September 2008

The Kid Stays in the Picture

  •  The living room, where antique sitars hang with photos of rock royalty
  • The sleek kitchen
  • A fireplace made with Asian woodwork separates the dining area from the living room.
  • The banquet table is made of floorboards from a French wine cellar. Industrial light fixtures modernize the warm space.
  • The four-poster bed in Rock’s master suite and guest room accentuate the house’s sultry, colonial flavor.
  • The master bath
  • Guest room
  • A boar’s tooth necklace and dominatrix photographs by Deborah Anderson add bite to the traditional decor of the master bath.

Flying high on the success of his latest release, Kid Rock touches down for R&R in an unexpectedly serene Malibu Hideout  by MAYER RUS / photographs by FRANÇIOS DISCHINGER

The titles of Kid Rock’s albums paint only a partial portrait of the man behind the music. He came out of the gate in 1990 with Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast on Jive Records and spent the next eight years recording albums such as The Polyfuze Method (1993) and Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp (1996) for various independent labels. In 1998, Rock (aka Robert James Ritchie) busted a move into the mainstream with Devil Without a Cause, which sold an astonishing 11 million copies. He followed up with Cocky in 2001, an eponymous album in 2003 and Live Trucker in 2006. Last year, Rock turned up the volume on his iconoclastic imagemaking with an album called Rock N Roll Jesus.

But don’t let the sly, suggestive titles and the provocative persona—he has been known to walk the red carpet wearing overalls and swigging Jack Daniel’s—fool you into thinking his pleasure palace is tricked out in rock ’n’ roll clichés. His Malibu refuge subverts the caricature of a big-pimpin’ rock god. Adorned with Indonesian woodwork and architectural details imported from the Far East, the house is a marvel of serenity, exotic flavor and—dare we say it?—refined taste.

“I was drawn to this place because of the craftsmanship,” Rock says. “I looked at a ton of houses in Malibu, and frankly, there’s a lot of pieced-together junk out here. I wanted a place that was comfortable and fun, where I could kick back, write music and hang out with friends. But it also had to be a house that was well built—something with quality.”

To help him conjure the kind of lifestyle he envisioned, Rock turned to Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, a decorator he met through his close friend and Malibu neighbor Diana Jenkins. “This house shows another side to Bobby,” Lawrence-Bullard says. “Yes, he’s a crazy, mad rock star, but he’s also very mellow, and he loves to entertain in style. His taste is surprisingly sophisticated. We weren’t going with red velvet sofas and gothic chandeliers.”

Lawrence-Bullard’s decorating plays off the structure’s elegant lines and colonial flavor. He accented the rich, monochromatic palette of the antique Asian columns and fireplace surrounds by introducing strategic jolts of color in textiles and furnishings, many of his own design. “The ikats, kilims and dhurries reinforce the sultry mood of the house,” he says. “The effect isn’t specific to one place or period. It’s not strictly Balinese or Moroccan. We were going for fantasy—sexy and luxurious but also relaxed.”

Of course, it’s not all jasmine tea and crumpets at Kid Rock’s house. “I couldn’t resist making a few redneck moves,” he confesses. “I thought about parking the four-wheeler that Jesse James built for me in the living room, but I decided against it.” Instead, there’s a portable stripper pole alongside a grand piano that once belonged to his friend Elton John. As stripper poles go, it’s a fairly demure presence—like a minimalist stainless-steel sculpture that crash-landed in an Indonesian temple.

On the focal wall of the living room, three antique sitars flank a collection of photos of music legends from Rock’s personal pantheon, including Willie Nelson, Marvin Gaye, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Louis Armstrong. Set on a console near the piano are two turntables, where Rock scratches and mixes into the wee hours to the delight of his guests.

He’s also happy to kick-start a house party by picking up a guitar for an impromptu set. “It doesn’t take much to get me to perform. I love to show off,” he admits. “There are always people around, eating, drinking, making trouble or just hanging out. That’s what gives this house life. Between the piano, the turntables and the guitars, we’ve had some amazing jams here.”

Discretion prevents any inquiries into what sort of jams (amazing or otherwise) have gone on in the master bedroom, but one gets the impression the room has seen its share of good times. The centerpiece of the romantic space is the overscaled colonial four-poster bed designed by Lawrence-Bullard, swathed in yards of diaphanous mosquito netting and anchored by a 19th-century Indian carpet.

The same slightly twisted sensibility comes to life in the master bath, where antique ivory accessories, English silver and a boar’s-tooth necklace are matched with black-and-white photography of bare-breasted dominatrices. It’s all part of Kid Rock’s world—or as the designer puts it, “luxury and practicality with a naughty rock-star twist.”

“I always say I’m one of the luckiest bastards on the planet,” Rock avers, puffing contentedly on one of his trademark cigars. “I love this house. It feels like nothing evil ever happened here, which probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people.”