In the age of the #MeToo movement, is it still kosher to describe a woman renowned across the globe for her beauty and allure as a Brazilian bombshell? When the subject is supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio, it just seems coy to use a more demure descriptor. Ambrosio has been ranked as one of the highest-earning fashion models for years, and her name routinely turns up in popular media on lists of the world’s sexiest and most beautiful women. She has walked the runway and appeared in advertisements for myriad titans of couture, and she has parlayed that success into business ventures of her own, including her Ále by Alessandra fashion and lifestyle brand. In 2017, she announced her retirement from the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion spectacle after lighting up the catwalk for 17 years.
“I travel constantly for work, but when I’m not on the road, I just want to be at home with my kids,” Ambrosio says, describing her love affair with theLos Angeles–area dream house she shares with her ten-year-old daughter, Anja, and her six-year-old son, Noah. Her 1920s residence in Santa Monica is a quintessentially Angeleno Spanish Colonial Revival design. “I come from a small town in Brazil, and Santa Monica has a similar vibe. I had to be near the beach, someplace where you can feel and smell the ocean breeze. This is my paradise,” she explains.
Ambrosio has lived in L.A. for a decade. She spent five years searching for the perfect spot to put down roots for her family, and the next five years fine-tuning the property to make it completely her own. She met Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the effervescent celebrity AD100 designer, a year and a half ago, after admiring the Mediterranean-style villa Bullard had decorated for actress Ellen Pompeo ( AD, November 2014). “Martyn brought a lot of color, texture, and life to the project. I love exotic places, and he knows how to conjure a fantasy that still feels playful and appropriate for kids. I didn’t want anything too stiff or serious,” she says. “I’d describe her style as Brazilian boho meets California rock ’n’ roll,” Bullard observes of his captivating client’s taste. “We wanted to do something that feels young and fresh, not just for the children but for Alessandra as well. She has an incredibly vivacious spirit.”
The mood of the home is established in the entryway, where a stairway clad in brilliant blue tile is joined by a 19th-century Chinese apothecary cabinet, turquoise ceramic lamps with Indian sari-fabric shades, a vintage Persian carpet, and an Egyptian Revival chandelier. Reminders of Ambrosio’s Brazilian heritage are peppered throughout the residence, from the jacaranda tree planted in the front yard to the Jorge Zalszupin armchairs in the living room and the Jean Gillon lounge chair in the model’s bedroom. Sympathetic furnishings of Moroccan, Indian, Turkish, and Italian descent round out the global-chic assemblage.
Black-and-white photography—of rock stars, fashion shoots, and Ambrosio herself—is another staple of the decor. Her collection includes signature images by Herb Ritts, Peter Beard, Arthur Elgort, Terry O’Neill, Raphael Mazzucco, and Ellen von Unwerth. “Every picture is special. Every one of them has inspired me. If I’m going to hang a photograph in my home, it has to mean something,” she insists.
As for the children’s rooms, Ambrosio confesses, “I had almost no say in the design. Martyn worked with the kids to express their unique personalities.” For Anja, Bullard channeled a punk-rock-princess theme, centered on a black four-poster bed festooned with garlands of hot-pink pom-poms. A watercolor painting of Marilyn Monroe that hangs beside the bed nods to the mother’s and daughter’s penchant for watching classic movies. Noah’s bedroom is a decidedly more boyish affair, replete with a hand-painted camouflage wall, car and airplane models, and plenty of ninjas.
The real center of home life at Villa Ambrosio is the backyard, where swimming, volleyball, Brazilian barbecue and music, and roasting s’mores are the order of the day. “The house is very calm and peaceful, but the backyard is all about fun and noise. It has the same joyous feeling as my beach house in Brazil. When it’s winter in California, we head to Florianópolis, where it’s nice and warm,” Ambrosio says, adding, “I’m a summer girl. I grew up in bikinis.” Nothing could be less surprising.
More Info: architecturaldigest.com