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STYLE X THREE: Some you've heard of, others not yet.
But these three tastemakers are all in the process
of redefining L.A. style. Think of it as their way
of life, multiplied.

Audrey Bernstein

She's part hostess and part alchemist, mixing friends, food and music into what she calls a "sparkly time." Now she's extending her flair for boho-glam entertaining into a lifestyle brand online.

April 29, 2007|Steffie Nelson | Steffie Nelson has written for Variety and the New York Times

You could smell the onions from the driveway. Audrey Bernstein, standing in the kitchen of her cozy 1920s house in Silver Lake, was preparing for a French-themed soiree, and the menu included onion tarts, French onion soup and brioche pockets stuffed with asparagus, goat cheese and more onions. There was a lot of chopping to be done, and no time to cry. Unlike Martha Stewart, who surely could offer some obscure tip to turn onions tear-free, Audrey, dressed in a white apron, embroidered peasant top and red chef's clogs, took the practical route: She put on ski goggles.

Chic with a kooky streak that has shades of both Barbra Streisand and Lucille Ball, Audrey has been a star on L.A.'s social scene since she moved here in 2000 and hosted the exclusive Cachet parties at Les Deux in Hollywood, then founded the Bluebird Bakery in Culver City, catering to fashion as well as film studio crowds and anticipating the L.A. cupcake craze by at least a year.

Now she has launched the lifestyle website As when she took on her first wedding cake commission without knowing how long to bake a 14-inch cake, this venture into the world of online media has been a similar leap of faith.

Although she may not know her Java script from her cafe au lait, Audrey has identified a need that isn't being filled by the "flat, staged" cooking shows churned out on cable TV, which she compares to Cosmo or People magazines. In this era of YouTube and MySpace, she also knew she didn't have to wait for a TV deal. With a reputation and a Rolodex that precede her, the 41-year-old's announcement that she was extending her flair for entertaining to a website with a weekly cooking, crafts and lifestyle show and daily advice from experts such as party planner Bryan Rabin and life coach T.C. Conroy was met with offers of help. Without any backing she was able to assemble a team that believed enough in her vision to work for free until sponsors and advertisers start coming onboard.

More Dwell than Swell (the retro-kitsch line of books and housewares once sold at Target),'s boho-glam aesthetic reflects its namesake's lifestyle: a little bit Old Hollywood exotic, a little bit Rose Bowl flea market, a splash of the art world and a dash of modern design--although she jokes, in a haughty "Ab Fab" accent, that "clean lines make me very nervous." Audrey's logo, designed by her graphic designer boyfriend Andrew Neuhues, is a leafy white tree against a burnt-orange background, taken from a painting that hangs in his house. "I wanted a tree to represent life," she explained, "and this just seemed earthy, timeless and charming." Plus, she noted, it would make a great T-shirt.

In Audrey's world, "charming" is a much greater compliment than "cool." Charming applies equally to a handwritten thank-you note; a Christian Louboutin patent leather pump with a button closure; the singer Blossom Dearie; and the way Julia Child would flip her omelet in a pan and then say "whoops!" when it didn't quite land properly.

Audrey puts it a little differently. "I screwed up!" the hostess admitted to the camera in episode two, when she realized that her peanut-butter balls had twice as much peanut butter as the recipe called for. "But that's OK," she shrugged. "We can fix it. Things aren't perfect, and that's what 'Oh Audrey' is all about."

Shot at a Hollywood Hills home on loan from her friend Suzanne Costas, the founder of Earl jeans, the five-minute show's raw ingredients are all there: elegant surroundings "Audrey-fied" with vintage tea tins and botanical prints; a stylish designer wardrobe; and cute, simple ideas such as cooking a pizza or sewing a lavender pillow or making an organic toy for your dog. What "Oh Audrey" hasn't quite figured out is whether it wants to be a webcast or a television show when it grows up.

Clearly, someone like producer Taylor Lawrence, who directed the first three episodes, isn't comping his services for web page hits. He sees in Audrey a woman who makes things happen. "In three weeks [the show] went from being a silly idea to something that was gonna be broadcast on the Internet," he said.

After a literary agent at ICM in New York approached her, Audrey also began developing a book idea about dinner parties (the first of many books, she hopes) that will involve glamorous friends such as Liz Goldwyn, but she says she prefers to let things unfold organically. "When I push too hard, which is at least half the time, it doesn't work out as well as when I let it happen." But make no mistake: "I work my ass off. It's not just, oh, I'm waiting for the organic pasture to roll in. . . . I can't try to force step 20 before I've taken step two."

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