My Favorite Room: Sue Wong holds court with ‘famous ghosts’ in her Old Hollywood glamour spot
Glamour follows Sue Wong wherever she goes, whether it’s the celebrities she dresses or the ornate Old Hollywood hilltop estate where she lives.
The fashion designer — whose signature beaded cocktail dresses have been worn by Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel — in 2004 bought the Cedars, a mansion in Los Feliz that resembles a 17th century Venetian palazzo.
During a three-year restoration, Wong returned the 1926 home to its original Golden Age of Hollywood glory, including updating the grand ballroom — her favorite space in the 10,000-square-foot home.
In addition to her fashion designs, she recently announced that she will be developing a chain of eponymous boutique hotels.
Why is the grand ballroom your favorite?
I love the soaring ceilings that are painted and their stenciled beams. The visionary who built the Cedars, Maurice Tourneur, was a film director who worked for MGM Studios in the 1920s. He brought in artisans from Germany, Italy and France and collaborated with MGM set designers.
Lions seem to be a reoccurring theme.
Somebody was a Leo — I think Maurice. There are over 150 lions throughout the house. I think he got inspired to do all those lions because he worked for MGM. The grand ballroom has an enormous fireplace that is probably 7 or 8 feet tall. That has a pair of MGM lions facing each other on the mantel.
Where is your favorite place to sit?
I congregate around the throne chairs. They were in a Canadian museum and requisitioned for sale and sent to a Paris auction. My antiques dealer saw them, and he bought them immediately. They’re late Baroque chairs from the 1600s, and they’ve been identified as being Bavarian. I had Zoltan Papp restore them for me, and I designed the upholstery on them. It’s black velvet and embroidered gold thread scrollwork.
Some people are shocked and ask, “Why do you use these priceless things?” I do live in a museum, and I respect it as such, but also it’s my home.
What’s the history of the house?
My house also is known as the Norma Talmadge estate. The legend has it that her husband, Joseph Schenck, who founded 20th Century Fox, used to entertain people like Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford here. In another era, Jimi Hendrix, Dennis Hopper, Lou Reed and, later, Johnny Depp were living or working here.
That’s an impressive lineup of stars.
I feel so many spirits in that house it’s not even funny. I live with a lot of famous ghosts.
What takes place in your grand ballroom?
I hold countless soirees and large-scale gatherings and small, intimate dinner parties. I usually have some after-dinner entertainment. It could be a torch jazz singer or an opera singer. A lot of people feel I have resurrected the kinds of salons that were held by Gertrude Stein in the 1920s in Paris. I have my own version of that at the Cedars. So that’s kind of fun.
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