The comedienne Ellen DeGeneres recently wrote a design book – which features many of the houses she and wife Portia have lived in (those houses that were photographed, that is.)
DeGeneres has developed a reputation for being a serial real estate fanatic. Her house buying and selling keeps gossip writers busy trying to keep up with her lastest transactions. But, with this book, Ellen seems to relish the attention her house swapping has garnered and she jokes that you shouldn’t invite her over to dinner, she might buy your house from you.
Along with her many Los Angeles houses that are featured in the book, the Santa Barbara villa that she bought from John Saladino is also prominantly featured.
I know, I know!! I said I wouldn’t talk about the Villa again, but with all these new photographs of it in Ellen’s book, I wanted to show the Villa as it looks today under DeGeneres’ ownership.
I don’t really understand why I am so obsessed with this house, but I am. I’ve been under its spell since the first photographs of it were published in a magazine. Later, in the gorgeous book “Villa” written by John, he documented the torturous, expensive, and detailed restoration of the stone villa. It is impossible to deny the lure of the house, the estate, and the story of its renovation. The fact that Ellen, who loves contemporary design, had bought the Italian styled Villa deeply hurt for some odd reason that might be better left to a psychoanalyst to figure out.
If you like mid-century design, you will love Ellen’s book. It features many of her former and present houses which are all filled with original pieces from that design era, along with much contemporary art and sculpture. The houses are beautiful to be sure, but most have been seen before.
There’s the former Kelly Wearstler house in trendy Trousdale.
And there’s the Brody house (said to be the most fabulous house in L.A. that the two barely lived in at all.) She quickly sold this most wonderful house because it was too hard to maintain, being all glass and shiny surfaces.
There’s the huge Beverly Hills estate seen in Architectural Digest that Ellen sold to Ryan Seacrest. It featured this ping-pong table in the entry.
An aerial view of the Beverly Hills estate that Ellen sold to Ryan Seacrest for a rumored cool $39 million. On the property there is the 9,000 sq. ft main house, two guest houses, and a separate house. Ellen purchased two neighbors’ houses to create the large estate and then added extensive gardens including a pond and an orchard. In the end, they wanted to downsize.
There’s this Horse Ranch that was shown in Elle Decor, with the stables that Ellen decorated like a house for Portia.
There are their two highrise apartments – put together (a dark one for entertaining and a bright one for living in.) These were also sold after a nanosecond. This painting shows up in almost every house Ellen has owned, including the Villa.
And finally there is the smaller, Birdhouse, where they now live. Ellen credits it smaller size and easy maintenance for why they like this house so much.
One issue with the book is that after a while all the interiors tend to blur together because so many of the iconic design pieces show up again and again in each house. For example, this large Warhol/Basquiat painting seems to pop up on every page:
Of course they wouldn’t throw out their old furniture, but when you are showing so many of your different homes with so much of the same furniture, it gets a bit redundant.
One house that is missing from the book is the architecturally significant beach house they bought from Brad Pitt (see above) – which they did not, of course, own for very long because they had no privacy there. The wood carving at the left showed up later at the Villa’s entrance porch.
It’s fun to pick out the pieces of furniture and art and see where they show up in the Villa. In the Brody House, almost every item in this room above is now in the Villa in Santa Barbara.
At the end of the book there is a treat. Ellen includes a chapter on each designer she has worked with, along with pictures of their houses. And, there’s a recap of all the stores she shops at, most of which you will know of – but it’s a nice recap with pictures in case you want to visit L.A. and shop.
And, of course, there’s her humor that she plainly interjects into much of writing, make the prose witty and enjoyable. The book is not wordy, it’s a very easy and fast read. The photographs are the standouts.
There are a lot of pictures of the Villa (no longer named the Villa diLemma as Saladino called it.) I will show each picture along with how the same room once looked under Saladino.
The entrance to the Villa.
If you are a fan of Saladino’s Villa and how he decorated it, be prepared to be very, very disappointed. Besides the new decor which is hard enough to digest, Ellen does not make ONE, not ONE mention of John Saladino, without whoms direction, aesthetic, and tenacity – there would be no Villa! She does include his name in the list of acknowledgements, but besides that…
NOT ONE WORD!!!!
Ellen does talk at length about Wallace Frost who designed the house in the 30s. She describes how Frost had spent a decade in Italy and then decided to build the Villa to remind him of that country.
Ellen even recounts the trouble Saladino had with the renovation due to the Italian masons who used their own measurements, different from the original plans. She repeats this anecdote, again, without mentioning not one WORD about Saladino, the man who bought the ruin, restored it to its original state (and better) and wrote a best-selling book about the house.
Not ONE word!
Since Ellen refuses to acknowledge Saladino in her book, this is my own personal tribute to the man whose fabulous eye, meticulous attention to detail, and boundless energy worked to restore this Villa. He deserves one final accolade, right?
SALADINO: The entrance under Saladino.
SALADINO: The view of the entire entrance designed by John Saladino, with lanterns and sconces, antique chairs and benches, and old urns and pots.
SALADINO: Looking back towards the entrance, Saladino installed porteries instead of a gate or door, and he added standing lamps to cozy it up a bit.
SALADINO: Closeup of Saladino’s fountain with the symmetrical pots of plants.
ELLEN: Ellen added these iron gates along the entrance to protect her pets, yet allow them fresh air. Adding these gates makes a huge architectural statement to a house that was meticulously brought back to its original intended state. So, why? Couldn’t a solution for the pets be made without making such a huge alteration? Saladino’s lanterns and sconces are gone, replaced with contemporary glass pendants.
ELLEN: Looking back toward the entrance, the new gates are just awful, as are the pendant lights. But that lamp…that lamp! I’m sorry, but this looks like a booth at a swap meet, not an elegant Italian villa.
ELLEN: An antique Belgian console next to the kitchen door in the entry. That lamp…oy.
ELLEN: And, next to that lamp, is this vintage head that looks strangely like Sean Penn.
NOTE: The Kelly Wearstler/Trousdale house that Ellen once owned, has similar gates to the ones she added to the Villa. I’m not sure if Ellen added these gates here too, or if she just copied them for the Villa.
SALADINO: The atrium, outside the entrance – simply furnished, so as not to take away from the landscaping or architecture.
ELLEN: The same atrium under Ellen, a conglomeration of furniture, meant to attract attention, rather than disappear in the background. All the furniture has provenance and fancy names. Nothing came from Porch Furniute Is Us.
SALADINO: Past the atrium, to the master bedrooms wing. Again, very quiet, unobtrusive furniture.
ELLEN: She chose to use a variety of vintage furniture. Lots of individual pieces.
ELLEN: The day bed is antique.
SALADINO: The agave garden. Saladino’s furnishings outdoors are meant to blend in and be camoflauged. Indeed, you can barely see the furniture here.
ELLEN: Here, furnishings outside on the Oriental Carpet garden. You can see her furnishings are a bit more bright and noticeable. The photography in the book is very beautiful. Ellen makes some funny quips in the book about this being her favorite outside spot to sit at all day. But, she then says the same thing about other outdoor spots.
SALADINO: A gorgeous view of the Pacific at the pool. The large, antique column is typical of Saladino’s design principle where he uses oversized and human sized scale in decor. Notice how small the column looks here.
ELLEN: A beautiful photograph, again, showing the column, which apparently Saladino left at the house. Notice from this angle, how much larger the column really is.
SALADINO: Along the side of the house in the Olive Tree Allee, he set a wood table with wicker chairs for entertaining.
ELLEN: Ellen used contemporary chairs, and added a lantern, along with another side table. Just adding more and more and more, when less is really better here. The trees are just gorgeous.
SALADINO: The entry way.
SALADINO: Entering the door – you look out at the Oriental Carpet Garden. I absolutely love that fireplace and if I lived here (I wish!) I would keep it going 24/7. I think fireplaces in entrance halls are so romantic, almost as romantic as those in the dining rooms.
SALADINO: To the right of the front door is the powder room and these stairs that lead up to the guest rooms. The window upstairs opens to the Juliet balcony that overlooks the atrium.
SALADINO: This shows the living room, the entry hall with the fireplace on the right, and onto the dining room. If only the door was open, you would see into the kitchen past the dining room.
ELLEN: The entry hall. A large rug covers the tile floor, which I like, although this one looks much too large especially when compared to Saladino’s smaller antique runners. As usual, there is a mix of furniture, all with fancy names which Ellen recounts in her book. And here is the Serge Mouille fixture – it was formerly in the Beverly House foyer above the ping pong table.
ELLEN: Another view of the entry hall, looking into the dining room with its contemporary painting. Oh, this is really hard to take. That pedastal.
SALADINO: The gorgeous living room – one of the prettiest room John ever decorated in my opinion. It is just beautiful. The mix of antique styles, the French, the English, Dutch, Italian and Oriental – with all the cool taupes and hot reds, just so pretty! I especially love the vignette behind the sofa. Hard to believe there is a piano back there – this room is so much bigger than it seems! More is more in this instance!
Saladino: A closer view with different styling and with the Cy Twombly on the right.
SALADINO: Looking to the other side – the master bedrooms are to the right, in the corner. You can see the piano here.
SALADINO: The vignette behind the sofa – gorgeous! I love this tapestry with the gilt mirror atop it.
SALADINO: The fireplace with antique andirons. The gray painting has been owned by Saladino for decades and has moved from house to house from city to country. In fact, most of his possessions have been owned by him for years.
SALADINO: The walkway past the living room to the two master bedroom suites. Another porterie and antique chest.
ELLEN: I can’t. I can hardly even look at this. I am just speechless. ME speechless!!!! Jean Royere furniture that she has had for a long time, along with the Warhol/Basquiat painting. Not sure what the black C is. It looks like a big emoji. UGLY. I guess someone will tell me what it is and I’m sure it is so expensive too. Not that I care. At the right is the hanging wire sculpture that has been in many of her houses, by Ruth Asawa.
ELLEN: The view to the master suites – originally this painting was hanging here, but apparently, it’s been moved.
ELLEN: Here is the newer view with this painting placed here, along with more mid century design furniture – in an 18th century like Villa. Go figure. Seriously – what are those chairs?!?!?!?!! Those are the ugliest things I have ever seen. Looks like what my proctologist has in his waiting room. It also looks like she placed a floral fabric in the master bedrooms hallway? Why wouldn’t she place a tapestry there? Nah. Too easy.
ELLEN: This vignette was so beautiful, they had to photograph it! Love the stool. I have one just like it in my garage, but mine is in better condition. WTF?!?!?!? Someone please tell me why this was photographed? Why this stool? And is that a lamp? Snort.
SALADINO: The master bedrooms hallway – designed by the master, John Saladino. I love this piece of art. See, I love contemporary too! Love this.
ELLEN: And the same room here, with the Restoration Hardware deconstructed chaise. No, I’m kidding, it’s original, not RH, or so they say.
SALADINO: The dining room, perfection. Just perfect. Wouldn’t change a thing!
SALADINO: A vignette in the dining room window ledge.
ELLEN: The dining room. Don’t ask me!!!!!!! Lots of Italian names that I don’t even care to type here. It’s UGLY!!!!!! And Ellen can sue me. I don’t care!!!! The strangest thing is the curtains. They look like the ones that Saladino had in the living room. Why did she use them? They are too pretty for her.
ELLEN: Just what you want to see when you eat, a giant cockroach in bronze!!!!!
ELLEN: By comparison, a vignette in the dining room.
SALADINO: The kitchen, with the lovely large white platter that is in the view line – when the door to the ktichen is open, you see that platter against the stone wall all the way from the living room. It’s the focal point.
ELLEN: Her focal point? A large acorn? Not sure what that is? Maybe it’s a cockroach pod, you know those seeds you find in the back of a cabinet and you know you have a roach infestation?
SALADINO: The breakfast room – I love this room, with the antique furniture, the shells, the crystal chandelier. There’s another photograph of this room in John’s book that is even prettier. It’s the ying and yang of the rough, dull surfaces with the shiny, reflective surfaces.
ELLEN: A picture of her breakfast room – looking out toward the Oriental Carpet garden. And yes, another ugly face sculpture. Isn’t art supposed to be pretty, something you would want to look at?
ELLEN: Her breakfast room. Those chairs. I’m really just speechless.
SALADINO: Upstairs, there are three guest rooms, including this one.
ELLEN: Here is the same bedroom today, which I actually really like. Shock! Stop the presses! I like something!!! The decor blends with the stone walls and wood ceiling. Very nice and cozy.
SALADINO: In Betty’s bathroom, John installed this centuries old marble tub he bought in Brussels.
ELLEN: What is interesting is in the book Ellen writes this marble trough was original to the house and was turned into a bathtub which is totally different than what John wrote in his book. Did she or her editors even read his book? No one? There’s a section in his book describing how John found the tub and worried if Betty would fit in it – and he fretted about getting the water warm enough for her. He also wrote about the marble walls and how the marble was chosen to go with the decor in her bedroom. Very strange that a key item in his book would be so totally wrong in Ellen’s book.
SALADINO: When you go through the faux refrigerator door in the kitchen, you reach the balcony of this office. The stairs lead down to this room with the tall ceiling and stone walls. I love that John used this table instead of a desk. He has such style!! It just oozes from him.
ELLEN: The same office, used by Portia as her painting studio. The desk gives me giggles. I mean, compare the two desks and explain why one is considered better looking than the other? Why you would even buy what looks like a school teachers desk from the 30s over a beautiful antique French table?
ELLEN: A view of the painted stairs. What a wonderful office!
SALADINO: Across the atrium is the media room. Decorated by John, it is a warm, cozy room you would want to spend hours in.
ELLEN: Her media room with bookshelves along the back wall. Love the vintage LV Trunk.
ELLEN: Hard to tell exactly what her media room looks like because there are only vignette shots.
Finally, Betty’s Garden as this space was once called. Ellen writes that she loves the Villa and feels at home here. The house lets Ellen live the way she wants to live: “it’s not overly manicured or tidy” (it used to be!) nor is it “overly precious or perfect” (I think it is!) She says the house is spacious and cozy at the same time and she loves exploring it, and it always“surprises” her which is why she hasn’t tired of it yet. She also says that she doubts she will ever move from here. Funny, I find that hard to believe judging by her tract record!
The photography in Ellen DeGeneres Home is great and well worth the price of the book. If you like mid century modern, you will love this book and if you like contemporary L.A. houses, you will love this book.
To order Home, just click on the picture, below.