impressive taste.

“We were looking for a house for a while, but we couldn’t find anything,” says Kayne. She is curled up on a built-in kitchen bench in a pair of bone-colored, high-waisted jeans and a pale T-shirt, her long, brown waves twisted into a loose braid. “It was unusual because Richard is a real estate agent, so he knew about everything on the market—all of the secret listings. And we just didn’t see anything we liked. Then one day, he called me and said, ‘I just walked into this house, and you’re going to love it. But I don’t like it!’ And somehow I convinced him he was going to love it, too.”

Kayne was attracted to the bones of the structure, the privacy afforded by the hedges surrounding the yard and the generous proportions of the rooms. Everything else had to go. “We took it down to the studs,” she laughs.

Kayne enlisted architect Jeffrey Allsbrook—a partner at Standard LA whose clients include Los Angeles designer James Perse and the Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery (which Kayne’s sister, Maggie, co-owns). “Jeff is amazing. I met him when he designed my first store in West Hollywood, and we work really well together.”

After two and a half years of renovation, the couple moved in—with an additional family member in tow. “When we bought the house, we weren’t even really thinking about kids. But by the time we moved in, our son Tanner was six months old. Then, when our daughter Ripley was born, we did a second remodel and added on.”

The fact she’s amused by the chaos instead of crushed by it—the two kids under six, a growing business (her third store, at the Montecito Country Mart, opens this autumn), her wide reaching and influential lifestyle blog, Ripplustan.com—may have something to do with her age. Kayne is barely in her thirties. She was 19 when she dropped out of Otis School of Design in L.A., only a year into the program, and launched her brand. She had a baby on her hip and was overseeing a major remodel of a 4,000-square-foot house when most of her contemporaries were struggling to assemble Ikea bookshelves. Kayne’s authority on topics belies her years: She can select linen napkins for throwing vegetarian dinner parties for 20 as easily as knowing which travertine creates a warm, modern feeling stone floor (her preference: white, vein-cut, honed).

Indeed, Kayne has had a big life. As the eldest of three daughters of uber-financier Richard (of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisers) and Suzanne, she was raised around the corner, just a few blocks away in a beautiful, traditional house. From her father, who invested in her business early on, Kayne inherited a phenomenal work ethic and unusual focus.

“I knew I wanted to be a designer when I was eight,” she explains with a shrug. And, back to the Virgo dilemma, she is a chronic, habitual compiler of information, ideas and sources.

“I have always been that friend people ask for information, like what they should register for when they’re pregnant, or what flowers to buy, or where I get natural toys for kids,” she explains. “And I love to help out, but frankly, it was getting a little exhausting. Now I just put it all on the blog, and when people ask for advice I send them there.”

Though she once dreamed of expanding her brand to include lifestyle items, for now, she’s content to inform her followers of tastemakers she finds around town, be it Maurice Harris of Bloom & Plume for artful floral arrangements, the vegetable garden whiz Laurie Kranz of Edible LA, or Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice.

When it came time to decorate her own home, Kayne deferred to style authority, Christian Liaigre, and borrowed liberally from his aesthetic.

“A lot of the ideas from this house came from his first book on design, Maison,” she says. She set out to create an environment that was “clean, neutral, warm and comfortable,” and adds, “The house is modern, but we’re not modern people. We added a lot of natural, organic elements.”

The first step was to purchase the majority of reclaimed wood from a single Amish barn in Pennsylvania.

“The ceilings in the kitchen are from the siding. We used the big beams, which we hollowed out, all over the house. And some of the wood from the beams was used to create our kitchen counters,” she says. A long farm table from Obsolete lines one wall; and woven leather chairs from JF Chen, and white linen upholstered sofas custom made by Molly Isaacson surround a concrete, dual-sided fireplace. Kayne also commissioned an alabaster fixture from JF Chen, and she designed a generous two-sided master bath with a shared shower that’s certainly a lesson in marital diplomacy.

But the home’s most impressive feature might be its art collection. Paintings of Native Americans by Alison Van Pelt hang above the dining table; family photos from friend Michael Muller line the hallway leading to the master suite at the rear of the house; and an over-sized image of a woman floating serenely in a turquoise sea is the only jolt of bold color in the living room.

“I am so lucky my mom didn’t have enough wall space for this one,” she says. “I like to say it’s on loan.”

With the scent of wood smoke from the fireplace lingering in the air, and the wall of green that lines the pool, it’s easy to forget the property is a stone’s throw from the tourist throngs and retailers of Beverly Hills—a place where Kayne swore she would never reside again.

“I never thought I’d live in the flats! It was hills all the way for me,” she says. “But I love it. It’s so convenient. The sidewalks are great for the kids. And in this house, you can’t see a single neighbor. It feels so calm. You could literally be anywhere.”

Kayne has created an impressive oasis for her family, equal parts adult refuge and kid paradise.

“People are kind of shocked I have white furniture with little kids around. But I just have my eco Scotchgard person come, like, once every couple of months. Everything just wipes off. You’ve got to try it. I’ll give you the number.”

Written by Christine Lennon
Photographed by Lisa Romerein

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