Peek Inside Sarah Paulson’s Cozy Malibu Hideaway

With an assist from interior designer Amy Kehoe, the actor elevated her 500-square-foot beach home with “sophisticated whimsy”

Sarah Paulson didn’t discover her talent for creating homes with what interior designer Amy Kehoe calls “sophisticated whimsy” until she was in her 40s. As a former New Yorker and an actress who has spent much of her adult life on set, buying and decorating a house wasn’t on her lengthy to-do list. “It felt like too much responsibility. Only grown-ups did that, not me,” says the Emmy Award–­winning actress, who stars in the upcoming horror thriller Dust. “I always wanted that Manhattan life, an apartment with a doorman, if you were lucky. Owning a home never held that allure.”

A couple of factors changed her mind. The first is that Paulson is an Angeleno now, and found that she was one of the holdouts in her friend group who hadn’t taken the real estate plunge. Secondly, she found the magnetic pull of Nickey Kehoe, an elegantly understated housewares shop owned by Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe, too powerful to resist. “I would walk into that store and think, Can I move in?” she says. “When I finally bought a house, I emailed Amy. Then once I started working with her, it was like, ‘Well, you can forget it. Anytime I buy anything, even a car, you’re doing the interior.’ ”

A curtain of Susan Deliss fabric from Nickey Kehoe separates the living area from the bedroom. Hartmann & Forbes matchstick blinds; vintage rug.

It was a pleasant surprise for Paulson to discover how much she enjoyed sorting through fabric swatches and 1stdibs listings with Kehoe. It’s the closest thing to a hobby she’s ever had. “I was always so busy working. Sleep was my hobby. Or taking a shower,” she says with a laugh.

Once her primary residence was finished, Paulson went back for more. Nearly a year into the pandemic, she bought a 500-square-foot Malibu trailer after a life-changing visit to the home of a close friend. “It was January, and the tide was so far out that the beach felt like a moonscape. The cliffs and the water and the light were so beautiful, and my dog went bananas,” she recalls. “The ocean never called to me. I’m the person who’s afraid there’s a shark in my bathtub. But the beach was stunning. How did I live here for so many years and not understand the beauty of the coastline?”

A 24-inch BlueStar range fits in the small space. Soane Britain Avon wall lights; alexandrita quartzite countertop from Architectural Surfaces.

Sam Shaw © Shaw Family Archives

The market for tiny, more affordable homes in the same community was hot, but when one became available, Paulson pounced. Then Kehoe and Jeff Spiegel of Heartwood Construction + Design helped transform the quaint but generic surf shack into a tailor-made retreat, with stow-away storage and brass hardware and fixtures, like an elegant ship’s cabin with a nautical wink. “There’s no disconnect between Sarah’s personal style and her home style,” Kehoe declares. “She is really dialed in and has excellent taste in all things, and there is a current femininity to her style that’s so modern and thoughtful.”

See the exterior of the house, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal, an earthy plum, for a sense of what Kehoe’s talking about. Inside, wide-plank engineered pine floors and shiplap walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White are a serene backdrop for milky stone countertops with an emerald vein (that remind Paulson of sea-foam), boho textiles from Pat McGann, custom furniture by Waka Waka and Green River Project, and a teal cabinet by Howe London. It’s all custom-built to fit the jewel-box space precisely. 

Tree of Life wallpaper by Idarica Gazzoni from Arjumand’s World covers the bedroom walls. Flexi wall light by Soane Britain; custom nightstand and headboard; cashmere blanket by Nickey Kehoe.

“There’s a theme that’s echoing here: Because the home is so contained and small in scale, it makes certain risks feel less risky,” says Kehoe. Purple paint, swirled green quartzite, blush pink floor-to-ceiling zellige tile, and bold wallpaper in aubergine might not work splashed over large surfaces, but they feel just right in this space.

In a way, Paulson was destined to outfit this tiny gem of a home. It’s no bigger than a typical New York one-bedroom, and reminiscent of the trailers she inhabits for work. It’s just grown-up enough, and unafraid of big, unconventional gestures. “It’s rewarding to work with someone who gets really excited,” adds Kehoe. “Her enthusiasm is joyful.”

This story appears in AD’s Star Power issue. To see Sarah Paulson’s home in print, subscribe to AD.