LOS ANGELES – Flamingo Estate, a lifestyle company located in a 1940s Spanish-style house in the hills on the border between the Eagle Rock and Highland Park neighborhoods, sells candles that smell like tomatoes and rosemary. Oprah Winfrey named them one of her favorite things.
Pink is a theme for both the brand and the house. Its façade is pink stucco. Their Pink Moon rosé was made to match the color of the underside of a flamingo’s wing. The company makes botanical products, and not all of them are obvious successes. Last Christmas, his infamous nine-pound bag of manure (using a synonym for excrement), which cost $75, went viral. It is currently out of stock.
For $80 before shipping, you can purchase a 6.5-ounce jar of dried strawberries sprinkled with guajillo chile and a squeeze of lime. They are snacks, yes, but they are also statements: If you can afford them, money is not something that worries you. Everything is shipped in boxes printed with the motto: “We are a home for radical pleasure.”
Although Flamingo Estate is named after the home of its founder, Richard Christiansen, the name implies something much larger than the seven-acre plot of land he shares with Aaron Harvey, his partner (and the company’s creative director), and their dogs, Daylesford. . and Highway.
“A potential investor came up and said, ‘Wait, it’s all from here?’” Mr. Christiansen said. “She was hoping for hundreds of acres in downtown Los Angeles.” He had to explain that, although the Flamingo Estates brand was inspired by her home, she now uses ingredients from 110 local farms.
Mr. Christiansen bought his house eight years ago. It was once a porn studio and he transformed it into an Instagram playground.
“It’s a stretch,” said Martha Stewart, who has known Mr. Christiansen for years and wrote the foreword to the Flamingo Estate cookbook ($78). “He buys a house on top of a hill overlooking Los Angeles and transforms this former porn king’s mansion into a true paradise of gardens, deep, dark bathrooms and furniture that is crazy good. He looks like a rosy-cheeked child, he is generous, thoughtful and busy, but you never think he is that busy.”
The atmosphere is colorful and vaguely tropical. In the living room there is a limited edition David Hockney “Caribbean Tea Time” screen and a large floral-print sofa by Belgian designer JP Demeyer, mixed with chairs and side tables purchased at Parisian flea markets. In the kitchen, a terrazzo floor in shades of mint, white, black and pink is dominated by a huge antique stove. Just off the kitchen is a small bar with antique Baccarat crystal decanters and bamboo stools.
Mr. Christiansen’s home is where almost everything the brand sells is represented and photographed, and that drives sales. It also served as the backdrop for Quentin Tarantino and Margot Robbie to be photographed for magazine articles, for Billie Eilish to be interviewed by the BBC, and for Glossier founder Emily Weiss to host her baby shower.
It would be easy to mistake Flamingo Estate for a hotel or club. “I thought it was a public space that people could buy a ticket to, like a garden,” Chrissy Teigen said in a voice note. She asked Mr. Christiansen via Instagram if she could bring his family. “We pulled up, I knocked on the door and Richard came out, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, wait, this is not a public entity of any kind.’”
Mr. Christiansen gave them a tour and his children played with the chickens. “I fully believe that Richard is an angel or an alien from another planet,” Teigen said. “At the risk of sounding too L.A., he has this energy and this aura that’s really special.”
They ended up making three jams together, as in the kind you spread on scones, not the musical variety.
A man with many ideas
Architects from the French firm Studio KO renovated Mr. Christiansen’s home, basing some of the landscaping on the warm-climate gardens of Morocco. Surveying the terrain after an exceptionally cold and wet California winter, Christiansen sounded poetic: “The sage has exploded, the wisteria has purple flowers. The garden is so happy that it is as if it were singing.”
There are jasmine vines and a concrete bathhouse with a fireplace and tiles that match the Balearic Sea. Christiansen is interested in one day creating a “bath temple” at Flamingo Estate, modeled after the one at Flamingo Estate.
But he is a man with many ideas. Last year, the company introduced $250 jars of honey taken from hives placed in the gardens of celebrities, including Ai Weiwei and Julianne Moore.
“How strange it is that LeBron’s honey on the Westside tastes completely different than Tiffany Haddish’s on South Central,” Christiansen said. He is still negotiating who will participate next.
Ms Moore said the process was simple. “There’s a beekeeper in Montauk that she contacted, and she took care of the bees and collected the honey,” she said. “We still have bees.”
Christiansen was with his dogs inside the goat-keeper’s shed, a space the size of a small office, filled with jars labeled “fermented indigo” and decorated with hand painted custom wallpaper by the British company de Gournay representing local flora and fauna: cacti, owls and cliff roses.
The dogs have a slightly conflicted relationship with the goats, who live in a pen with the chickens. One stormy Sunday in February, realizing the goats were cold, Christiansen posted a call to buy cashmere sweaters on Instagram. “I thought, ‘Oh, it’s so cold, poor goats,’” Christiansen said. Now the goats wear cashmere.
Mr Christiansen was looking at the proteas and mimosa plants that reminded him of his native Australia. His parents were beekeepers who raised him on their sugar cane farm in northern New South Wales. They did not entertain. He was a child obsessed with Chanel and Calvin Klein ads in magazines, he studied law and then went into marketing.
Flamingo Estate started as a pandemic project. After nearly two decades at Chandelier Creative, the agency he founded in 2005, Christiansen, 46, was emotionally and physically exhausted. The company worked with many fashion brands and had offices in Los Angeles, New York and Paris.
Mr. Christiansen lived in Los Angeles. Chandelier was paralyzed in the early days of the pandemic. (He is no longer involved in the agency). That’s when he met a woman who was in danger of losing her farm because she was selling food to restaurants that were closed.
He began selling his fresh produce to friends in $35 boxes. Word spread to other farmers who were eager to join. The farmers sold directly to Flamingo Estate, which paid them weekly in cash. “It was $300 that week, $600 the next week,” Christiansen said. “And you know, it kept growing. One farm became two, it became five, it became 10 and now it became 110. We had no intention of it really becoming a business.”
“At some point we switched to a more structured model, asking farmers, ‘Why don’t you grow things specifically for us?’”
Locals like Kris Jenner can still pick up farm boxes, but that’s just part of Flamingo Estate’s business. Sales have doubled each year, Christiansen said, noting that revenue was $10 million last year. “We’re poised to turn a profit next quarter,” she said.
Seventy-five percent of clients, according to information provided by Christiansen, are women between 24 and 40 years old. They are split evenly between the east and west coast. “The opportunity for us is in cities like Chicago, Dallas, Miami,” she said.
“I really think we have these two customer segments,” he continued. “We have people who care a lot about the environment, supply and agriculture. Then I think we have this client here who is a luxury buyer, who thinks the house is taken care of and likes the brand and especially the collaborations we do, and sometimes they cross paths. But, in reality, very rarely.”
taking the leap
Mr. Christiansen’s marketing side still burns very bright. Every Sunday he gets information on the top 50 clients for that week and texts or calls them. “This customer was literally our best customer time and time again,” he said. “And I was like, I wonder who is he?” And then I had a lovely conversation with him. And then, you know, one thing led to another. Now that client is an investor through a family office.”
Christiansen initially courted individual investors for funding rather than venture capital firms. “I hate dealing with money,” she said. “I don’t even check my ATM balance.”
For all these reasons, the Flamingo Estate brand has just closed a round of external financing. It raised $7.5 million, earmarked for working capital.
“We’ve left the kids’ table and moved on to the adults’ table,” Christiansen said.
“We talked to some people who were green investors, and some of them said, we’ll only invest in organic or regenerative certification, whatever, just very didactic about it. I said that for some small producers getting organic certification is really difficult. It is expensive.”
Christiansen is also open to working with large agricultural companies. “To me, progress would be that situation where people say we’re far from perfect,” he said. “The opportunity for me is to work with someone who has room for improvement. There is a lot of greenwashing in our industry. “It makes me angry that people give themselves a pat on the back for one or two ingredients that are good for the world.”
This summer, Flamingo Estate will open a pop-up in a former body shop in East Hampton, New York, with the idea of bringing in its bodywork for a summer tune-up. The snack section of the gas station will be called the Inconvenience Store. There are books coming out later this year, including a workbook on living a pleasurable life and another called “House of Radical Pleasure,” which will be a tour of the property divided by the senses.
Flamingo Estate, the home, is key to the appeal of Flaming Estate, the brand, even if having the home as a sort of rotating living and dining setting can be jarring. Mr. Harvey, he said, laughing, is frustrated by this: “He’s tired of making the bed.”
“Even though we’ve grown quickly, it’s still super personal,” he said. “We make things that I want to use in the kitchen. I use the soap in the shower. I do all the social activities myself. It is still my kitchen, my bathroom, my dogs and my trees.”