A Cut Above
Celebrity hairdresser Chris McMillan’s West Hollywood apartment is a tour de force of eclectic personal style
by MAYER RUS / photographs by TIM STREET-PORTER
Hair has been very good to Chris McMillan. More specifically, the coiffure wizard’s artistry and expertise have garnered international attention and helped him build a client roster that includes many of the world’s leading tastemakers.
Those relationships, in turn, have allowed him to cultivate his own adventurous palate in art and decorating—passions that have recently come into full flower in his brilliantly eccentric new condo in West Hollywood. “I love fashion. I love art. I love celebrities,” McMillan says without apology. “This place is a reflection of who I am and all the connections in my life.”
The apartment is located just off Sunset Boulevard in a quintessentially midcentury-modern complex designed in 1952 by Edward Fickett. Although he never received the recognition afforded to contemporaries such as Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, the prolific architect had a substantial impact on the landscape of Southern California. Among his wide-ranging credits are La Costa in Carlsbad, the Bistro Garden in Beverly Hills, master plans for Edwards and Norton air force bases and homes for the likes of Joan Crawford and Groucho Marx.
McMillan learned of the unit while cutting the hair of decorator Trip Haenisch. He immediately fell in love with its airy rooms, easy flow and expansive windows that look out on the metropolis below. “I’m an L.A. guy, born and raised at the beach. I love this city. This apartment—the light, the views, the mood—feels like the best of L.A.,” he says. “Trip really understood the potential of the space and made it mine.”
Working with his assistant Hadi Halawani, Haenisch opened up the floor plan to create a loft-like feeling and bracketed the condo’s crisp white walls between wire-brushed French oak floors and a new wood-beamed ceiling to lend definition and character to the space. Once the envelope was completed, the designers set about assembling an extraordinary collection of furniture and decorative objects.
“When I’m putting together a home, I want it to look like it evolved organically over time. I like places that feel collected as opposed to decorated, which can look sterile and boring,” Haenisch says. “Chris has the same sensibility. He already had lovely things in his collection and was eager to acquire more. It’s always more interesting to work with a client who is passionate. Chris’ energy was infectious.”
The furnishings wander freely across periods, continents and decorative isms. Haenisch’s mix includes a maple-framed daybed covered in goat fur by Jean Royere, a campaign-style metal daybed by Piero Fornasetti, a walnut-slab headboard by George Nakashima, fiberglass lounge chairs by Wendell Castle, dining chairs by Edward Wormley and an upholstered 1970s ottoman by Mario Bellini.
These disparate designers rarely occupy the same rooms, yet for all the polyglot brio and sculptural muscle of Haenisch’s assemblage, the effect is remarkably coherent. In addition to vintage pieces, the designer added jaunty custom elements, like a chunky metal-chain floor lamp and a classic Noguchi hanging lantern coated in black paint that resembles tar.
Bespoke fabric details—notably the dining room’s striped linen curtains and embroidered chair upholstery—add a layer of refinement to the confident decor. “The overall mood is modern, masculine and a little funky,” Haenisch says. “It’s sophisticated but completely inviting and comfortable.”
McMillan has been building an art collection over the past decade under the tutelage of his client Honor Fraser, the superstylish Los Angeles gallery owner. That collection now includes works by blue-chip perennials Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha, as well as sculptures, prints and photographs by such younger artists as Tom Friedman, KAWS, Gustavo Godoy, Gardar Eide Einarsson and Alex Prager.
The George Hurrell photograph of Veronica Lake that adorns McMillan’s dressing room was a gift from another longtime client, Jennifer Aniston. Hugh Jackman gave him the suite of Ryan Holden Singer’s Sikh portraits arrayed above his bed.
Like his cache of decorative treasures, the art collection continues to evolve as McMillan acquires new things—and new ideas—in his travels. “I’m constantly experimenting and moving stuff around,” he says. “This apartment is a work in progress, just like my life.”