Monday, September 21, 2009


Hollywood at Home is located in the ever so charming Almont Yard in Los Angeles. It is where Peter Dunham creates his comfortable, chic, casual interiors. His relaxed fabrics have the right blend of charm and pattern, and his shop provides clients with the key elements for this look. Carrying his signature furniture, lighting and accessories, his haven is heavenly. I have talked about his neighbors, Nathan Turner, Harbinger and Lucas Studio, and thought it was time to talk about this prolific Brit! The English have the makings of an interior designer from the day they are born, and Peter was certainly destined for great things after working for David Hicks. I recently spoke to Peter about what inspires and influences him as an interior and product designer:

Who did you work for or study with to learn the trade?

My first summer job when I was 15 was for a company on Sloane Street in London called Zarach. They did a lot of glitz. At one time they had David Hicks and Alessandro Albrizzi working for them. Then I worked at David Hicks while I was in college. I worked for 15 years in Real Estate in New York which gave me a good grounding in business practices, renovating, developing. I learned how to negotiate and to read contracts. It was maybe the most important preparation for what I do now.

When did you know this was your calling in life?

I remember doodling floorplans when I was in high school. My best friend at school’s father was David Hicks. He was the only decorator I had ever met and his work had a huge impact. But he along with other friends in my early 20’s such as Jacques Grange, John Stefanidis kept on saying that it was a terrible way to make a living so I listened and went to work in Real estate in New York. Many of my friends were designers, antique dealers, editors at Shelter Magazines so I was always in that world. I really plunged in when I moved to Los Angeles 12 years ago and had to do the classic re-invent and became an interior designer.

What is your signature look and how would you define it?

David Keeps of the LA Times Home Section called it “Merchant Ivory Moderne”. I don’t think I have a signature look but the common threads to my interiors are generally:carefully defined space and furniture plans, warm and inviting atmosphere, mix of high-low, interesting vintage “finds” mixing with custom made furniture, variety of wall coverings, use of vintage fabrics, tribal and ethnic touches, color, pattern.

What other designer or architect do you most admire?

Jacques Grange. His interiors have a great sexiness to me. There is a very relaxed feel but everything is made by the best French craftsmen often from impossibly esoteric materials. The mix is unexpected and you find yourself loving something that you may have never clicked with before because he uses it in a new way. People look seductive in his interiors.

What material do you love?

Natural fibers: anything made of woven grasses, straw,rush, reed, abacca, sisal, jute etc.. I love their natural colors. I like to use them on floors, walls, upholstery, lampshades, window treatments. I love the colors and textures they have. I try and source different ones all the time.

Do you have a go to fabric resource?

Obviously I love and use my own fabrics a lot. I tend to create things that I need for my work rather than what I think will sell. I love Claremont. They have amazingly sophisticated colors. On the opposite end of the pay scale Pindler has great basics.

Is there a reproduction collection you frequently like to use?

I use a lot of my reproduction collection at Hollywood at Home.
I love the rush chairs from the movie “How to Marry a Millionaire” or my dining armchair from the old Downtown New York Athletic Club that closed, my sofas come from 12 years of refining custom sofas: the Elsie De Wolfe sofa or my Grant Sofa are good classics with a twist. My four posters get used a lot in my projects.

Is there a trade or retail store that you drop by often?

J. F. Chen

What is your biggest antique splurge?

My big red painted (chipped)Regency partners desk. I bought it at Christopher Gibbs’s big auction in England a few years ago. It used to be the table in the office of his shop, but it was featured on the cover of the NY Times Home section just before the sale so I had to pay a lot for it. It makes me happy every time I look at it.

Of all the work you have done, do you have a favorite project?

Designers find it hard to pin this answer down. For me it is the house I worked on with Pamela Levy, one of the two creators of Juicy Couture. It’s a beautiful 1930’s house in Beverly Hills. The collaboration with someone who is so creative was both challenging and an amazing learning experience. I love to have my boundaries pushed and to push those of my clients. Pamela and I did that a lot!
What city do you visit to get inspired?
New York

Every designer collects and uses certain books as a reference. What is on your bookshelf?

Old-ish: The Christies Catalogue to the Sale at Groussay at Paris is an amazing reference. I use it all the time. New-er: The private world of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge. Those guys took decorating and collecting to another orbit.

Do you have a favorite country house in England and America?

In England: Stanway near Bath. Its been used in many films. It’s an early house 15th or 16th Century. Not very grand by English standards. The outside is a pale gold color. The inside goes from Jacobean to William Morris (who was a family friend)

If you were not doing this what would you do?

Maybe Antique dealer. I love the hunt and find found objects very poetic.

What are your trade secrets?

Diamond Fabric on La Brea, Bonham’s, Big Daddy’s Antiques, Blackman Cruz, Nathan Turner, Harbinger, Pat McGann, Lucca, Denmark 50, J.F. Chen, Obsolete, NK Antiques, Waldo, Y+B Bolour carpets, Rugs and Arts, Berbere Imports, LA Modern Auctions, Lief, Bourgeois Boheme, Voila, Little Paris, Liz’s Antique Hardware, Reborn, Christopher Farr, Lee Stanton Antiques, Downtown, Claremont Textiles, Noho Modern, The Collection, Dispella Antiques, Dragonette, Wertz Brothers on Lincoln, and The Rosebowl Flea Market.

His upstairs office is packed with textiles and inspiration. That red desk he splurged on is worth it, since it adds a great shape and pop of color to the white room. Great California light for drafting and decorating never hurts.

A custom lipstick red barn door welcomes designers and shoppers to Hollywood at Home.

Let the shopping begin!

A peg hook runs the length of the wall showing full width fabric pieces, and small swing arm lamps provide essential good lighting.

A feature wall provides a closer look at full length designs, and the deep sofa makes you want to sit and stay awhile.

Little moments like this chaise vignette make the shop more like a home. It is hard not to just say, "I'll take it all."

The table provides plenty of surface area. Viola, room schemes come together.


Raised in Paris, Peter is seen here as a toddler, taking in the architectural sights at Fontaine St. Michel in Paris.

His room at boarding school in England was greatly influenced by his best friend's father,David Hicks, the legendary designer he later worked for.

One of Peter's favorite Beverly Hills projects for a founder of Juicy Couture.


The After All Sofa has a deep seat and tailored arm.

The Holmby Sofa is great for conversation, with its kidney shape and cut corner back.

The Barrymore Chair, a small wingback, has nice proportions.

The Gobbs Chair is a quintisential English piece.

The Tub Chair, a charming little thing, would be great by a fireplace.

The Syrie Maugham Chair with wood frame and upholstered seat and back makes a good addition to a living room seating plan.

A Comfy reading chair will stand up to high traffic in a slipcover.

The Tufted Chaise would make a great addition to a dressing room or bedroom corner.

The Moorish Mirror is a clean shape with a hint of Moroccan flourish.

The Hudson table with column base would work well in a center hall.

The Garner Ottoman makes an easy coffee table, perfect for stacking books.

The Rope Lamp is so chic! I love anything with this natural material, so naturally, I am smitten.

How to Marry a Millionaire Chair flies out the door.

Your search is over! The New York Athletic Club Rush Chair is an easy piece to use, it can go casual at the beach or work in a city apartment.

The New York Athletic Club chair with Upholstered Seat takes on a more formal air with the nailhead trim.

Athletic Club Barstool with Upholstered Seat has the best of both words: height and comfort.

Dogs in LA is the norm. But four of them? A group this cute deserve their own special billing.

The Westie line up! Bo, Bella, and Buster and Jazz are blase when it comes to having their photos taken.

Photos Courtesy of Peter Dunham
Bella reflecting on classical influences in her garden.


Anonymous said...

Wow, great piece, thank you for sharing! For the doggie lineup, what is the hound's name? (S)he missed out on the billing!

So Haute said...

What a great interview! Peter Dunham is one of my absolute favorite designers! I especially enjoyed hearing his own take on his design style as well as hearing about some of his favorite sources. Thanks for the great post!

Topsy Turvy said...

Marisa - great interview. Did you get to meet him and visit his shop? He's one of my favorites.


P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

This is a wonderful(repeat) interview- I am always intrigued by getting the intimate look into a designer-especially Peter Dunham. I also appreciate the take time to find out about the designer behind the projects that get published-As I have discussed with Topsy Turvy! It seems the blog world does it best, mags just seem to want to focus on the homeowner esp. if it is a celeb. Again-great job, Loved it. GT