Master of the House
At home with Oscar-winning actress and design aficionado Diane Keaton.
We all want to LIVE IN Diane Keaton’s world. For some of us, it’s the actress’s on-screen digs that tempt; say, the 11-bedroom oceanfront shingled Southampton estate; or the white clapboard two-story in Pasadena with the rose-strewn picket fence (see: Nancy Meyers’ Something’s Gotta Give and Father of the Bride, respectively). For others, it’s any of the real-life marvels she’s renovated and sold, including the 1926 Wallace Neff-designed Spanish-style domicile in Beverly Hills and the Lloyd Wright-built Mayanesque landmark Samuel-Novarro House in Los Feliz. The point is, the actress, author, fashion icon, and architecture and design enthusiast dwells, works and moves in beauty. Which makes it all the more compelling that she moves a lot. “One thing I really can’t stand is thinking that anything is set in stone,” she says. “I don’t ever want to live like that.”
Keaton found herself between residences two-and-a-half years ago when she made an offer on her current abode, a traditional Connecticut-style shingled farmhouse set off a windswept bluff in Pacific Palisades. At the time she’d recently purchased a lot in Sullivan Canyon—upon which she is currently in the process of building a ranch-style compound—and planned to rent in the interim. But renting posed a problem: “You can’t mess around with things,” she explains. “I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to buy it. I’ve never owned a spec house,’” she adds. “But then I did because…well, where else was I going to live?” She asks the question with an imploring purpose, as if she really expects you to weigh in, then laughs that authentically tickled-by-it-all Diane Keaton laugh.
She became enamored with her nest, precisely because she didn’t see it coming: “I moved in and fell in love,” she says. “I wasn’t trying to find the perfect house. I was just looking for a nice place to live and feel comfortable.”
For her, comfort means living in black-and-white, a sartorial and stylistic trademark. “People [should be] the color in a home,” she says. “People coming and going really do punch [things] up.”
This being Diane Keaton, her high-contrast scheme, which mixes beloved Spanish antiques with eccentric curios, rustic decor and industrial statements, is plenty punchy: from the Pop Art-styled polka-dot-painted walls in the guest room; to a self-described “tack room” vignette in the hallway, replete with striped James Perse towels and playful wooden Boston terrier doorstops; to her vast collection of photographs—David Wojnarowicz’s haunting Untitled (Buffalo), Garry Winogrand’s suburban vision Albuquerque, New Mexico 1957 and a steamy Bruce Weber portrait of a young Matt Dillon among them. “Of course Matt Dillon,” she says. “He’s gorgeous.”
Still, there are saturated winks: fresh orange banksia blooms and blue ticking pillows in the bedroom, and a deep green miniature wooden house in the sitting room—part of a wider assemblage inspired by Pinterest. “I’m on that Internet all the time and just stealing ideas,” she says of the collection. “I’m a thief. And I have a lot of romantic dreams of what people hope for in a home, so it’s very moving to me.”
Her office, an airy retreat in the basement furnished with a monumental 12-foot-wide steel-topped desk with a vintage railroad wheelbase, and an explosion of tear sheets that blanket the floor, is her sacred lair. “I always had a problem with Spanish homes because the living room is [the focus],” she says. “For me, the office is where I am.”
Keaton’s made good use of the space; since moving in she has produced the follow-up to her 2007 title California Romantica (an ode to California Mission and Spanish Colonial architecture): the 2012 book House, a lush investigation of farm and factory buildings brilliantly reimagined by the likes of Annabelle Selldorf and Adam Kalkin. She also published a memoir, last spring’s Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, which name-checks such high-profile former paramours as Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino.
“It’s a house where I’ve had new ideas and played around,” she says. “But my prevailing memory will be that it’s a family house. It’s warm and fun and I watched my son [Duke] and daughter [Dexter] get two years older here.”
Living by the water full-time “changes everything,” Keaton says, and has brought her back to her own formative years growing up in L.A.: “My dad loved the ocean and he made it even more romantic for me. Every weekend we would go to Doheny Beach; I always think of him when I walk on that bluff and look down.”
It’s the bluff that will be hardest to leave when construction on her new address in Sullivan Canyon is finally complete—not that there’s an end date: “The next time I talk to you it will still be
being built,” she jokes. “I’ll be like that Winchester [Mystery House] woman.” Of course, Keaton, of all people, revels in the unknown: “This is where I am right now and this is what feels good. But I won’t always be here—we aren’t always going to be anywhere really,” she says. “To me it’s magical to see how different things look in different places. I think that’s [how] we have to look at ourselves: Put us in a different place, we’re different.”
By Melissa Goldstein.
Photographed by Lisa Romerein.