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Pale Perfection

For fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, beauty and grace are as inherent to her chic gowns as to her stylish Holmby Hills abode.

Six years ago, fashion designer Monique Lhuillier was seven months pregnant with son Jack when she and her husband, Tom Bugbee, decided to buy their Holmby Hills home. “I told him, ‘All it needs, Honey, is a coat of paint,’” she laughs. Famous last words. Fast-forward 20 months after a complete stripped-to-the-studs remodel, and Jack was old enough to walk through the front door when the family finally moved in.

Lhuillier, with help from builder Timothy Swain and Co., transformed the residence from a Tuscan-style domicile with an Asian-inspired backyard into a modern-French Regency masterpiece, complete with lollipop trees and structured hedges out front. “It was worth the almost two years of renovations to get it exactly how we wanted it,” says the designer, who opens her first New York store this season.

“The house has great flow,” Lhuillier notes. Enter it and you’re immediately struck by the 13-foot custom crystal chandelier hanging in the entry hall. It looks like an upside-down wedding cake—a nod to her success as one of the world’s premier bridal gown names. Move through the rooms and you’ll notice that even though Lhuillier does not shy away from bold hues in her ready-to-wear designs, nearly everything—from the walls to the furniture to the floors—is a shade of charcoal, thundercloud or dove. “I wanted to live in a gray world,” Lhuillier explains, “something calm to help me escape the chaotic pace of the fashion world.” Pops of color, however, appear in the various artworks she and Bugbee, who is also her company’s CEO, collect: a bright turquoise-pigment sculpted work by British artist Jason Martin over the gracious staircase; Murakami mouse paintings in the children’s rooms (the couple also has a two-year-old daughter, Sophia).

Lhuillier originally tried to tackle the home’s decor by herself, but it became a full-time occupation in addition to running her fashion empire. Through a friend she met interior designer Jennie Abbott, who, while executing Lhuillier’s vision, helped find and re-upholster pieces from the ’30s through mid-century as well as create custom furnishings—like a Lucite-based dining room table that seems to float.

Upstairs, the hallway wall is covered in black-and-white photos that photographer Nancy Neil takes of the children every six months. The passage leads to a guest room in shades of whispery blue and green. Lhuillier and Bugbee’s master suite includes her workspace, a sitting area and his-and-hers bath and dressing rooms (Bugbee’s has a sauna). Windows open to views of the clean-lined backyard, more recently redesigned, featuring a lap pool and pergola. “I like to have my Sunday morning coffee here and read a magazine,” says the designer of the al fresco space. Flip a switch and streams of water spray over the pool for a soothing sound. In fact, Bugbee had a system installed that allows them to control this and everything from the lights to the audio system via touchpad. French doors connect back to the kitchen—“It’s pretty much where we live,” Lhuillier says—and adjoining family room.

She has a flourishing and demanding business—the bridal brand, Bliss wedding dresses, evening gowns, ready-to-wear, ML eveningwear, a bridesmaids’ line, new store, tabletop and gifts, stationery, home fragrances and future plans for accessories, fine jewelry and furniture—but her creativity doesn’t end there, of course. “As a designer,” Lhuillier says, “I can’t just do clothes. I want to design everything I touch.” And that includes her alluring and elegant house.

By Florence Kane.
Photographed by Lisa Romerein.

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