Some people get jobs based on their résumés or glowing references. Estee Stanley gets work because of her Los Angeles house. This is not to say that she lacks either credentials or a cavalry-strong contingent ready to attest to her talents. But it is the casually elegant interiors of the home where she has lived for the last 14 years in Hancock Park, a historic residential enclave in the city’s center, that usually seal the deal.
Before she became an interior designer, Stanley spent more than a decade as a fashion stylist, working on music videos for the likes of Britney Spears, *NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys and red-carpet looks for such actresses as Penélope Cruz and Demi Moore. Her entrée to interiors began with her previous Hancock Park residence, where she and her then-styling partner Cristina Ehrlich used a spare bedroom as an office. Clients would visit for fittings, and one day, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen told Stanley they loved her space and asked if she would help them decorate their new home. Despite having no previous decorating experience, she said yes.
Stanley went house hunting with the Olsen twins in Bel Air, oversaw a full renovation of their home, and spent a year shopping with them for furniture. The process proved thrilling. She had become disenchanted with red-carpet work—“It felt like clothes were just getting thrown on people,” she says—and realized that the same trust she had built styling clients’ wardrobes translated quite literally into designing their rooms.
A year after moving into her current space, Stanley decided to remodel the Mediterranean-style building from a two-family residence into a single-family home. She lived there during the gut renovation, and this time, her friend Ashley Olsen offered to help her.
“We stained a lot of the doors ourselves. Once the house was done, she and I would schlep sofas up and down the stairs,” Stanley recalls. “We would sleep here, and there would be no doors in the house. It was crazy.”
Her home has morphed since then—for one thing, she was single when she first designed it, and she now shares the space with her producer husband, Bryan Furst, and their kids, Teddy, 10, and Flora, 7. About a year ago, she gave it a face-lift, installing new moldings and a fireplace and refreshing some of the furniture. The house now has an easy polish befitting its unfussy owner. Off the vestibule, a cozy smoking room (“I know plenty of people who smoke, and this is where they can do it,” she says) has a gallery wall, vintage leather wingback chairs, and a black marble cocktail table topped with Hermès ashtrays and glassware from Gearys in Beverly Hills. A floral painting by Elisa Johns anchors the living room, which also has a tan Brenda Antin armchair along with a curved sofa and jade table that both belonged to Stanley’s late grandmother. The long BDDW table in the dining room plays host to weekly Shabbat dinners.
Upstairs, the master bedroom is done in lilac-gray hues, including the custom bed by Stanley, and a former guest bedroom has been transformed into a walk-in closet wrapped in walnut and maple tones with a pop of blue from an Andy Warhol cocktail table. Both rooms are favorite places to hang out when Stanley throws a dinner party or hosts game night, as she tends to do at least twice a month. She loves entertaining—a few years ago, she hosted 150 people for an engagement party for her clients and friends Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, covering her pool for the occasion and turning it into a dance floor.
“Everyone knows this house is a fun place. They’re never going to be starving, and there’s always alcohol and at least 10 people here. I really like to mix crowds,” says Stanley, who grew up south of here in Newport Beach. “Los Angeles is such a weird town. It’s not easy to make great friends. I think it’s nice for everybody to be friends with one another.”
That instinct for connecting others is the basis of her new business, the Eye, a Hollywood-style management agency for designers and architects, with partner Joanna August. She envisions the company as a middleman, taking care of negotiations and brand building so designers can focus on creating. The idea is to give those working in interiors an added legitimacy in an Instagram and Pinterest world.
“People need to understand that hiring an interior designer is a luxury item. If you know that going in, there can be a sense of mutual respect,” says Stanley, who has a book coming out with Rizzoli in the fall. “Everything you look at every day was designed by someone.”
This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Siweb.