Jewelry designer Liv Ballard is a woman of considerable charms. In fact, she is so enchanting that back in the late 1990s, when she and designer Annie Kelly were first furnishing Ballard’s Tichenor & Thorp-restored 1926 house, the duo managed to talk Tony Duquette into relinquishing two of his cherished lanterns from a long-neglected pagoda on his famous property, Dawnridge.
“Tony was an inveterate collector. I don’t think he was made for de-acquisitioning!” says Ballard. “So we were delighted when he offered the Moroccan lanterns for my house. We did have to crawl around underneath one of the pavilions to find them. It was a little scary down there but worth the risk of a possible creature encounter.”
Even though the fiftysomething Mississippi native and mother of two, Basil and Mac Ballard, left her home state decades ago, she is still every bit the Southern belle, entertaining guests at her “Hispano-Moorish” home, she says, “whenever possible.”
Sixteen years on, the property continues to evolve. Ballard has acquired more exotic pieces on her travels across the globe. Her two boys have grown into men under its roof, and Ballard and her music-producer husband have since parted ways.“It feels lighter in here now,” she says with a wink, “A little brighter, maybe a little happier.”
When Ballard was determined to find her passion, she looked to her art background (she studied art at Ole Miss, where she and her former husband met, and literature in Paris before moving to Los Angeles) for cues. She began her search for a goldsmith and jeweler and eventually landed in Rome. Ballard first sold her designs in 2007 at Maxfield in Los Angeles and Caribou in Aspen. (Liv Ballard jewelry is also available on 1stdibs.com.)
In her line, hefty gold link necklaces and bracelets are weighted with impressive baubles, like a sapphire encrusted globe that spins on an axis, and a dragon coin inscribed with an imperious Latin saying (“she who conquers herself wins all”).
“Italian craftsmen take such pride in their work,” she says. “Other people were telling me that what I wanted wasn’t possible, but they didn’t say no. You know, if a Medici prince asked an Italian jeweler to make a jeweled globe that spun on a chain, they were going to make that thing spin. There’s a long history of engineering there.”
Throughout her travels, Ballard has acquired an impressive art collection and an assortment of old Damascus bone inlay pieces. Slowly, she has added textiles as well, including floor cushions in Robert Kime fabric. Antique Indian saris on the walls were gifts from the late jewelry designer Devon Page McCleary. As Ballard layers colorful and disparate exotic elements, the house absorbs them. “I keep adding color and texture,” she says, “and the house just seems to keep asking for more.”
An ottoman upholstered with an antique prayer rug sits in front of a pair of French Gothic Revival chairs. A rattan chair upholstered in a bold Chinoiserie print shares a nook with a Mexican tiled bench.
“All of the tile, the Mexican tile which you’ll see on each of the stairs, and the French encaustic tile in the breakfast nook, is original,” says Ballard. “If you look closely you’ll see that no two patterns on the Mexican tile are alike.”
Known as the “Chimorro House” by Tichenor & Thorp, the home was built during Prohibition by noted architect Roy Seldon Price. Price also designed the landmark L.A. building (formerly owned by Charlie Chaplin) that housed the La Brea Avenue restaurant Campanile.
“All I know is that it was built for a single woman, Mrs. Chimorro, which was highly unusual at the time—and was clearly used as a speakeasy,” says Ballard.
Today, the generous public rooms, the light-filled bedrooms on the second floor and the many outdoor spaces—including a tea house, and a serene turquoise pool—host less illicit social gatherings. They provide an airy, comfortable space for Ballard and her sons to work and play.
“My boys loved growing up here so much. There was always a fun place to hide,” she says. “And they’re both still in school, so they’re still living here with me. I guess they just aren’t ready to leave.”
It’s easy to see why.