Leave it to Caroline Lagerfelt to create a home as unique and generous in spirit as she is. When the actress first came upon her 1930s cottage fifteen years ago, it had been overlooked by a plethora of prospective buyers. But Caroline, who played CeCe on the hit show Gossip Girl and next co-stars in Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman, thought its slightly disheveled exteriors and vintage bathrooms charming. “I loved how European it felt,” she says of her Santa Monica, Calif., home. “I’ve always liked an eclectic style.”
Caroline, whose family owns the historical Säbylund castle in Sweden, already owned a collection of 17th-century Gustavian furniture and majestic family portraits. A shopping trip to Northern California with girlfriend Anna Wachtmeister generated a colorful Balinese headboard for the master bedroom. Sons Michael and Nicholas, now 22 and 26 respectively, helped frame their middle-school art work. And close friend Kathryn M. Ireland, the famed interior and textile designer, used her masterful eye — and a few left-over showroom pieces — to pull it all together. “I love how my home reflects the different aspects of my life,” says Caroline. “You can stand in the kitchen and look at Michael’s sardonic cartoon of George W. Bush on the wall, and then peek into the living room and see this amazing portrait of [Swedish statesman] Axel Oxenstierna. It’s so wonderful and fun.”
But it’s Caroline’s own juxtaposition of style, intelligence, generosity and sharp wit that makes her house full of life. Her no holds barred attitude — she’ll tell it like it is and make you laugh at the same time — is one of her greatest gifts. Friends from near and far use her home as their gathering spot, and it’s a rare day that goes by without anyone jumping in the pool, firing up the grill or enjoying a cup of coffee on the patio. “It takes a village to raise a child,” says Caroline, who is a single mom. “I believe in watching out for each other and helping others. Great friends make life so much richer.” It’s that spirit that gives Caroline’s unique home a heart.
Pretty Accents: (Clockwise from top left): The friendship candle holder is from Mexico, the miniature house is a copy of her summer home on the Swedish island of Gotland, the 17th century clock is a Swedish antique and the pretty figurines are African-American salt and pepper shakers from the 1950s.
A Family Affair: “I wanted my children to grow up with the same family portraits that I did as a child,” says Caroline. “Even though we live so far away from Sweden, I wanted to instill that sense of family history.”
Living Room Style: “I used to have a couch that was from Shabby Chic,” says Caroline about her living room. “But after eight years of the boys jumping in it, it was more shabby than chic. My friend Kathryn Ireland found this couch for me from a designer friend who was closing his showroom. I got it for a steal! Kathryn also found the coffee table, which is from India and is either a door or the bottom of an ox cart. We can’t figure out which! It’s the perfect piece for us because you can spill soda on it and it still looks great.
Colorful Dolls: Caroline keeps her collection of Mexican papier mâché dolls, or Muñecas de Carton, on display in her bedroom. The dolls were bought during a trip to Mexico with her sons.
The Master Bedroom: “The headboard is a painted piece from Bali and it really makes the bed pop,” says Caroline of the second-floor master bedroom. “I love how different it is from anything else in the house.” The red chair is from Kathryn R. Ireland and the desk and the desk chair are antiques from Sweden.
A Perfect Chandelier: “When my boys were young, we went to Venice [Italy] and visited Murano,” says Caroline. “I wanted to buy a chandelier, but I couldn’t make up my mind. So Nicholas, who was eight at the time, pointed at one and said, ‘This is the one we’re going to get!’ He liked that it had a little gold dust blown into it, which gave it a subtle golden glow. He was right. It fit perfectly in our dining room.”
A Family Portrait: Caroline with her sons Michael (left) and Nicholas, and their dog Oscar.
Caroline, a veteran film and Broadway actress, recently co-starred opposite Olympia Dukakis in Elektra. Please follow Caroline on Twitter at @MsLagerfelt.
All photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg ©2013.