THE DOSSIER: NAME: Katie Nehra. TRADE: Actress/Writer (currently working on a feature film with actor/director Chris Messina (The Mindy Project), plus a pilot for FX). Designer of the cult leather jacket line Simone, beloved by no less than Patti Smith, Mary-Kate Olsen, and Nicole Richie. VIBE: Whimsical with an edge. ABODE: A Normanesque two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood, CA.
"I don't think most people let their imaginations run as wild as they should," actress, writer, and fashion designer Katie Nehra tells us up front. "So I try to do that where I live." The contagiously bubbly Nehra fills us in on her modus operandi while sitting beneath a pair of John Derian flamingo heads, sentries in a dining room whose centerpiece is a monumental concrete-topped custom table from Mecox Gardens, set amidst a "very Miami" day-glow rose painted backdrop.
KICKING IT OLD SCHOOL Nehra moved into the apartment five years ago, lured by the building's romantic gravitas. As one of many architectural landmarks positioned on this palm-lined stretch of Crescent Heights Boulevard, the residence was designed in 1930 by Leland Bryant, and over the years has hosted such Hollywood royalty as Bette Midler and Steve Martin. "I like something that emotes a feeling," she explains of her predilection for historical sites. "If I don't feel anything, I don't want it." Of course, vintage blueprints can come with complications: The building's foundation is on a slant, so hanging her photography collection, which includes a pair of oversized Milton Greene photos of Marilyn Monroe, was tricky.
THE LABORS OF LOVE Fortunately, Nehra is up for a challenge: "The sofa used to be this grayish-green linen--but I wanted it to look like a wet seal," she says. "I looked for two years for that fabric," she admits, admiring the Calvin Klein gray velvet. No less thought-out were the bespoke Lucite bookshelves, designed to house her many treasures--a collection of the limited-edition subscription art series Visionaire, her Karl Lagerfeld teddy bear, a menagerie of crucifix-topped glass bottles, and an extensive coffee table book library.
A HAMLET THING? A plethora of skulls dot her residence--in candle form, as objets d'art, and in illustrated splendor, scrawled across custom velvet curtains. "Maybe it's a Hamlet thing?" she ventures. "My mom is like, 'How many skulls do you need to have in here?'" As for her cache of ornate, diminutive crowns (another Derian touch): "I would hate to think it's a subconscious Cinderella complex," she says.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER Fairytale anxiety notwithstanding, Nehra's happiest place on earth just might be her living room: "I find it hard when I'm out all day and I come home--I don't want to go out again because it's so nice in here," she sighs. A faux zebra rug dominates the salon, punctuated with a raspberry Louis XV throne from Dragonette, a pair of 19th-century silver-plated lamps from Bourgeois Boheme with custom vermilion shades, and the glint of Kiki de Montparnasse handcuffs, placed just-so atop an issue of Paris Vogue. "Two of my girlfriends gave these to me for my birthday last year," she says. "I keep them out like an art piece--but they can be used for other things," she adds with a wink.
|Floor Lamp, Reggiani
|Raspberry Louis XV Throne
|Dining Table, Custom
|Silver-Plated Lamps, 19th-Century
|Sofa Upholstery, Calvin Klein
|Pink Leather Pouf
|Lucite Bookcases, Custom
Photographs: Justin Coit