3 weeks ago
When is a trailer park not a trailer park – something purely American without a particularly upscale connotation? Even Magritte and Foucault wouldn’t necessarily know that one. Simple answer: when it’s in Malibu.
Soft colors, airy fabrics and aesthetic-but-funky landscape architecture can and do change the whole vibe. Add coziness, warmth, charm, a golf cart, surfboards, bikes, and requisite frisky pup – voila: you’ve got weekend and holiday home for Los Angeles interior designer Tim Clarke and longtime partner Art Luna. Albeit, home a few steps away from an expansive bright blue and foamy Pacific – and nearby Malibu neighbors residents like Pamela Anderson, Stevie Nicks and Minnie Driver, who own homes now worth up to 65 million.
And when is a trailer park really not a trailer park? When most of the 265 trailers grounded in what’s been known since the 50’s as Paradise Cove, set on a 200-foot bluff, go for $2 million and up. Not that anyone’s selling. And the waiting list of buyers is longer than even supermodel’s Karlie Kloss’s legs.
For many who’ve eschewed all elements of L.A.’s bustling urbanity, it’s their natural, grounded habitat – despite the fact that most of the trailers are no larger than around 500 feet.
Luna is an established hair stylist and landscape architect with an A-list following in both incarnations (hair: Reese Witherspoon, Kirsten Dunst. Gardens: socialite Jamie Tisch, jewelry designer Lisa Eisner, etc.). Clarke is an established interior designer who’s decked out the homes of Matthew Perry, James Spader, Sally Field, Ben Stiller, etc., and has an elegant home design shop on Main Street in Santa Monica. For them, life partners since the 90’s, Paradise Cove is like a “bohemian trailer park country club.”
And it’s home away from their Santa Monica home, where they often host snazzy indoor/outdoor soirees in a palazzo-like habitat, with Luna’s illuminated bevy of tall trees, looking like a cross between starlit nights and Christmas. They also have adjacent store/design studios on Main Street in Santa Monica. But Paradise Home lately seems like home to their real identities and hearts.
Clarke was working on jobs in Paradise Cove a few years back, when he started dreaming about 500 square foot trailer No. 52, designed initially by L.A. collective Commune, known for innovative packaging, hotel design (Ace Hotel chain), retail (Irene Neuwrith’s jewelry shop on Melrose Place) – the four members of which also happen to be longtime friends of Clarke and Luna. “It was simply – perfect,” Luna says. He fell in love at first sight.
One seeming downside: lack of space between their turquoise trailer and their neighbor’s – the garden is a slight four-foot wide patch of green. Luna knew exactly what to do with it, exercising his flamboyant skill with all things green. He filled it with staghorn ferns, signature bromeliads, and tillandsias – creating the ethereal boho vibe that Luna’s known for. “I knew exactly what to do with it,” he says, using a sweeping tree – Acacia – to arch over the kaleidoscope colored patchwork doorway.
Blue hues, reflecting the water and sky outside are a theme, from the blue and white striped couches to Pacific blue kitchen cabinets and fixtures, and blue and white airy patterned curtains. “You can’t put heavy furniture in a mobile home,” says Clarke. He covered the floors with grasscloth from their favorite travel destination, Hawaii. Clarke’s collection of surfboards and Luna’s of California pottery blend their personalities, resulting in a loose and somewhat strewn beach locker vibe. “It’s a mix of Tim and me,” says Luna of the combined collage of tastes. And far more casual and uncontrived than their Santa Monica home.
The furniture is mostly vintage: wicker chairs, a sprawling couch overrun with pillows and a long round wall mirror. It’s simple but with a sense of humor and charm. Blue is the basis: the exterior being turquoise, it makes sense the fabrics (couch, curtains) are mostly blue and white, and the kitchen’s got Pacific blue fixtures and cabinet. Touches of red: a handmade red pottery lamp, the kitchen’s red tiled walls and a flag painting in the front room, give it an old Americana feel – almost early Nantucket. The bedroom innovatively uses Balinese hand blocked fabric for both the wallpaper and curtains. The bedspread adds a splash but controlled pop of color: deep purple and red tones.
Like their close living neighbors, the pair meditate, picnic with seafood and rose’, and play backgammon on frequent weekend visits – Paradise Cove is only a 20-minute drive from neighboring Santa Monica’ traffic on the PCH permitting. Yet it seems a world away. There are no movie theaters, lines, car horns – or logo-wearing divas. The only uniform: denim, t-shirts, flip-flops. Anything else would be utterly overdressed.
The private 85-acre land mass is a bit of an oxymoron: the tight community is full of people who’ve done everything and made tons of money – who come here to do nothing and live an unpretentious and non-materialistic life. Originally the destination of working people seeking affordable beachfront vistas, it’s now home to financiers, designers, filmmakers, CEOs and actors. Most of the 400- to 1000-square-foot trailers settled here in the 70’s, but the Cove was originally developed first in the 50’s by surfers on the prowl for, as Sean Penn says in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” – “tasty waves, dude.” Of course, current residents have updated with requisite Angeleno kitchen must-haves (Viking stoves) and flatscreen TVs. Many of the 265 trailers started in the five figures – now they’re going for at least 7.
Current neighbors are Elder Statesman founder/designer Greg Chait, of the luxury cashmere line of sweaters, hoodies and sweatshirts – and CEO’s, filmmakers, artists, and wealthy parents who don’t want their kids to grow up in L.A.
They’ve all made the Paradise Cove downsides, such as they are, their upsides: there’s almost no privacy, the tricked-out trailers are so close together that everyone knows everyone’s business – including their taste in tv shows, what their kids eat for breakfast, and likely more information about their personal lives than they’d like to know. Upside: it’s a real and close community, with wholesome kids, communal barbeques, fireworks, a Fourth of July cart parade, watermelon spitting contests – and free surfing lessons from the pro’s who’ve resided there for many years. The kids running around all look blond and freckled and impossibly fresh-faced – straight out of a Bruce Weber ad.
“We come here to just be who we are,” says Luna.