Photography by Roy Beeson
Clare Vivier’s ultra-popular, multi-functional bags strike just the right balance between casual and chic. And as it turns out, the Minnesota-born, L.A.-based designer — whose flourishing accessories label, Clare V., boasts four flagship stores and at least two more on the way — lives a life that’s as unpretentious (yet perfectly polished) as her products. The 1905 Craftsman house in Echo Park where Vivier resides with her French husband, Thierry, their 12-year-old son, Oscar, and their dog, Paco (Thierry’s grown son, Simon, was also raised there) could even, with its eclectic and vaguely French feel, pass for one of her furnished-just-so boutiques. But as considered and detail-rich as the house may seem, its evolution, like Vivier’s business itself, has been entirely organic.
The couple met in Paris while Vivier was working for French television, which Thierry still does. After a stint in the Bay Area, they moved to L.A. in 2001. At the time, the East Side neighborhood — one of the oldest in the city — was considered something of a real estate frontier; the hip cafes and yoga studios that make it a creative-class haven today did not yet exist. The house was “a wreck,” Vivier recalls, but it had lovely bones — built-ins galore, original windows, and, unusually for a Craftsman house, abundant natural light, thanks to its hilltop setting. And though the backyard was “basically a dirt pit,” she says, it was shaded by a giant sycamore tree.
Over time, the Viviers have tinkered with the space to transform it into an eclectic family home. The kitchen — now about to undergo its second renovation since the couple moved in — was reconfigured to open up via French doors to a trellis-covered terrace out back, where bougainvillea and grapevines shade the dining patio. If the weather’s good — and this being L.A., it usually is — the family eats there. “These doors are constantly open,” Vivier says. The vast, sloping yard is now planted with giant succulents and boasts three satellite structures, one of which is Thierry’s office. And upstairs, a crawl space was recently converted into a bright, cozy reading room connected to the upstairs by a floating staircase. For an old house, it feels remarkably airy. “It’s almost like an East Coast house,” Vivier says. “What makes it very L.A. is the light, and how we live in an indoor-outdoor way.”
Vivier’s approach to decorating is similar to the way she designs bags: Everything is practical, and nothing is overly precious. Both her interiors and the collection, she says, consist of “things that come from my whims and desires and also my influences — the French part of my family,” she says. “And also that California lightness and modernity — not taking things too seriously.” The furniture is vintage through and through, acquired gradually over the years; some pieces are midcentury, while others are classic antiques of uncertain provenance. Many were found at the Rose Bowl flea market, as well as during family holidays in France. (“I have an affinity for classic things that have aged very well,” Vivier says.) The art on the walls, too, comes from an authentic place: Most prominent are Thierry’s own photographs, colorful works on paper by the New York-based artist Simone Shubuck (one of Vivier’s oldest friends; a mural of hers also adorns Vivier’s NoLita store), and pieces from the now-closed gallery Taylor de Cordoba, which was run by Vivier’s close pal, linens designer Heather Taylor.
That the house feels so intimate and relatable — so, well, lived-in — is part of its, and Vivier’s, charm: After all, it’s also the place where her company was born—and, for three years, where it was based. “I started the line in what’s now the upstairs bathroom,” Vivier says. “It was just me and a sewing machine and desk for a couple of years. Then I moved to the den. The bags would come and just fill up the dining room.” And while she may be one of fashion’s brighter success stories of the last few years, Vivier has no interest in moving to a flashier neighborhood or space. “We love it here,” she says. “What the house and the brand have in common is that they’re both very personal.”
Clare Vivier’s favorite design spots in L.A.
Lawson-Fenning in Silver Lake for home gifts, poufs, lamps, and armchairs
Amsterdam Modern for outdoor furniture, desks, tables, stools
Sunbeam Vintage for tables, chairs, and standing lamps
Long Beach flea market: It’s not as popular as the Rose Bowl flea market, so you get better deals
MIDCENTURYLA for dining tables and chairs
Health Ceramics for dishes
Casa Victoria for coffee tables and pendant lamps
Hernandez Furniture for coffee tables and sculpture
Dekor for rugs, floor lamps, and side tables — it’s right near my house