Go Inside the Santa Monica Villa Melissa Rivers Filled with Her Mother's Heirlooms

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Ariel Foxman
·8 min read
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“After my mom [Joan Rivers] passed, I felt it was just time for a change,” explains Melissa Rivers of her decision to sell her home in L.A.’s Pacific Palisades. Melissa had lived in it for nearly a quarter century, at times with her mother when Joan was in town and the duo were filming together. “It was a great home, but it was time to take a step forward and create a new environment for myself and my son.”

The television host and producer would soon purchase a 7,048-square-foot Mediterranean-style villa in nearby Santa Monica. She then teamed up with interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to embark on a two-year remodel. The mission? To open up and brighten the somewhat dated home’s flow and feel. Bullard, too, was tasked with helping Rivers find just the right spots for so many of the beloved pieces from her parents’ epic art and decorative arts collections—to marry modern and airy with luxurious and delicate.

“I never realized how much living with art represented home to me,” says Rivers, who meticulously placed a selection of “important, important, important” pieces from her parents’ estate around the house. The work above the living room fireplace used to hang in Rivers’s New York apartment, also over the fireplace. (Rivers’s apartment connected to her mom’s.) “This piece instantly made the room comfortable for me.” The room showcases some of her parents’ collections, as well, including Chinese figures, mother-of-pearl inlay boxes, and silver pillboxes from England. High ceilings demanded oversized lighting, and Bullard found these lanterns for Rivers early on in the process. “I fell in love with them immediately,” she says.
“I never realized how much living with art represented home to me,” says Rivers, who meticulously placed a selection of “important, important, important” pieces from her parents’ estate around the house. The work above the living room fireplace used to hang in Rivers’s New York apartment, also over the fireplace. (Rivers’s apartment connected to her mom’s.) “This piece instantly made the room comfortable for me.” The room showcases some of her parents’ collections, as well, including Chinese figures, mother-of-pearl inlay boxes, and silver pillboxes from England. High ceilings demanded oversized lighting, and Bullard found these lanterns for Rivers early on in the process. “I fell in love with them immediately,” she says.

“Melissa needed a new beginning,” says Bullard. “She lived in this very pretty house, but it was very kind of traditional. It was filled with lots of antiques and things she had inherited from Joan that were antique-y. Joan’s style was very ornate, everything going on. She used to call her style ‘early Jewish Romanov.’ Melissa wanted to create something light and bright with positive energy, something that could be just the right backdrop for some of these extraordinary things, including Fabergé eggs and Han dynasty pottery.”

“When I was going through everything, and doing the big sale [of Joan Rivers’s estate] at Christie’s,” says Rivers, “I remember my mom always saying, ‘Keep what you love and sell anything else. Take that money and, one: Invest it, and, two: Buy things you love, because that’s the same thing as me giving them to you.’ It was such a freeing sentiment. It was so liberating.”

As for the balance she and Bullard struck, Rivers says, with a smile in her voice, “As formal as some of the areas are in this home, it never feels overwhelming. There’s a warmth and light, a happiness. It’s definitely a happy home.”

Go Inside the Santa Monica Villa Melissa Rivers Filled with Her Mother's Heirlooms

“I am a terrible cook, but yet I love a beautiful kitchen,” says Melissa Rivers, who tapped designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to oversee the top-down redesign of her Mediterranean-style home in Santa Monica, California. The original kitchen just needed a pick-me-up. The high-end appliances were in great shape, so Rivers decided to make the room her own by adding blue: a blue backsplash, blue tiles, and blue cabinets. This particular blue relates to a hue found in a Robert Rauschenberg painting that also hangs in the kitchen. “As much as I love a neutral room, the kitchen and the family room just need some color,” she says. “It just wakes things up. In L.A., you just see these kitchens that are all white, all the time.”
“I am a terrible cook, but yet I love a beautiful kitchen,” says Melissa Rivers, who tapped designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to oversee the top-down redesign of her Mediterranean-style home in Santa Monica, California. The original kitchen just needed a pick-me-up. The high-end appliances were in great shape, so Rivers decided to make the room her own by adding blue: a blue backsplash, blue tiles, and blue cabinets. This particular blue relates to a hue found in a Robert Rauschenberg painting that also hangs in the kitchen. “As much as I love a neutral room, the kitchen and the family room just need some color,” she says. “It just wakes things up. In L.A., you just see these kitchens that are all white, all the time.”
“Growing up, I was always in a home that had a beautiful dining room, a dining room that encouraged conversation,” says Rivers. “I was really lucky to find this house that had a dining room large enough to accommodate a round table.” Two sets of hanging cabinets were built and installed. They house special pieces including some of her mother’s diamond-encrusted frames and her animals carved out of agate. Upholstered benches were added in the four corners, too, to give the room a cozier feel. “I like that there’s that extra place to perch,” says Rivers.
“Growing up, I was always in a home that had a beautiful dining room, a dining room that encouraged conversation,” says Rivers. “I was really lucky to find this house that had a dining room large enough to accommodate a round table.” Two sets of hanging cabinets were built and installed. They house special pieces including some of her mother’s diamond-encrusted frames and her animals carved out of agate. Upholstered benches were added in the four corners, too, to give the room a cozier feel. “I like that there’s that extra place to perch,” says Rivers.
Windows bring in lots of light from a small courtyard that leads to the front door. “I love a house with light,” says Rivers. “And at night, this room just glows. It’s unbelievable.” Bullard added a platinum leaf ceiling to not only add shimmer to the space but also, he says, “to honor the fact that this was a sort of museum of Joan's collections.”
Windows bring in lots of light from a small courtyard that leads to the front door. “I love a house with light,” says Rivers. “And at night, this room just glows. It’s unbelievable.” Bullard added a platinum leaf ceiling to not only add shimmer to the space but also, he says, “to honor the fact that this was a sort of museum of Joan's collections.”
“I am a plant killer,” Rivers, pictured in her home’s living room, says. “But luckily, my gardener comes in and makes sure I haven’t murdered them over the course of a few weeks. It’s not on purpose—I’m a great pet owner, not a plant owner.”
“I am a plant killer,” Rivers, pictured in her home’s living room, says. “But luckily, my gardener comes in and makes sure I haven’t murdered them over the course of a few weeks. It’s not on purpose—I’m a great pet owner, not a plant owner.”
The room that is now the home office is actually one of the features that originally sold Rivers on the house. She says, “I hate feeling cramped, and I never respond to houses that are lots of little rooms. And this room had all this light and all this space.” Bookshelves feature many of her mother’s awards, entire encyclopedia sets Rivers had found in storage, and vintage atlases collected by her father, a history buff. As for the matching fabric throughout, Rivers loves that “sort of English look” where the curtains and the chair and everything is the same. The vibe reminds her of the library in her mother’s apartment, as well.
The room that is now the home office is actually one of the features that originally sold Rivers on the house. She says, “I hate feeling cramped, and I never respond to houses that are lots of little rooms. And this room had all this light and all this space.” Bookshelves feature many of her mother’s awards, entire encyclopedia sets Rivers had found in storage, and vintage atlases collected by her father, a history buff. As for the matching fabric throughout, Rivers loves that “sort of English look” where the curtains and the chair and everything is the same. The vibe reminds her of the library in her mother’s apartment, as well.
“I love pineapples and palm trees,” says Rivers. “Martyn found these palm tree lamps for me, and I just loved them. We walked all around the house, until we found a place for the pair [in the family room].” Iris, one of the family’s three rescue dogs, gets comfortable on one of the couches.
“I love pineapples and palm trees,” says Rivers. “Martyn found these palm tree lamps for me, and I just loved them. We walked all around the house, until we found a place for the pair [in the family room].” Iris, one of the family’s three rescue dogs, gets comfortable on one of the couches.
Rivers displays some of her mother’s elaborate malachite collection in her bedroom. “The color is so spectacular, and the green is just exactly what fit in this soft, soft palette of a room. It may seem like my parents were pack rats, but they weren’t” she says. “But, we did always say that my mother was a maximalist, which is really just rich people hoarding.” The pieces sit on a pair of oversized tables modeled on a 19th-century Syrian design. Says Bullard, “I love to drop in something a little exotic, and I think it amps up the romance here. It works perfectly—the colors of the wood and the table’s inlay against the drama of the four-poster bed.”
Rivers displays some of her mother’s elaborate malachite collection in her bedroom. “The color is so spectacular, and the green is just exactly what fit in this soft, soft palette of a room. It may seem like my parents were pack rats, but they weren’t” she says. “But, we did always say that my mother was a maximalist, which is really just rich people hoarding.” The pieces sit on a pair of oversized tables modeled on a 19th-century Syrian design. Says Bullard, “I love to drop in something a little exotic, and I think it amps up the romance here. It works perfectly—the colors of the wood and the table’s inlay against the drama of the four-poster bed.”
“For months, I searched for the best mattresses online, and then I went to these four mattress stores on Melrose [Avenue] and laid down on every mattress I could,” explains Rivers. “I finally settled on the Custom Comfort.” Because the bedroom is so large, Bullard and Rivers opted for a custom canopy bed that would create a special, cozy space within. “The linens are my nightmare,” adds Rivers. “I bought the bed at the beginning of the remodel. Two years later, we’re finally in, and they deliver the bed, and I realize because it’s a custom size that none of my sheets will fit. So now I have these custom sheets from Scandia Down.” Adds Bullard, “It’s the California version of the ‘Princess and the Pea’ bed—a classic but lightened up, very tonal.”
“For months, I searched for the best mattresses online, and then I went to these four mattress stores on Melrose [Avenue] and laid down on every mattress I could,” explains Rivers. “I finally settled on the Custom Comfort.” Because the bedroom is so large, Bullard and Rivers opted for a custom canopy bed that would create a special, cozy space within. “The linens are my nightmare,” adds Rivers. “I bought the bed at the beginning of the remodel. Two years later, we’re finally in, and they deliver the bed, and I realize because it’s a custom size that none of my sheets will fit. So now I have these custom sheets from Scandia Down.” Adds Bullard, “It’s the California version of the ‘Princess and the Pea’ bed—a classic but lightened up, very tonal.”
The vanity in Rivers’s glam area features some of her most favorite possessions, including a drawing her mother did of Melissa and her son Cooper sitting on the beach during a family vacation, and silver fish vases a friend brought her back from Portugal. The three black-and-white photos hanging on the wall are of Melissa when she was around four years old. “My father had asked their good friend, photographer Kenn Duncan, to take these. They were either a Mother’s Day or birthday gift from my father to my mother.”
The vanity in Rivers’s glam area features some of her most favorite possessions, including a drawing her mother did of Melissa and her son Cooper sitting on the beach during a family vacation, and silver fish vases a friend brought her back from Portugal. The three black-and-white photos hanging on the wall are of Melissa when she was around four years old. “My father had asked their good friend, photographer Kenn Duncan, to take these. They were either a Mother’s Day or birthday gift from my father to my mother.”
“One of the things I really wanted was a glamorous dressing room and bedroom,” says Rivers. “My parents’ house in Bel Air always had that. And that was where so many of our family discussions took place. If my parents were going out, my dinner was brought to their room and, specifically, the dressing room area. This way I could be with them and they could talk to me and have our family time while they were getting ready.” The space was designed by Lisa Adams of L.A. Closet Design.
“One of the things I really wanted was a glamorous dressing room and bedroom,” says Rivers. “My parents’ house in Bel Air always had that. And that was where so many of our family discussions took place. If my parents were going out, my dinner was brought to their room and, specifically, the dressing room area. This way I could be with them and they could talk to me and have our family time while they were getting ready.” The space was designed by Lisa Adams of L.A. Closet Design.
A bathing suite connects to a dressing room area. “The bathroom was very dark,” says Rivers of the remodel. “Dark floors, dark wood, no light, and so we brightened it all up.” The bathtub is from Drummonds (“I’m more of a shower person, but I love a good tub”), and the Chinese pagoda and garden stool were from her mother’s garden at her home in New Milford, Connecticut.
A bathing suite connects to a dressing room area. “The bathroom was very dark,” says Rivers of the remodel. “Dark floors, dark wood, no light, and so we brightened it all up.” The bathtub is from Drummonds (“I’m more of a shower person, but I love a good tub”), and the Chinese pagoda and garden stool were from her mother’s garden at her home in New Milford, Connecticut.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest