Karyn Lovegrove's family house is as art-minded as her Los Angeles gallery
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 8/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Blame it on Paris. At 15, Karyn Lovegrove was an Australian law and art-history student with a flair for fashion design. She saw the light when visiting the City of Light—from that moment on, she knew she was destined for a career in the art world. "I became obsessed with the notion of having a gallery," she recalls.
Back in Melbourne, where she grew up, she began building an art consultancy. With blue-chip clients IBM, British Petroleum, and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu heading the roster, she was clearly on a roll. In 1991, she opened the initial Karyn Lovegrove Gallery. Four years later, she met British music manager Peter Leak, whose Nettwerk Management boasted an equally stellar client list, including Dido, Avril Lavigne, and Sarah McLachlan.
Blame him for her intercontinental shift—to Los Angeles on Valentine's Day, 1996. Did she have a prior affinity for L.A.? "No! I'd never even been there." Furthermore she didn't shutter the Melbourne gallery immediately. For two years, she commuted across the Pacific every other month.
Just as that 16-hour flight was becoming unbearable, fellow gallery owner Mark Foxx showed her a 1,200-square-foot space in an artsy Hollywood enclave. "It was a dream," she says. Thus, 1999 saw the opening of the second Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, its domestically scaled rooms perfect for launching Ingrid Calame, Candida Höfer, Paul Morrison, and Simon Periton onto the L.A. scene.
Similar modest proportions characterize the interior of Lovegrove and Leak's home in Los Feliz. Built in 1928, the 5,000-square-foot two-story house came with such Mediterranean touches as a gently vaulted living room and a curving stairwell, its leaded-glass windows and painted rotunda exuding easy grandeur. But not a hint of pomposity. Some parts of the house—the study, the sitting room—were downright cozy.
Yet all was not perfect. At the back of the house, a tiny kitchen and dining room were lost in a dim jumble of service areas. The windows were tiny, and only a single door led to a covered patio with aluminum-framed windows and a faux leopard-skin carpet. (One that would not have made Diana Vreeland proud.) Connection between the house and the generous 1/3-acre lot couldn't have been more lacking.
The intrepid Lovegrove changed all that. Working with her own 'sure eye and a skilled contractor, she reconfigured half of the rear area as a sleek kitchen with cabinetry of dark-stained MDF and counters of honed Calacutta Gold marble. An adjacent dining room is now spacious enough for an 18-foot-long ebonized-oak table, divisible into three sections for party flexibility. The back wall's four sets of French doors allow gracious passage between indoors and out, where Lovegrove carefully sited a 50-foot lap pool to preserve a towering ash tree.
As the house was to be a personal gallery, Lovegrove went minimal with furnishings and finishes. White walls and stained ebonized-oak floors abound. Apt, too, was the choice of Roy McMakin furniture, which blurs the line between art and design. "Roy had his showroom downstairs from the gallery," she says. "To see his furniture is to buy it. ' It'sirresistible, because the pieces are all made by one person." They also work in terms of weight and scale.
Thinking carefully about each acquisition, Lovegrove and Leak bought furniture slowly, much as they would artwork. And they learned patience while waiting for delivery. The living room's sofas took nine months but, covered in fire-engine red wool, they became an essential complement to the eroticism of the living room's photography. Amy Adler's reclining seminude faces a Thomas Ruff, derived from Internet porn, and Nan Goldin's embracing couple. Their daringness is offset by a serene fireside vignette: Monique Prieto's acrylic on canvas and a Japanese bronze horse statue that belonged to Lovegrove's grandparents.
"The gallery is strong on abstract work," she says. "At home, a large proportion of what we have is portraiture." In daughter Cosima's bedroom, a basket of stuffed animals overflows beneath a mini gallery of works on paper by Karen Kilimnik, Graham Little, Yoshitomo Nara, and Raymond Pettibon. Even the freestanding Pilates studio features a Julian Opie triptych of cartoonlike characters.
Not that Lovegrove and Leak ignore the abstract end of the spectrum altogether, and they were particularly attracted by Ingrid Calame's process: Her colorful enamel on aluminum works, which hang in the kitchen, start out as tracings of stains on city streets and sidewalks.
"Collecting is definitely becoming more of an obsession as I learn more," says Leak. Though currently beyond the couple's means, Andreas Gursky's photographs and John Currin's paintings have captured the music manager's acquisitive eye. "But," he says, "there will always be the next Gursky and the next Currin." Discovery is part of the thrill of possession.