Welcome to Lotusland!
You may recognize actress Lake Bell from her role as Alec Baldwin's (much) younger second wife in last summer's It's Complicated
, or as hip interior designer Rachel Chapman on HBO's How to Make It in America
. Or you may simply recognize Bell as the playful brunette modeling this spring's gorgeous florals
's April issue, shot on location at Santa Barbara's Lotusland estate. The native New Yorker took a moment out of the shoot to talk shop, style and Streep.
Up Close and Personal
"Initially it was terrifying," Bell says of working with co-stars Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated. "But then the fear goes away. Meryl Streep was colorful, inspiring, and alive." However, the movie premiere was, well...complicated. "I come from a family with all sorts of divorces, and to have them all at the premiere was wildly complicated for me!" she says.
"Lotusland is a must-see in Southern California," says O creative director Adam Glassman, here with prop stylist Susan Anderson in one of its gardens. "The lush setting has such unusual color combinations—it's a landscaper's dream." The public 37-acre estate and botanic garden got its start in 1882 when Ralph Kinton Stevens built his house and started a commercial nursery on the property (nearly all of the grounds' palms and other large trees date back to those early years). It had several owners before an eccentric opera singer, Ganna Walska, purchased the estate in 1941.
Anderson preps in one of Lotusland's many gardens.
Walska, a socialite who married six times, created the property's 16 different gardens, which contain more than 3,200 varieties of plants. She could often be found on her knees digging in the soil, and she oversaw the ground's design until her death in 1984. In the 1970s, she auctioned pieces from her jewelry collection to raise $1 million to plant her final masterpiece, the Cycad Garden. The estate now features one of the most diverse collections of these prehistoric plants in the U.S.
Photographer Dewey Nicks shot Bell in this season's cleanly-tailored, delicate floral prints.
Bell admits her fashion sense has come a long way since her childhood in New York City. "I was very experimental, and I used to dress in a different style everyday," she says. "At my school, we had a dress code, but it was vague—a skirt and blouse. It said nothing about crazy socks and tights or platform shoes!"
Nicks and Bell go over photos near the lemon grove where this shot
was taken. As she gets older, Bell says she's interested in dressing to her strengths. "I have a chest and hips and a waist," she says. "I like to look sexy, but there is a fine line between sexy and trashy!" Bells says the perfectly simple white dress (Tibi, $458) fits her grown-up style perfectly.
Nicks frames the perfect shot under a ceiling of lemons.
When Life Gives You Lemons...
Over the past 12 years, Lotusland has adopted completely organic horticultural practices. For instance, the colorful blooms in the popular Butterfly Garden are chosen to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects as an eco-friendly method of pest control.
"I like wearing different prints together
," says Bell. If you mix, Glassman recommends choosing items in the same tonal family, with prints that aren't the same scale. (And no matter what, avoid prints that are larger than your fist, he says.) "Pretty prints doesn't have to feel precious," Bell says, "That's what I learned from the shoot. It's better to embrace and own something bold like this than to tiptoe around it." See Bell's final shots and find out more about spring's #1 trendFind out how to mix and match this season's prints