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An entire Armani bedroom set, a snakeskin box owned by Nicholas Cage, fits-like-a-glove garb worn by Italian royalty: these are just a few things you'll find in the lavishly-decorated loft of Jessica Davies and Damon Northrop. Though the LA couple is far from extreme couponing, they're not exactly the first to come to mind when you imagine the type of folks who fall under the same deal-obsessed spectrum as Honey Boo Boo & Co. Rather, they're experts in living rich, sans the socialite bankroll—a skill they've parlayed into a brand, a consulting service and an in-the-works reality show, Faux Riche.
A glance at each's curriculum vitae reveals why the incredibly intelligent duo (and expert home entertainers) are worthy of some serious screen time. A fellow at the Huntington Library, Davis holds a handful of degrees—among them a Ph.D. in Rhetoric—while Northrop is a rocket scientist at SpaceX. (Yup.) We sat down with the super sweet and insanely intriguing couple to learn more about who they are, what they do and how they do it.
In a nutshell, what is Faux Riche?
"We are experts in high society who teach people how to live rich on the budget of a regular person. And when we say 'rich,' we aren't just talking about money and luxury. We also mean rich like a sauce. It's about a certain kind of taste in meaningful ideas. Think about it as a whole new lifestyle that anyone can achieve with a little help from us."
Can you tell us more about the services you provide?
"We offer confidential consulting to boutique brands, corporations and nonprofit organizations. From hosting parties and fundraisers to optimizing good taste, material selection, and manufacturing—we create experiences and products that make the Faux Riche lifestyle possible. People are also welcome to visit our website where we offer free advice on our blog: Ask Dr. Decadence.
We are also writing a series of guidebooks that cover the key components of living the Faux Riche life. Some of our titles include How to Dress Rich in Poor Times, How to Be a Socialite in Your Own Home, How to Vacation Like the Upper Class on the Budget of a Regular Person, How to be Classy in Modern Times, and How to Experience Aristocratic Pleasures When You Work for a Living.
In the future, we plan to create a line of products inspired by high society, but all priced under $100. We believe in creating beautiful objects designed with cutting-edge materials that people can afford. We hate how so many things are expensive and don't even work or last. Everything we make is about giving people the real value they deserve."
"The private gate to the infamous estate of Huguette Clark—reclusive eccentric heiress of the American Riviera. #montecito #oldminingmoney." Image via @thenewfauxriche/Instagram
You both have such diverse backgrounds: education, career and otherwise. What led you to start Faux Riche?
"Although we have extremely diverse backgrounds, the thing that links all of our knowledge and experience is that we are creative problem solvers. In the case of Faux Riche, it's really a story about achieving the American Dream, but it's a response to the lasting effects of the Great Recession.
Both of us grew up in small rural towns in the Northwest, attended elite colleges, followed our dreams and worked extremely hard to achieve what we wanted to in our lives. Since Damon was little, he always dreamed of becoming a rocket scientist. He now works at SpaceX, where he launches revolutionary spacecraft with the goal of making human life possible on Mars. Jessica always had a penchant for aesthetics and the life of the mind. She earned an MA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley, and has worked in fashion, film, contemporary art, education and global philanthropy.
Yet despite these achievements—like many Americans—everything in our lives changed during the Great Recession. We couldn't sell our house in San Francisco and started hemorrhaging money. When we arrived in LA, we moved into the only space that we could afford: an old storefront near downtown, rumored to have been the first silent movie theater in Los Angeles. Scrapping together whatever money we could, we converted it into a fascinating loft space and filled it with treasures found for rock-bottom prices at local estate sales.
We were so inspired by our ability to transform a commercial living space into an upscale loft, that the process became a template for transforming every aspect of our lives. We filled our closet with couture, traveled to upper class destinations, and started to curate opulent experiences for our friends—all with the caveat that we would only do it at an affordable price. We still live the Faux Riche life because it's awesome. We don't think there is any better way to live rich."
Image via Faux Riche
What's been one of your most memorable experiences?
"We think our favorite thing so far was a falconry lesson we took in California Gold Country. Our instructors let us fly the birds, hold a rare Eurasian eagle owl and enjoy a gorgeous outdoor lunch with local wine—all while dressed in our favorite tartans—for $50! It was an amazing experience."
Was there a particular "a-ha" moment that inspired you to create Faux Riche?
"Both of Jessica's parents died by the time she was 22. They were extremely elegant and well known for their style, generosity and lavish parties. When we moved to LA together, we opened many of their boxes of gorgeous clothes, crystal, china and silver for the first time. But it wasn't sad. What we realized in that moment was that living a rich life is not about how much money you make or what you own; its about the experiences, stories and memories that color your life and give it meaning and value."
We're incredibly intrigued about the reality show you're developing. Can you tell us more?
"Our show is about teaching people how to live a rich life without spending a lot of money. It's not about pretending to be rich or giving someone a makeover; it's a show about transforming people's lifestyle and expectations. People come to us with a problem that is stressful, boring and expensive and we help them 'Faux Riche' it. Sometimes the challenge is obvious—like a wedding, a high school reunion or the holidays. Other challenges are farther afield, but no less relevant—such as helping a friend attend the Oscars without breaking the bank. Sometimes people are lucky enough to get a fancy invitation to a huge event, but that doesn't mean they get to borrow a dress from a designer or be escorted in a Rolls-Royce. That's where we help.
Although most people we talk to can't wait to watch the show, we have certainly run into some problems as well. Some people have directly told us that we aren't mean enough or dumb enough to be on reality TV. We think viewers deserve a show that's different. When was the last time you watched TV that actually changed your life?"
What's the one must-have every woman and man needs in their closet?
"The Faux Riche motto is to always be over-dressed. In LA, that means a war on casual.
Every man should own a tuxedo. Things happen when a man wears a tuxedo—especially in LA. Doors magically open, people stare and free drinks arrive. It doesn't matter where you are going. Everyone will think you are on your way somewhere impossibly glamorous or on your way home from somewhere unbearably decadent. Damon's first tuxedo was the custom Ralph Lauren Purple Label ensemble that Chris Pine wore to the Oscars in 2010. We found it at Playclothes in Burbank for $125 with no tailoring required, which is amazing considering Purple Label tuxedos can cost as much as $20,000. And Chris Pine's name is embroidered inside. It would be so funny to feature Damon vs. Chris Pine on 'Who Wore It Better?' on E! It's not the same the tuxedo; it's exactly the same tuxedo!
As for the ladies, every woman should find a signature gown and wear it all the time. Don't save it for a special occasion; life is an occasion! Wear it to Trader Joe's. Sometimes you need to turn the beat around on a sad Saturday, and you never know whom you might meet while picking out melons."
Okay, let's talk retail therapy! We know you love Playclothes; where else do you shop?
"Estate sales are by far our favorite shopping experience. We often find great deals on clothes and decor, but that's not the best part. Estate sale shopping in LA can be a life-changing experience; it's an intimate tour inside the fascinating worlds that makes this city so inspiring."
Jessica and Damon with Princess Montino Bourbon del Monte di San Faustino. Image via Faux Riche
Care to share some of your favorite finds?
"Along with a lot of fabulous celebrity loot, some of our most prized fashion possessions are from the private collection of Italian royalty: Prince and Princess Montino Bourbon Del Monte Di San Faustino.
Inside their magical carriage house in Montecito, we found a set of custom Pucci riding pants, an ostrich feather cape, and a nineteenth century cavalry jacket that fits Damon like a glove. He also bought two sashes: one in a brilliant turquoise color with a giant tassel (his 'casual sash') and one made of solid silver with an eagle shooting a bow and arrow (his 'formal sash').
But the most incredible part of this experience was that the princess herself stopped by the sale and helped us pick out our purchases! She gave us an incredible deal because she said she wanted her heirlooms 'to find a home where they would be appreciated.'"
Jessica and Damon demonstrate 'Advanced Picnicking.' Image via Faux Riche
Who are your style icons?
"We are inspired by Old Money, French decadence and European elegance. Our style icons include: Diana Vreeland, Jackie Kennedy, Salvadore Dali, Grace Kelly, Yves Saint Laurent, Albert Einstein, Ralph Lauren, Tilda Swinton, Marion Davies, Truman Capote, Edith Wharton, Bianca Jaggar, Cary Grant, and the Sapeurs of Congo."
Where are some of your favorite places in LA for a classy and stylish night out?
"We believe it's not where you go, but how you do it. For example, we love polo. A lot of people don't know that polo matches are often free, and it's not the boring, snobby scene you often see on TV and in movies. We often dress in what we call 'Power Leisure"—billowing silks, hats and plumage—while we take in the spectacle of the Sport of Kings.
It's also fun to pack a chic picnic. We invented 'Advanced Picnicking,' which involves a Persian carpet, silver goblets, a travel bar and field side flambé. For Racked LA readers, we recommend the Will Rogers Polo Club in Pacific Palisades and the Empire Polo Club in Indio. It's so much better than Coachella! Trust us."
· Faux Riche [Official Site]