'The Ikea kitchen had to go': Inside the home of LA's vintage king Cameron Silver
Pillows by Tom Ford, trinkets by Hermès and YSL, Lanvin props...
It's vintage, darling. The business – and the house. Cameron Silver set up Decades, a shop selling vintage dresses in Los Angeles, in 1997. And we're not talking your rag-bag, sequin-trailing charity-shop finds; the suave businessman went seriously high-end, sourcing fabulous frocks in which A-listers could sashay down the red carpet. He's since been named one of the 25 most influential people in fashion by Time magazine, and recently published a sumptuous coffee-table book, entitled Decades, exploring "a century of fashion".
Naturally, you'd need the pad to match. And he and his partner Jeff Snyder (and their rather unglamorously named dog, Gary, a German spitz) have certainly found it in their mid-century modern LA home. The Elliot House was designed by Rudolf M Schindler in 1930; Silver bought it in 1999, and it was restored by architects Marmol Radziner. It's a tri-level property built on a hill – the bottom layer added nine years after the other two were built – with a garage on street level, too. "It was like, 'Hey – I sell vintage designer clothing, I should have a vintage designer house,'" says the Beverly Hills-born couture connoisseur, who'd always been a fan of Schindler's modernist work: "The Kings Road House [in California], to me, is one of the most interesting 20th-century properties."
Apart from the designer tag, there was something else about the building that spoke to Silver: he's used to trusting his gut when it comes to clothes, and buying a property was no different… "I just knew it was the right house. I can remember seeing the garage, which is somewhat of a mini version of the house, and going up a few stairs and I was like, 'This is the house' before I had set foot in it. When I buy a dress, I know [it's worth buying] just looking at it. It was the same thing [with the house]: I just knew, like I had tried it on, in a sense."
It took a lot of work, mind, to get it back to its clean, original design, and living in a piece of significant architecture is, Silver concedes, high maintenance. "It was a pretty epic restoration," he begins. "The previous owners had put in an Ikea kitchen, and blocked out a lot of windows. [We were] restoring the wood, restoring cabinetry that was lost, just getting the house back to the colour it was, the paint. And the garage needed masses of restoration; it was more or less rebuilt." Luckily for them, and their architects, there is a substantial archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with documents and designs by the likes of Schindler, Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright, which had photographs of the original they could draw on.
Not that Silver felt the need to go completely mid-century modern when it came to the interior. They did add several "built-ins" – such as that low green sofa – in keeping with the architectural aesthetic , while that swivelling, adjustable white Poulsen lamp, a flea-market find before they had even discovered the building, happily "just worked in the house". Elsewhere, however, Silver's taste veers towards the opulent, as you might expect of a man who started his career as a cabaret singer. "I like luxury; Schindler isn't really a luxury architect, but we still throw down Hermès objects everywhere, and [create] a more ornate atmosphere," he says.
There are certainly plenty of high-fashion nods: that red painting, by Kim Fisher, is a riff on the logo of French designer André Courrèges; the red fluffy pillow is Tom Ford for Gucci. The dining table is dotted with decorative items by Hermès and pieces of Yves Saint Laurent jewellery. Next to a vintage zebra hide is a Lanvin light box that had been a prop for a perfume display. ("We did a dinner for [designer] Alber Elbaz once, he had just started at Lanvin, and it was so nice to have that – it just was cute," purrs Silver, not averse to a name-drop.)
"It's an interesting juxtaposition with Schindler, who was a modernist and in a sense a minimalist, putting in those eccentric touches," explains Silver. And it does all come back to his pash for fash: "It's very much how I like to dress – I mix it up, my own taste is very classic, but I'll wear the weirdest shoes. And that's the same decorating style here."
'Decades: A Century of Fashion' is published by Bloomsbury, priced £40
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