Natasha Gregson Wagner's interview by Jenni kayne in 2017 about her house
Ojai is one of my favorite places to spend a relaxing weekend with friends or family. It’s a valley town nestled within the Topatopa Mountains and is totally serene with the most beautiful landscapes, light, and energy. Natasha Gregson Wagner, daughter of the iconic Natalie Wood and an actress in her own right, has a home there and was kind enough to give us a tour for today’s profile. Eclectic but pared down with a stunning view of the valley, it’s impossible not to love this house. I’ve known Natasha for years through my husband and her down-to-earth but effervescent personality totally comes through in her decorating style.
A couple of years ago, Natasha made the transition from acting to launching a fragrance business with her sister, Courtney, called Natalie, after their mother. The zesty gardenia scent was inspired by their mother’s own fragrance and Natasha and Courtney’s memory of her vibrant personality. During our visit we sat down with Natasha to talk about this endeavor, interior design, and more. See all the photos and read our intimate interview, below.
Rip & Tan: Tell us about your home. What drew you to it or what do you love about it?
Natasha Gregson Wagner: My father went to prep school in Ojai in the forties and I grew up listening to him tell stories about the Ojai Valley. When I met my husband Barry he starting taking me to the Ojai Valley Inn. We spent a lot of romantic times there and started going up more and more. One of my dear friends Yifat Oren heard about this house and told us to check it out. We drove up on a Sunday morning and were in escrow on our house by Monday night.
For us, this house feels like a hideaway. It’s at the top of a dirt driveway and we can see for miles. We love that the house is small. It reminds me of the house I had in Malibu for 17 years. We added bunk room for the kids with three sets of bunk beds, the bocce ball court, and we built a tea house for our daughter Clover and my step sons Oliver and Felix.
Rip & Tan: How would you describe the décor?
NW: The women that owned the house prior to us had a great eye and excellent taste. They restored it minimally and with great care. I brought most of the furniture that was in my house at the beach. The furniture had been in various friends and sisters houses for the last four years. When we bought the Ojai house I started calling everyone up and saying, “You know that dining room table I leant you, you know the outdoor furniture you were borrowing, how is the fabric on the two arm chairs you have been using…”. It was fun to rediscover those pieces in a new setting. So, I guess I would say the decor has history to it.
I love pink and there is no place for that color at my house in Venice. I was excited to splash it everywhere in Ojai. Our headboard is made out of the curtains that covered up my bathroom door in Malibu and the yellow parchment side tables in the guest room were my bedside tables in Malibu. I bought them years ago at JF Chen.
Rip & Tan: What’s your favorite room or corner in your house? Where do you spend the most time?
NW: My favorite room inside the house is the little living room off the kitchen. It is such a cozy room and it looks out onto the mountains. In the winter we sit next to the wood burning stove and play games with the kids or drink wine with our friends. In the summer, I love to sit there in the early morning and watch the different birds play in the oak tree.
Outside, my favorite area is by the bocce court. The outdoor bench was made for us by the extra wood that came down from a shed that was on the property. The coffee table was a tall work table that we shortened the legs on. This is where you get the best view. At night we put the fairy lights on and play bocce and feel generally pleased with life.
Rip & Tan: What are some of your favorite places to buy home items?
NW: I love to shop in Jenni’s store, of course. Ten/10 is another favorite. I have been buying furniture from Scott and Joanna Nadeau since the beginning of my time buying furniture. Brenda Antin, Galerie Half, and then flea markets all over the world.
Rip & Tan: How do you tend to entertain at home? What kind of gatherings do you host?
NW: Before I had children I used to love to throw dinner parties and cook. Now that I have children I still love to entertain but in a much more casual way and I don’t cook as much as I used to. Barry is a most excellent cook so I try and get him to make most of the meal. I excel at desserts at this point and that is about it. I love having families over and watching the children play while the adults talk. It really is the best kind of entertainment, in my opinion.
Rip & Tan: What are your tricks for entertaining?
NW: My tricks are pretty much the same as everyone else’s. Good playlist, pretty flowers, beautiful lighting, delicious food, excellent wine. I am a very relaxed hostess. My parents entertained a lot when I was a kid and so I have a very easygoing attitude about having people over. I am a Libra so I like harmony and happiness and having fun with my friends and loved ones.
Rip & Tan: Did your mom have an influence over your interior design or entertaining style?
NW: Totally! There are a bunch of great decorating books where you see my mom in different rooms of various houses of hers. My mom was a movie star and she was Russian. She liked opulence and color and flowers and paintings and gold and silver boxes and crosses and keepsakes of all kinds. I grew up with so many beautiful things of hers. By the time I got my own place I was very clear that I didn’t want so much stuff. I still have all of her beautiful things but I rotate them and a lot of her pieces are put away. I don’t like clutter and excess so I keep things pared down. I wonder what she would think of my minimal style? I wonder if her taste would have evolved as she did?
Her influence over my entertaining style is that I love to entertain and I really enjoy having people over. My parent’s friends were a big part of my childhood. They were always around. Laughing, telling jokes and stories, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes. Our house was a happy hub.
Rip & Tan: Tell us about the Natalie fragrance you created in homage do your mother. When did you first decide to create it?
NW: After my daughter Clover was born I was struck with such a deep feeling of healing. I am 46 and my mom was 43 when she died. I began to feel incredibly maternal toward my own mother. I started to think and dream about her in a very different way. Her gardenia scent was something that I have been able to hold on to all through the years as a comfort and a balm.
Rip & Tan: How did you develop the scent? Are there any small differences between the scent and what your mother wore?
NW: My mom wore Jungle Gardenia which is a deeper, more concentrated scent. I love it but I did not want to try and recreate it. A friend put me in touch with a fragrance house in New York City called Mane. I worked with them very closely for over a year to develop the scent exactly the way I wanted it. I didn’t want to make anything that I didn’t love and wouldn’t want to wear every day. I am picky about scents. I like them to smell real and natural and clean. The heart of the fragrance is gardenia but we added rose, jasmine, bigarde zest, and orange blossom to keep it zingy and fresh. I remember my mom as a joyful person. She was always laughing and hugging us and telling us that she loved us. I wanted the scent to reflect that. I felt so loved by her and when I wear the fragrance I feel her love.
Rip & Tan: Was the branding inspired by your mother as well? If so, how?
NW: My mom loved to write letters and to receive letters. She has all the correspondence between her and both of my dads, as well as between her and others, bound in photo albums. My parents loved to give each other gifts where they engraved them to each other in their own handwriting. Her writing is quite definite and beautiful and harkens back to a time when people wrote more letters than emails. I used her signature on the bottle for that reason and I chose gold because she was golden to me.
Rip & Tan: How has the business evolved since you launched in 2015?
NW: When I launched the fragrance I really had no idea how it would be received and where I was going with it. I think it was a bit of a love letter from a daughter to a mother and that would be that. I thought if people don’t like it or it doesn’t have a life beyond those that loved her then I would have a lot of perfume to gift my friends and family!
It was really one divine step in front of the other. I launched it and people started to buy it and want more and so I started to make more. I just finished working on a rose and heliotrope fragrance. It smells heavenly. I plan to launch it in the summer of 2018 in honor of my mom’s 80th birthday.
Rip & Tan: Apart from your beautiful fragrance, what other beauty brands or products do you love and swear by?
NW: I love The Vintners Daughter face oil and all Retrouve products. I’ve been using Kayo body serum and cream and I love it. We live in a time where there are so many beautiful brands and there are so many options out there. What luck!
Rip & Tan: What beauty or wellness ritual do you cherish? How do you stay healthy?
NW: I cherish sleep and yoga. In 1999 I had a bizarre accident in Mexico City. I was told I would not be able to practice yoga anymore. My neighbor in Malibu introduced me to an Iyengar yoga teacher named Chad Hamrim. I have been doing yoga with him ever since and it keeps me sane in my body and my mind. My husband Barry comes with me when he can. Doing yoga together is better than couple’s therapy! No matter what is going on in my life I always make time for yoga. The yogi’s say you are as old as your spine and I believe it!
Rip & Tan: What beauty lessons or rituals have you shared with your own daughter or intend to pass on when she gets a bit older?
NW: Even though I grew up in the 70’s where anything goes, my mom was very health conscious. We were not allowed to have sugar cereals or go to fast food restaurants. I carry that with me and I try to teach Clover that we are what we eat. Of course she can have treats here and there but I think to learn about good nutrition when we are young is something that stays with us. It is a bit of an imprint that you build from.
Also I love and believe in sleep. Clover is a party girl. She never wants to go to sleep. I am always reminding her how important a good sleep is but I don’t think it has sunk in yet!
Back in the ‘70s everyone came to our house for a “night cap” after dinner. Do people still have “night caps”? I remember they would come home and my mom would immediately go upstairs and put on her nightie and come back down. She would make herself a cup of Sleepy Time tea. Sometimes I could hear them downstairs chatting and laughing. So that is another ritual that I have adopted. Come home and put on your comfy clothes and drink some herbal tea if you are going to have a late night. I am always the first to bed.
Rip & Tan: What do you wear when you want to feel comfortable? What’s your uniform?
NW: We live in Venice. I like to keep things casual. Jeans are my uniform and striped t-shirts. I also love vintage cotton dresses.
Rip & Tan: What’s the best style advice you’ve ever received or come to realize on your own?
NW: I wear what looks good on me and what I feel comfortable in no matter the trend. When I was in my twenties and thirties I followed the trends much more than I do now.
Rip & Tan: How do you plan to spend the rest of the summer? What are you looking forward to doing?
NW: We have been up in Aspen for the 4th of July. My Daddy Wagner lives up there now. Barry is from Traverse City Michigan. We go there every summer and stay at a house on the lake. I prefer lakes to oceans. They feel more accessible to me. My other dad lives in Wales. We are going there in late August. We go every summer and I get to see the English side of my family. It is jolly over there too.