What becomes a legend most? If the luminary in question happens to be nine-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter John Legend, the answer is expressed most artfully in the 1960s Hollywood Hills house he shares with his fiancée, model Christine Teigen. A sophisticated update of midcentury modernism, the residence reflects the spirit of a young couple putting their own distinctive spin on gracious California living.
“Our style is chic and tailored but also earthy and casual,” Legend says.
Since this is our first home in Los Angeles, we wanted it to feel right not only for us but also for this city.
To realize their West Coast vision of domestic bliss, Legend and Teigen turned to Don Stewart, of the L.A. firm Desiderata Design, whom they met through musician Kanye West, another Stewart client. (An early champion of Legend’s work, West is also the executive producer of the singer’s new album, Love in the Future, set to be released later this year in advance of an international tour.)
“The first time we saw the house we were really inspired by the overall vibe,” Stewart recalls. “I told John and Chrissy that it reminded me of a Thai temple. That Asian influence was something they responded to, especially since she is half Thai.”
Stewart’s approach to transforming the home-which had been renovated within the past decade but was out of sync with Legend’s and Teigen’s tastes-involved the deft layering of materials both rugged and refined, beginning with the façade. He concealed the residence from street view behind a new garage built of massive Cor-Ten-steel panels and a specially commissioned bronze entry gate etched with an Asian village scene. A sculptural stairway of concrete in smooth and rough finishes leads from the curb to the front landing, which is framed by a balustrade of white oak and steel.
After gutting the 2,200-square-foot structure, Stewart reconfigured the space to maximize the loftlike living/dining/kitchen sweep that forms the heart of the house. No surface was left untouched as he sought to conjure a warm, natural ambience. The purposely limited array of materials and finishes includes rift-cut teak for cabinetry, bronze panels for the fireplace surround, a sea-grass wall covering in the master suite, and basalt counters and floor tiles, the latter continuing onto the terraces-which are bordered by lush gardens that Stewart redesigned with succulents and wild grasses. Longtime residents of Southern California may be blasé about the region’s vaunted indoor-outdoor lifestyle, but for anyone accustomed to harsh winters, the luxury of alfresco living comes as a joyful revelation. Legend and Teigen, who still keep a place in New York, certainly did not take it for granted. “The deck is the most alluring part of the house,” Legend says. “We loved the idea that the outside becomes an organic extension of the living area. It’s what makes Los Angeles so seductive.”
To capitalize on this desirable asset, Stewart created a Shangri-la of terraced outdoor spaces that flank two sides of the home. Laid out on multiple levels, the grounds offer enticing options for entertaining and quiet repose alike. One path leads to a hot tub with views of a hillside, while another winds down to a small, cloistered spot where a cocoonlike chair by Patricia Urquiola is set in the shade of a glorious eucalyptus tree. Scattered throughout are assorted daybeds, sofas, and chairs, many placed atop hand-crocheted rugs of sturdy marine rope. Anchoring the private garden off the master suite is a freestanding basalt bathtub that Legend confesses to using primarily for washing the couple’s two dogs. “It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture,” he says with a laugh. “And we do love our dogs.”
The same aesthetic sensibility chosen for the outdoor spaces-call it earthy modern-informs the interior furnishings. Once again the emphasis is on tactile natural materials and simple forms. In the living area, vintage leather lounge chairs by Osvaldo Borsani and Suekichi Uchida mingle with chunky cottonwood cocktail tables, an understated contemporary Italian sectional sofa, and an etched-bronze table by Philip and Kelvin LaVerne that inspired the design of the entry gate. The handsome mix also includes one-of-a-kind creations, notably an Alison Berger light fixture bearing handblown crystal pendants inscribed with Legend lyrics. Throughout the house antique artifacts, among them painted wood panels from Thailand and Sri Lanka, reinforce the building’s Asian feel.
“The furniture and art are a lot like John’s music-nothing too flashy or pretentious,” Stewart observes.
Both John and Chrissy had input on every design detail and object, so you actually get a sense of who they are.
For Legend, the surroundings have helped fuel his creative process. Several of the songs on his forthcoming album were recorded at the living area’s grand piano, which is wired to the high-tech home studio. “This house has all the qualities I strive for in my own work,” the musician says. “It’s subtle and beautiful, but it packs a modern punch.”