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Sela Ward’s Stylish Bel Air Home With a Southern Soul

Sela Ward’s posh Southern California home has a distinctly southern soul

Written and produced by Jenny Bradley
  • Dominique Vorillon

    Sela Ward’s home may be nestled into a hillside in the heart of Bel Air, but its posh Southern California address is tempered by a wholeheartedly Southern soul. A concoction of Southern California—verdant gardens filled with jasmine, bougainvillea, succulents, and redwoods; contemporary art; and an Emmy or two—is mixed with Southern charm and influences. With its reclaimed wood beams from Louisiana and Mississippi, McCarty pottery, and heart-pine floors, the family home readily reflects the actress’s Mississippi upbringing.

    The couple called in architect Robbin Hayne to repair the home’s structural problems and add onto the original footprint. Sela’s friend of 15 years, designer and fellow Mississippian Ann Runyon Carter was enlisted to help with the interiors. “Ann helped us create a sense of place for our family [son Austin is 18 and daughter Anabella is 14] in a city that can sometimes feel very ungrounded,” says Sela. “And she gets the Southern thing!” In fact, the friends often complete each other’s sentences.

    Designed to flow effortlessly from room to room, each streamlined space opens onto the next, delicately stair-stepping down the hill—an elegant ordonnance of rooms.

    “Architecturally, you can walk out of the master bedroom at the top of the house, step into the library, and see all the way through to the other end,” says Carter. “The house sits organically in the canyon and tiers down. I take my hat off to Robbin Hayne. He created a home you can truly appreciate from room to room to room.”

    At the center of the house, the large, inviting kitchen welcomes the Southern California sunlight through an expanse of steel-framed windows. Antique oak beams, French limestone counters, and painted cabinets add a warm, traditional appeal. Viking appliances were chosen for their Southern connection—the company is based in Greenwood, Mississippi.

    “I love that this space is more traditional than contemporary,” notes Sela. “It has this great stone wall and 100-year-old heart pine floors. We tried to use reclaimed materials but handle them in a very transitional way.”

    “The entire house is really all about these textures,” agrees -Carter. “Reclaimed beams, stone, heart pine, textural wall coverings—it’s the texture that gives it heart.”

    The art’s not half bad, either. An artist herself, Sela has filled their home with a collection that’s as varied as it is carefully curated. Contemporary pieces by Damian Elwes inject color into the family room. Sketches from an art school peer line a living room wall. Sela’s own creations, bold and lively, are scattered throughout the house.

    And it’s a family affair. A chalkboard with artistic flair hangs above the fireplace in the keeping room (dubbed “The Circle of Contemplation”) and is updated by Sela or the children with inspirational quotes by everyone from Thoreau to Jimi Hendrix. “This is one of my favorite spaces,” says Sela. “We sit here with the kids and talk. Everyone has his or her own space to spread out but still be together.”

    The adjoining breakfast room with its ample banquette and spill-proof fabric is perfectly kid- and pet-friendly. “Sela and I brought fabric samples back and tested them out thoroughly,” laughs Carter. “They’re impenetrable!”

    At the other end of the house, near the master bedroom, are arguably the home’s most formal spaces. The living room and library, with their diverse collections of art, luxuriously clad furnishings, and fluid arrangements have that Southern thang. Tailored yet comfortable. Refined yet inviting. Polished yet carefree.

    In the library, a work by filmmaker and artist Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) adds a hint of irreverence to the otherwise formal space. Richly hued wood-paneled walls are constructed from antique cypress doors from a company out of New Orleans. “I handpicked every door,” notes Carter. “The room is completely enveloped in -cypress, even the coffered ceiling. And it’s all from Louisiana!”

    Just steps below, in the living room, reclaimed doors from France enclose a stainless steel bar—a handsome combination of vintage and modern. A painting by Sela crowns the carved fireplace mantel. A wall of steel-framed doors opens onto a terrace overlooking a stream lined with rosebushes, Mexican lime trees, and parrot’s beak (lotus vine).

    And while the indoor spaces flow effortlessly, one into the next, the melding of indoors and out is just as fluid. With doors thrown open wide, it’s sometimes difficult to tell where the house ends and the manicured grounds begin. “We’re nestled into this canyon,” says Sela, “enveloped by it. The house becomes one with the exterior in a Frank Lloyd Wright kind of way.”

    And like the house, every square inch of this 8-acre property has a purpose. An organic vegetable garden filled with red chard, artichokes, and myriad other vegetables is harvested for family dinners. Sela’s art studio—perched below a koi pond that feeds the property’s stream—offers creative respite. An amphitheater is host to summer concerts and gatherings of friends and family. At the top, a lake—complete with beach, hammock, tiki torches, and putting greens—is a recent and favorite addition. “You feel like you could be anywhere in the world when you’re up there,” says Sela. “I often feel like I’m in St. Barts!”

    St. Barts or Southern California—this little slice of Bel Air will always have Southern soul.

    Photography: Dominique Vorillon

    Architect for renovation: Robbin Hayne, Hayne Architects, 22467 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265; 310/456-0050,
    Interior design: Ann Runion Carter, Ann Carter Inc., 11 E. Hill Drive, Jackson, MS 39216; 601/981-5820.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Living Room

    With its quiet palette, the living room is the ideal place to showcase the family’s collection of art. The large-scale piece above the fireplace was painted by Sela.

    Details on the following slide.

    Wall covering (grasscloth, in color Fuji): Innovations, 800/227-8053,
    Ceiling paint: custom mix.
    Sheer drapery (“Vanity” in color 812): Zimmer + Rohde, 212/758-7925,
    Mantel (antique limestone, from France): Jean Chabaud, Les Matériaux Anciens,
    Chandelier: Tara Shaw, 504/525-1131,
    Sofa (“Opium Sofa” #11511, by Christian Liaigre): David Sutherland Showroom, 310/366-1777,
    Sofa fabric (“Lazio” #02342-001): Bergamo Fabrics, 212/888-3333,
    Taupe pillows on sofa (“Paisir” #15222-785): Zimmer + Rohde, 212/758-7925,
    Blue pillows on sofa (“Glenville” #F1872-17, by Designers Guild); embroidered pillow on sofa (“Nizam” #F6130-03, by Designers Guild): Osborne & Little, 212/751-3333,
    Pair of chairs by sofa: owner’s collection.
    Chair fabric (“Conquistador” #9509-01, by Larsen): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900,
    Pillows on chairs: Travis & Co., 800/258-2214,
    Coffee table (“Sizzle”): Thomas Lavin, 310/278-2456,
    Blue barrel chair: John Saladino, 212/684-6805,
    Faux leather on chair (“Crocodile”/Deep Shade): Baltekz,
    White bergère by mantel: Rose Tarlow/Melrose House, 323/651-2202,
    Bergère fabric (“Mezzola”/Parchment #F1542-33, by Designers Guild): Osborne & Little, 212/751-3333,
    Pillow on bergère (antique Aubusson remnant): Marché Pau Bert,
    Fauteuil by mantel: antique.
    Fauteuil fabric (“Velours”/Kimono #8981-97): Nobilis, 800/464-6670,
    Table by fauteuil: The Wicker Works, 415/558-6700,
    Area rug (“Arrowroot”/Stone): Lapchi, 312/321-0090,
    Art on easel: Emily Amy Gallery, 404/877-5626,
    Art over mantel (mixed media on paper): By Sela Ward.
    Sculpture on mantel: Krislyn Design,
    Lacquered demilune tables in front of window (antique, Chinese): Charles Jacobsen Inc., 310/815-9250,
    Lamps on demilune tables (designed by Ann Carter from a pair of antique carved remnants): Ann Carter Inc., 601/981-5820.
    Mirror behind sofa: antique.
    Painting of nude over sofa (by Betty Sheinbaum); commode beside sofa (antique); lamp on commode; painting over commode (from Marché aux Puces, France): owner’s collection.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Living Room Bar

    A sleek bar is easily hidden behind reclaimed doors.

    Bar unit with under-counter refrigerator (vintage stainless bar): owner’s collection.
    Glassware (collection of Baccarat, Waterford, and Lalique); folding doors (from south of France): owner’s collection.
    Grand piano: Steinway,
    Chair: custom.
    Chair fabric (“Conquistador” #9509/01, by Larsen): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900,
    Pillow: Travis & Co., 800/258-2214,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Breakfast Area & Family Room

    Designer Ann Runyon Carter of Ann Carter and Associates worked with Sela to create a kid- and pet-friendly space for family. A breakfast room is open to an adjoining family room, perfect for casual gatherings. On the other side of the family room, a colorful painting from Damian Elwes hangs on the sliding door.

    Blue chairs (custom): Custom Craft Upholsterers, 323/937-9557.
    Chair fabric (“Mezzola” #D1090-55, by Designers Guild): osborne & Little, 212/751-3333,
    Area rug (hand-made): Ebanista, 310/246-9170,
    Square-top table by chairs (“Zig Zag”); round table by chairs (“Zig Zag”): Donghia, 800/366-4442,
    Chandelier in dining area: Rosemarie McCaffrey Antiques, 310/395-7711,
    Banquette (designed by Ann Carter); upholstered dining chairs (designed by Ann Carter): fabricated by Custom Craft Upholsterers, 323/937-9557.
    Banquette and chair fabric (“Tavish”/Antelope #7028/05): Castel, 212/758-9900,
    Dining table: custom.
    Wood dining chairs: antique. Lamps behind banquette (Marché aux Puces, French flea market): owner’s collection.
    Wall paint (custom color): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Painting above entry to family room: by Ilan Laks,
    Red-patterned chaise: owner’s collection.
    Chaise fabric (“Barouche”/Caleche #F5271/07): Osborne & Little, 212/751-3333.
    Blue chair (Barbara Barry Collection): Baker, 800/592-2537,
    Chair fabric (“European Boar”/navy): Randolph & Hein, 866/844-9921,
    Large art on back wall: by Damien Elwes,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Front Exterior

    A bridge over the property’s creek leads to the home’s front door. Large decorative spheres artistically punctuate the space.

    Banquette cushion (Elements Collection): Brown Jordan, 800/743-4252,
    Pillow on banquette (Trina Turk Collection): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Lantern (antique, from France); cement and wooden spheres: owner’s collection.
    Gas lantern on post: bevolo, 504/522-9485,

  • Dominique Vorillon


    The house stairsteps down a lush hillside in Bel Air.

  • Dominique Vorillon


    Sela’s light-filled work space opens to a terrace that overlooks the pool. Mellow colors accentuate the warm wood and rich leather details.

    Desk (antique); desk chair; stools by desk; table lamp; vase: owner’s collection. Wallpaper (#P452-02, by Designers Guild): Osborne & Little, 212/751-3333,
    Console behind desk: Global Views, 888/956-0030,
    Blinds: Fashion Tech, 800/444-8822,
    Chandelier: Licorne Antiques, 323/852-4765,
    Flooring: Walker Zanger, 818/504-0235,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Sitting Room

    Electric turquoise and lime green star in the sitting room. The cool colors pop against the rich wood surrounding. The faux Warhol down the hall from her office is from the film “54,” in which Sela co-starred.

    Wallpaper (“Zakharov”/Moss #P449/02, by Designers Guild): Osborne & Little, 212/751-3333,
    Blue wing chair (by Christian Liaigre): Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900,
    Chair fabric (“Briolette” #NCF3791-01, by Nina Campbell): Osborne & Little, 212/751-3333,
    Pillow in wing chair (“Mimosa”/Serya #5061): Harlequin, 201/399-0500,
    Round table (“Saarinen Table”): Knoll, 877/615-6655,
    Black chair (“Louis Ghost,” by Phillippe Starck): Kartell, 310/271-0178,
    Wall paint (“Pea Coat Blue” #2049-40): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Portrait of Sela: Warhol studio prop from Miramax movie “54”.

  • Dominique Vorillon


    The antique cypress used on the library’s walls and coffered ceiling is from Louisiana—a nod to Sela’s Southern roots. The painting above the fireplace is by Thierry Guetta.

    Pair of chairs: owner’s collection.
    Chair fabric (“Pomegranate”/Grape #404593, by Travers): Zimmer + Rohde, 212/758-7925,
    Small table (antique); floor lamp (vmid-century): owner’s collection.
    Carpet: The Rug Co., 323/653-0303,
    Mantel: Maison Felice Antiques, 760/862-0021,
    Mantel (from old reclaimed cypress doors); ceiling (reclaimed Louisiana cypress): The Bank Antiques, 504/523-2702,
    Art over mantel: Mr. Brainwash,
    Mirrors on mantel (antique millinery mirrors); boxes (shagreen): owner’s collection.
    Sculpture on pedestal (18th-century Venetian Blackamoor): Licorne Antiques, 323/852-4765,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Dining Room

    Gold accents infuse the dining room with elegance while whitewashed doors add a bit of rustic charm. Serendipitously, the reclaimed doors fit the space perfectly—no need to trim! A sleek dining table and chairs add a more contemporary edge to the traditional elements in the space.

    Details on the following slide.

    Table (custom); chandelier (French flea market, Marché Biron); mirror over mantel (French flea market, Marché aux Puces); art on mantel: owner’s collection.
    Dining chairs: Donghia, 800/366-4442,
    Centerpieces: Micucci, 877/642-8224,
    Floor-to-ceiling mirror (custom): Castelli Framing, 310/204-6830,
    Serving cart (antique): Hollywood At Home, 310/273-6200,
    Mantel, fireplace and wall paneling (18th-century facade): Wirthmore Antiques, 504/269-0660,
    Ceiling paint (custom): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Flooring: reclaimed 100-year-old heart pine from Louisiana.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Dining Room Details

    Unique trinkets sit on a glass-and-brass cart parked in front of a large-scale mirror.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Family Room

    Patterns mix in the blue family room. A navy herringbone pattern inside the fireplace brings a modern twist to the antique French mantel. To the right of the fireplace, a niche in the wall serves as a cozy dog bed. The blue wall hosts a painting by one of Sela’s favorite artists, Damien Elwes.

    Mantel (carved antique French limestone): Maison Felice, 760/862-0021,
    Art over mantel (by Andrew Bucci): Brown’s Fine Art & Framing, 601/982-4844,
    Sofa (Barbara Barry Collection): Baker, 800/592-2537,
    Sofa fabric (“Raleigh”/Bark #10698-08): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900,
    Patterned pillows on sofa “Gioioso”/Cannella #6413280976N-3): Clarence House, 800/803-2850,
    Large orange pillow on sofa (“Valois”/Marigny #FW049-06): William Yeoward,
    Ottoman: owner’s collection.
    Ottoman fabric (“Bursa” #7041-06): Castel, 212/758-9900,
    Floor lamp: Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900,  Chaise: owner’s collection. 
    Wing chair (custom): Custom Craft Upholsterers, 323/937-9557.
    Wing-chair fabric (#78266-04): Brunschwig & Fils, 800/538-1880,
    Blue chair (Barbara Barry Collection): baker, 800/592-2537,
    Chair fabric (“European Boar”/Navy): Randolph & Hein, 866/844-9921,
    Table between blue chair and wing chair: J.F. Chen, 310/559-2436,
    Blue wall covering (“Blue String” #ZG1071): Zoffany, 212/319-7220,
    Art on blue wall: by Damien Elwes,
    Console under art: Nierman Weeks, 212/319-7979,
    Lamp on console (by Christian Liaigre): Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900.

  • Dominique Vorillon


    With a dominating fireplace and lush surroundings, this patio is the perfect spot for outdoor entertaining. Blue garden stools provide extra seating; white sheer drapery and candlelight create an intimate setting.

    Outdoor fireplace: designed by Robbin Hayne, Hayne Architects, 310/456-0050,
    Lanterns on fireplace: Mix Furniture, 323/939-7500,
    Sofas: Henry Hall Designs, 415/863-4868,
    Sofa fabric (white canvas): Sunbrella,
    Round bolster pillow: Lotus Esthetique,
    Pillows (Trina Turk Collection): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Blue ceramic garden stool: Charles Jacobsen, 310/815-9250,
    Coffee table: owner’s collection.
    Area rug: antique.
    Sheer drapery (#280-28, Blana): Perennials, 888/322-4773,
    White resin Buddha: Pier 1, 800/245-4595,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Garden Details

    Roses clustered in a ceramic garden pot add a pop of freshness and color.

  • Dominique Vorillon


    A verdant garden gazebo houses exotic furnishings. Twin settees are Indian antiques; the pair of African chairs is intricately carved from a single tree; a low fire pit in the center showcases French tiles.

    Pair of chairs: hand-carved from single tree in Africa.
    Pillows (Trina Turk Collection): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Pair of settees (antique, Indian): Singh Imports, 310/559-3826,
    Seat cushions; pillows: Diamond Foam & Fabric,
    Decorative French tiles on fire pit: Exquisite Surfaces, 310/659-4580,
    Shutters (architectural remnants): The Bank Architectural Antiques, 504/523-2702.

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Beach Area

    A lake at the top of the property provides a beach, ideal for tiki-themed beach parties or a quiet afternoon respite.

    Chaise longues; table: Design Within reach, 86/377-0825,
    Pillows (Trina Turk Collection): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Candelabra: Z Gallerie, 800/908-6748,
    Umbrella with thatch; torches: Home Depot,
    Hammock: Calypso St. Barth,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Recreation Room

    With two teenagers, the Ward household is well equipped with space for blowing off some steam. In the rec room, a billiard table sits next to a custom bar with eye-catching red bar stools.

    Billiard table:  owner’s collection.
    Light over table (by Holtkotter): Foundry Lighting, 310/271-1123,
    Cabinetry behind table: reclaimed armoire doors.
    Area rug (custom, combination of two Prince Street Carpets): S&J Biren, 310/553-0971,
    Bar (Louisiana reclaimed cypress): Scott of Plantation Millwork, 601/720-5111.
    Blue paint on bar (“Postal Blue” #24-15): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Wallpaper on bar (“Aura” #wau86/02): Weitzner Ltd., 888/6090-5551,
    Bar stools: In-Ex Furniture, 310/358-0500.
    Hanging lanterns over bar: antique.
    Blue cabinetry: custom.
    Table lamp: Arteriors, 877/488-8866,
    Bowl on bar (hand-blown): Barneys,
    Sculpture on bar: Chris Georges, 979/492-7419. Wall paint (“Light Coffee”): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Ceiling paint (“Sera Brown”): Benjamin Moore & Co. 888/236-6667,

  • Dominique Vorillon


    Antique oak beams and a vintage counter from France add patina to the sunny kitchen.

    Cabinetry (designed by Ann Carter, fabricated by Tony Farmer); large white bowl on island (carved by Chris Georges): Ann Carter Inc., 601/981-5820,
    Hardware: Bouvet, 415/864-0273,
    Wall paint (custom): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Chandelier: St. Martin’s Gallery, 601/362-1977,
    Island (antique chocolatier from Marché Serpette, France): owner’s collection.
    Sinks: Linkasink, 866/395-8377,
    Faucets (“De Dion”): Herbeau, 800/547-1608,
    Range: Viking, 888/845-4641,
    Oven hood (reclaimed French oak): design by Robbin Hayne and Ann Carter.
    Ceiling lights (“Om”): Tech Lighting, 800/522-5315,
    Countertop (French limestone): Exquisite Surfaces, 310/659-4580,  

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Master Bedroom

    A four-poster with bed curtains, white upholstery, and French doors with a view to the garden add serenity to the master bedroom.

    Bed cover: Raoul Textiles, 805/965-1694,
    Mantel (antique, black marble): Maison Felice, 760/862-0021,
    Chairs by mantel: Isenhour Furniture, 828/632-8850,
    Chair and ottoman fabric (“Sarona”/Chalk #7248/48); chair trim (“Sarona”/Conker #7258/30): Romo, 800/338-2783,
    Pillow on chair (“Neuily”/Ebene #F2680004-004): Pierre Frey, 866/707-1524,
    Ottoman: Charles Fradin, 323/930-1057,
    Round table beside chair (antique): Gray Morell, 310/657-2200,
    Tray on ottoman: Table Art, 323/653-8278,
    Art over mantel (hand-carved wood panels); statue on mantel; silver box on mantel: owner’s collection.
    Reading light: Foundry Lighting, 310/271-1123,
    Dresser: Travis & Co., 800/258-2214,
    Art over dresser: owner’s collection.
    Carpet: S&J Biren, 310/553-0971,
    Paint (“Overcast” #OC-43): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Master Bath

    A dramatic wall of small-scale patterned tiles becomes a work of art all its own.

    Tub (vintage standing tub); tub fixtures (“GeorgeV”/Satin Nickel): Kohler, 800/456-4537,
    Wall covering behind tub (custom design by Ann Carter): Ann Sacks, 800/278-8453,
    Art behind tub: by Ilan Laks,
    Paint (“Misty Air” #OC-44): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Sheers (Pussy Willow”/Pond Blossom #AH182): Calvin Fabrics, 888/732-1996,
    Drapery hardware (custom): Aeroshade, 262/547-2101.
    Area rug: Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000,
    Chair: antique.
    Chair-seat fabric (“Poppy”/Pear): Galbraith & Paul, 215/508-0800,
    Chair-back fabric (silver-studded “W”): W Hotel Pillow,
    Acrylic table (“The Grand Illusion Table” by Essey,; through Ameico, 888/350-8765,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Art Studio

    Sela paints in her studio. A lofted bedroom and a bathroom enclosed behind sliding louvered doors allow the space to be used as a guest room as well.

    Shutters (reclaimed cypress shutters): the Bank Antiques, 504/523-2702,
    Rail system (German manufacturer); hanging lights (reclaimed industrial factory lights): through Robbin Hayne, Hayne Architects, 310/456-0050,
    Chair: owner’s collection.
    Chair fabric (“Suriname”/Cayenne #823U87): Raoul Textiles, 805/965-1694,
    Trestle-style art table; light on art table: Blick Art Supplies, 800/828-4548,
    Wall paint (“Decorators White”): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Dominique Vorillon

    Guest Cottage

    A carved headboard and colorfully patterned textiles add an exotic element to the guest cottage.

    Headboard: reclaimed Indian carved panel.
    Wall paint (“Antique Ivory” #2134): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Area rug (silk and wool): Williams-Sonoma Home, 877/812-6235,
    Drapery, bed-skirt fabric; bed cover (“Ritz”/Gold #26365-002): Scalamandré, 800/932-4361,
    Drapery hardware: Canyon Interiors, 818/594-0085.
    Ceiling fixture (silk Fortuny): owner’s colleciton.
    Blanket at end of bed (Indian blanket): Rolling Greens Nursery, 323/934-4500,
    Large beaded pillow sham (“Love Bird”/Beige #P1098M-2): Scalamandré, n800/932-4361,
    Small throw pillow (“Florabundance”/Zinniua #6026/02): Pollack, 212/627-7766,
    Bedside table (antique Chinese suitcases): Charles Jacobsen, 310/815-9250,
    Table lamp (Murano Glass): owner’s collection.
    Chair: Modern Living, 310/657-8775,
    Chair fabric: patchwork of gypsy blankets from Portobello Road, London.