Hadley Freeman admits that Californian sunshine can get lost in translation

Hadley Freeman may love the LA aesthetic, but that doesn't mean she's bringing it home with her

Headshot of Hadley Freeman on a white backdrop
(Image credit: Future)

I’ve mainly been in Los Angeles this month, and there really is nothing like spending time in southern California to make you wonder why the hell you live in northern Europe. The food’s great, the weather’s incredible, the houses are to die for. And I don’t mean the absurd mock Tudor monstrosities in Beverly Hills and Calabasas, familiar to anyone who watched Beverly Hills 90210 or its modern day equivalent, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. 

I mean even the hokey little apartment buildings in west Hollywood, like one a friend of mine lived in when she was starting out: sure it was on a main road, but it was painted bright orange, was surrounded by palm trees and it had a beautifully tiled swimming pool in the courtyard. And this was considered to be quite crappy accommodation for 20 somethings. I am now twice that age and, to this day, I dream of one day living in such a place.

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(Image credit: Future)

One of the many, many things I love about LA is the aesthetic. I love how - save for the makes of cars and the chain store names - the streets are basically identical to how they looked in the 70s, or even the 50s: the low buildings which are rarely more than two storeys, the big neon signs in retro fonts letting you know that this is a motel and that’s a diner, the palm trees and the hills in the distance. You feel like Dennis Hopper or James Dean could drive right past you.

If LA has a colour, it’s turquoise: it’s the colour of so many of the signs and buildings here, and it looks so right under the permanently blue sky. And if it has a print, it’s the palm print, or specifically the banana leaf print, famous for covering the Beverly Hills Hotel. So when I bought my former house, I spent a genuine fortune on two rolls of that wallpaper, in the hope that it would make my pokey little study feel like a cabana in Beverly Hills. Well, what works in Beverly Hills does not always work in north London, and the study looked, as one friend put it, like a room in an old people’s home in 1980s Bournemouth. So now I leave the LA decor to LA. You can overdub movies into any language in the world, but some things in Hollywood just don’t translate.

Hadley Freeman
Contributing Editor

Hadley Freeman is an American British journalist. A staff writer for The Guardian Hadley is the author of the bestselling House of Glass (published March 2020) alongside other titles. She has recently moved house, and lives in London with her husband, her kids and, most importantly, her dog.

Born and raised in New York, Hadley spent eight years on the fashion desk at The Guardian, before becoming a staff writer and columnist. She penned her Weekend Guardian column for over five years, until September 2021 when she stopped to concentrate on interviews for the newspaper. Hadley’s work has appeared in publications including Vogue US and UK, New York magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and many others.