Before you enter the towering doors of the Bel Air Crest home of shoe and clothing magnate Donald Pliner, you expect to be amazed by designer touches. However, nothing will prepare you for the flights of fantasy behind those front doors.
The artwork! The skulls! The horns! The pigs! The pups! The shoes! Donald and Lisa Pliner are creative souls, and their living space is a wild mashup of color, style, and whimsy.
The couple gave us a private tour of their marvelous mansion, and we soaked it all in. It was easy to see why it didn’t take long to find a buyer for their 7,603-square-foot home in the gated community on the West Side of Los Angeles.
“Upon entering, I was immediately drawn to their sense of style,” says listing agent Debra Jaffe of The Agency, who was on hand for the tour. “It’s a true museum mixture of Balinese, African, Moroccan, and more.”
Jaffe noted the high ceilings and walls in most of the rooms are perfect for showcasing works of art, which the Pliners have in abundance.
Donald, originally from Chicago, has designed luxury women’s footwear since the 1980s, adding men’s shoes, handbags, clothing, and a canine fashion line in the decades that followed. He’s known for adding an elastic element to his leather creations, introducing a level of comfort uncommon in high-fashion footwear.
His creations were carried in his own boutiques in such cities as New York, Beverly Hills, and Miami, as well as in posh stores like Harrods of London.
The Pliners sold their brand in 2011 to the private equity firm Castanea, which owns other designer brands, including Proenza Schouler and Betsey Johnson. Donald stepped down as head of design in 2015, and he and Lisa have kept busy with other endeavors over the past few years.
Their home is full of artwork, including pieces they created themselves, pieces created for them, and pieces they acquired over the years. Although most of their colorful collection will depart with them, the renovations and improvements they made to the home are staying.
The couple purchased the property in 2012 for $4,260,000. Over time, they spent at least $1 million on one-of-a-kind doors and windows, unique lighting, elegant finishes, and elaborate landscaping.
The couple applied many of the signature design techniques that once graced their posh showrooms. We’re talking Venetian red walls and chandeliers made of antlers. Donald was quick to point out that no animals were harmed in the creation of those fixtures, as elk shed their antlers seasonally.
“The house is who we are as designers,” says Donald. “We design from nature and are intrigued by foreign lands. Everything we put into our shoes, we put into our house. Everything here tells a story, as do our shoes. We love color and we love life!”
Donald also applied his designer aesthetic to the backyard, adding olive and magnolia trees as well as native, drought-resistant foliage.
The Pliners are packing up their five-bedroom, 5.5-bath home, but their creative and whimsical decor was still on display when we visited.
Donald says they’ve loved living in the home, but creative people need to keep things fresh. He and his wife are looking for a new canvas upon which they can make their mark.
We marveled at many of the unique pieces that define their style, and here are our 10 favorites:
1. Cobalt antler chandelier
Donald fashioned this grand antler chandelier in the two-story foyer and then took it to an auto body shop to have it plated and painted a brilliant cobalt blue. It’s truly a colorful fixture beyond compare.
2. Venetian red walls
This Venetian red bathroom, with its gold-framed mirror and fixtures and antler chandelier, is one of the most striking rooms in the house.
“Everyone should have a red room,” says Lisa. And she’s not referring to a red room of the “50 Shades of Grey” variety.
“Some cultures believe that red fights off evil,” she explains. Anything to banish evil from the bathroom sounds like a winner.
3. Whimsical mural
The Pliners had an “Alice in Wonderland”–themed wall mural painted in their daughter Star‘s bedroom. Note the faces of Star and her loved ones painted in the flowers, and their beloved Maltese BabyDoll looking over her.
Donald regrets not having the work painted on a canvas, because the Pliners can’t take it with them. The new owners will have the option of having the original artist customize the work or simply paint over it.
4. Shaq’s shoes!
When the Pliners lived in a Moroccan-style palace in Florida, Shaquille O’Neal was their neighbor. So it’s no surprise that Donald custom-designed dozens of pairs of gorgeous shoes for the basketball legend.
Check out these stylish size 22, triple-E slippers.
5. Designer dog beds
Their canine BabyDoll served as the inspiration for their Harrods dog apparel line, but has since has passed on. Maltese pups Moonlite and Sunset have followed in her place. The pampered pooches have custom designer beds in almost every room of the house. Check out the race car beds below complete with custom license plates.
6. Shoes in progress
Donald’s studio contains renderings, sketches, prints, and pieces of shoes in various stages of design. We learned his famous signature beaded loafers were first hand-decorated in India, then sent to Italy to be formed and finished.
7. These little piggies
Donald used to give custom-made pigs to some of his favored clients. He’s also used a pig motif in some of his artwork. Part of his collection is currently on display in the kitchen.
8. Crystal-encrusted skulls
Donald and Lisa are fans of the skull motif. Donald wears jewelry with customized skulls around his arms and neck and uses skulls on his shoes, and skulls have inspired some of Lisa’s sculptures. They were on display throughout the home.
9. 8-foot-tall lawn flamingo
When the city of Miami had artists decorate 8-foot-tall fiberglass flamingos, the Pliners took part. Lisa made this fabulous flamingo by applying seashells, and it ended up flying all the way to Los Angeles to grace their backyard.
10. Shoes, shoes, shoes!
Lisa’s closet holds 400 pairs of shoes, all meticulously boxed, photographed, and cataloged, and Donald’s closet has space for hundreds more. The garage, which holds even more shoes, could easily pass for a shoe museum. The space was arranged so that visitors could take a look and perhaps even stroll away with a pair or three.
Sadly, the canine shoes raced off the shelves long ago.
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