Inside a Designer’s Historically Protected L.A. Home

Liseanne Frankfurt is a fashion triple threat. NBD.

By: Hannah Baxter

It’s hard not to be impressed by Liseanne Frankfurt – her resume spans three distinct areas of design across her coast-to-coast career, all united by a killer eye and roll-up-your-sleeves attitude. LFrank, a dual jewelry-and-lingerie line, is the latest incarnation of her passion for making things, and each piece pairs perfectly with everything from a moto jacket to a cocktail dress. With a background in interiors, it’s no shocker that her remodeled house is equally chic.

Her stunning Los Angeles home is part of an original case study neighborhood (think: the infamous Ray and Charles Eames House, aka heaven) but that doesn’t mean it didn’t present a few challenges. With a historical protection preventing a second story, Frankfurt, her husband, and their two young children were forced to get creative and build down instead of up. The result is a lofty, open space with dozens of original artworks and furniture collectibles.

Every corner of the house reflects the aesthetic of her label. Different textures and eras grace the tables, light fixtures, and walls – it’s postmodern meets Parisian and everything in between, but somehow it all works. Click through to see the rest of her fashionable west-coast digs and hear how traveling to Venice might just jump start your next career move.

 

“I do really love the scale of [the house]. I think in Los Angeles, people get a bit lost in really big houses, and our house is not that. We totally renovated 11 years ago. We took out a lot of walls, so it’s much more loft-like. It feels better in terms of energy and the flow of the house and the way that my family can live in it. We have our rooms, but we’re together more often than not, which I think has been a huge factor in how close we are and how comfortable our kids’ friends felt coming over.”

“I took a sabbatical from making jewelry and actually worked on interiors when I was in my early twenties. I lived in New York, and because being a jewelry designer is a very solitary endeavor, I wanted to be out in the world a bit more. I would work on styling different advertising campaigns [there], and then I moved back to Los Angeles and I kept doing both [jewelry and styling]. I actually went to work for Ralph Lauren in the home department in Beverly Hills. I’ve always had an interest in interiors and architecture, so I think that has always informed my design work no matter what I’m working on, but having this kind of firsthand experience was invaluable.”

“One of the things I would do with the money I was earning [from selling jewelry] was go to Neiman Marcus and LaPerla and buy lingerie. I always had a real passion for it and was always very particular about it—having matching sets of things and proper slips to wear under dresses. When I was in college, it was the early ’90s, so it was kind of the beginning of wearing slips as outerwear, so it comes full circle now that I'm actually making them. It just sort of happened organically. I do that whole ‘if you can’t find it, make it yourself’ thing a lot. I feel like I’m a one-woman factory.”

“Lingerie came later. We were in Venice and one of the islands, Burano – the lace island – had this really beautiful lace museum and it sort of reignited this passion. I really got sucked into it. I got on a plane by myself and went to Paris and went to this trade show. They had everything from elastics to lace to silks and all the fittings for making lingerie. It was kind of crazy, really, because I had never made a garment, but I sort of knew that I had to do it. I had a very specific idea in my mind of what I wanted to create and it just didn’t seem to exist in the marketplace.”

“Be patient. We literally just found the perfect light fixture for our bedroom, after looking for over ten years. I searched high and low and all over geographically, and flirted with a few different styles before finding what I thought was perfect. A space should be a dynamic, living thing, and I think that patience ultimately leads to better design. Plus, the process is part of the fun.”

“I would advise people, if they have friends who are makers or artists or designers, to support them one, and two, living with things that have meaning is so much nicer. When you can have things that have meaning and don’t just take up space, they fulfill a function and purpose. I would advocate for finding things that can do both. I think it’s really tried and true that if you love it, it will go with what you have. If you’re true to your own aesthetic and you’re true to the things that you really love, whether they’re from totally different periods of time or the materials are completely opposite, they’ll go together. I think everything just becomes harmonious when it’s chosen by the same person with the same intent.”

“I’m probably the antithesis of minimalism. I’m definitely a maximalist in terms of wanting to have lots of elements. I like that certain things that are very spare, but I like things juxtaposed. I like things that are more richly textured and colorful. I think the mix has really been the fun of it for me. We have dining room chairs from Beaubourg Library at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and we also have our dining room table, which is an early American carved wooden table. I find magic in the juxtaposition of periods and styles. Having a contrast is a big part of what makes things sing in my head. If it’s all one thing, I get kind of turned off by it.”

“It’s just such a different lifestyle here [in L.A.]. I miss the energy of New York and I miss the city and I miss walking, but our house and the way we live in it would be impossible there. It’s so indoor/outdoor; the doors are just flung open from morning till night. It’s definitely very particular to a Los Angeles house.”

“We live in this historically protected community. Gregory Ain was the architect and he designed 52 homes in 1948-49. They were international style, flat roofs. The idea was that they were for returning GI’s who wanted a more modern lifestyle with ‘servant-less’ houses. The floor plan of the house was so that the mother could be in the kitchen but she could also see the children playing outside – there were sliding walls. The houses were twice as expensive as anything else in the neighborhood and just too modern – there were no fences! They had originally planned to build over 300 of them, but they only built 52 because, as a development, it just wasn’t successful.”

“Jewelry and lingerie were both things that, growing up, were really important to me. I was making things all the time just out of passion and the love of doing it. I was studying at UCLA as a sophomore, and I went to Montana Avenue, in Santa Monica, and sold everything that I had made and got orders for more. I went on from there to have a showroom in downtown L.A. representing me and selling to Fred Segal and Barneys, as well as stores internationally.”

“Some of the original neighbors are still here. There are close to 100 people who moved in in 1949, 1950. It attracted a really interesting group of people.”

“I think what mostly informed my design is the juxtaposition of things, because the architecture of this house dictates one thing. It’s very much a case-study house. I myself am not a case-study furniture type of person. We do have a bit of it, because what I’m known for with jewelry design is the layering of pieces. So, I think that approach also applies to my house. I love to layer different periods, different styles, different textures, different colors.”

“I think that people often dress for an occasion, which is fun, but I think you should dress for yourself, no matter what you’re doing, and really enjoy it. Collections are, by their very nature, things that are personal, so if you’re enjoying it, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. And the same with lingerie. I think lingerie is incredibly personal and special, and I’m hoping to get people away from the idea of sleeping in a torn t-shirt. I think people would feel so much better if they were sleeping in something beautiful.”

“I’ve come across people who don’t necessarily wear their jewelry collections every day, and I can’t help but imagine that they would have more joy if they were putting it on every day, no matter if they’re wearing exercise clothes or a ball gown. I don’t change my jewelry for day to night all that often—for the most part what I put on at 8:00 in the morning is what I’ll wear to dinner or a party.”

“When we designed the house, the historical protection of the community dictates that you can’t change the facade of the house, and you also cannot build a second story. The original houses were 1,100 square feet, and we wanted to make it bigger, so we had this crazy idea. We worked with this architect, Jeff Guga, and built an underground level. We went down because we weren’t allowed to go up. It involved a ridiculous amount of engineering and really was a gamble.”

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