Flamingo Estate, an L.A. Lifestyle Company That Does It All
LOS ANGELES — Flamingo Estate, a lifestyle company set 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 facade is pink stucco. Its Pink Moon rosé was made to match the color on the underside of a flamingo’s wing. The company makes botanical products, not all of which are obvious hits. Last Christmas, its infamous nine-pound sack of manure (using a synonym for excrement) that cost $75, went viral. It’s currently out of stock.
For $80 before shipping, one can purchase a 6.5-ounce jar of dried strawberries dusted with guajillo chile and a squeeze of lime. They are snacks, yes, but also they are statements: If you can afford them, money is not something that concerns you. Everything is shipped in boxes printed with the motto: “We are a home for radical pleasure.”
Though Flamingo Estate was named after the home of its founder, Richard Christiansen, the name implies something far bigger than the seven-acre lot he shares with Aaron Harvey, his partner (and the creative director of the company), and their dogs, Daylesford and Freeway.
“A potential investor just came over and was like, ‘Wait, everything is from here?’” Mr. Christiansen said. “She was expecting hundreds of acres in the middle of Los Angeles.” He had to explain that though Flamingo Estates, the brand, was inspired by his house he now uses ingredients from 110 local farms.
Mr. Christiansen bought his home eight years ago. It was once a porn studio, and he transformed it into an Instagram playland.
“It’s over the top,” 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 the top of the hill overlooking Los Angeles, and he transforms this ex-porn king’s mansion into a veritable paradise of gardens and deep, dark baths and furniture that’s crazy and good. He looks like a young boy with pink cheeks, and he’s generous and thoughtful and busy, yet you never think he’s that busy.”
The vibe skews colorful and vaguely tropical. In the living room, there is a limited-edition David Hockney “Caribbean Tea Time” screen and a large floral printed sofa from the Belgian designer JP Demeyer, mixed with chairs and side tables bought at Parisian flea markets. In the kitchen, a terrazzo floor in shades of mint, white, black and rose is dominated by an enormous antique stove. Just off the kitchen is a small bar with vintage Baccarat crystal decanters and bamboo stools.
Mr. Christiansen’s home is where nearly everything the brand sells is staged and photographed, and it drives sales. It has also served as a background for Quentin Tarantino and Margot Robbie to be photographed for magazine spreads, for Billie Eilish to be interviewed by the BBC, and for Emily Weiss, the Glossier founder, 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 maybe purchase a ticket to, like a garden,” Chrissy Teigen said in a voice memo. She asked Mr. Christiansen over Instagram if she could bring her family. “We pulled up and I knocked on the gate and Richard popped out, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, wait, this is not a public entity of any kind.’”
Mr. Christiansen gave them a tour, and her kids played with the chickens. “I fully believe Richard is an angel or an alien from another planet,” Ms. Teigen said. “At the risk of sounding very L.A., he has this energy about him and this aura about him that’s really special.”
They ended up making three jams together — as in the kind of jams one spreads on scones, not the musical variety.
A Man With Many Ideas
Architects from the French firm Studio KO did the renovation of Mr. Christiansen’s home, basing some of the landscaping on hot weather gardens in Morocco. Surveying the grounds after an exceptionally cold and wet California winter, Mr. Christiansen sounded poetic: “The sage has exploded, the wisteria has purple blooms. The orchard is so joyful, it’s like it’s singing.”
There are climbing jasmine vines and a cast-concrete bathhouse with a fireplace and tiles that match the Balearic Sea. Mr. Christiansen is interested in someday creating a Flamingo Estate “temple to bathing” — inspired by the one at Flamingo Estate.
But he is a man with many ideas. Last year the company introduced $250 jars of honey culled from beehives placed in the gardens of celebrities, including Ai Weiwei and Julianne Moore.
“How wild is it that LeBron’s honey on the Westside tastes completely different from Tiffany Haddish’s in South Central,” Mr. Christiansen said. He is still negotiating who will participate next.
Ms. Moore said the process was easy. “There is a beekeeper in Montauk he contacted, and she tended the bees and collected the honey,” she said. “We continue to have the bees.”
Mr. Christiansen stood with his dogs inside the goat keeper’s shed, a space the size of a small office, full of jars with labels that read “fermented indigo” and decorated with custom hand-painted wallpaper from the British company de Gournay depicting local flora and fauna: cactuses, owls and cliff roses.
The dogs have a slightly adversarial relationship with the goats, who live in a pen with the chickens. On a stormy Sunday in February, realizing the goats were cold, Mr. Christiansen posted a call for cashmere sweaters on Instagram. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’s freezing, the poor goats,’” Mr. Christiansen said. Now the goats wear cashmere.
Mr. Christiansen stood overlooking 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 didn’t entertain. He was a kid obsessed with Chanel and Calvin Klein ads in magazines, who studied law and then went into marketing.
Flamingo Estate began as a pandemic project. After almost two decades at Chandelier Creative, the agency he founded in 2005, Mr. Christiansen, 46, was depleted emotionally and physically. The company worked with a lot of fashion brands and had offices in Los Angeles, New York and Paris.
Mr. Christiansen was living in Los Angeles. Chandelier was at a standstill in the early days of the pandemic. (He is no longer involved in the agency.) That was when he met a woman who was in danger of losing her farm because she sold food to restaurants that were closed.
He started selling her fresh produce to friends in $35 boxes. Word spread among other farmers who were eager to join. Farmers sold directly to Flamingo Estate, which paid them weekly in cash. “It was $300 that week, $600 the next week,” Mr. Christiansen said. “And you know, it just kept growing. One farm became two, became five, became 10 and now 110. We didn’t have any intention that it would become really a business.”
“At some point we shifted to a model that was more structured, asking farmers, ‘Why don’t you plant stuff specifically for us?’”
Locals like Kris Jenner can still pick up farm boxes, but that’s just one part of Flamingo Estate’s business. Sales have doubled each year, Mr. Christiansen said, noting that revenue was $10 million last year. “We are about to hit profit this next quarter,” he said.
Seventy-five percent of the customers, according to information provided by Mr. 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,” he said.
“I really do think we’ve got these two customer segments,” he continued. “We’ve got people who care a lot about the environment and about sourcing and about farming. Then I think we’ve got this customer here who’s a luxury shopper, who thinks the house is curated and likes the brand and especially the collaborations we do, and sometimes they cross over. But very rarely, actually.”
Making the Leap
The marketing side of Mr. Christiansen still burns very bright. Each Sunday he pulls the information on the top 50 customers that week and texts or calls them. “This one customer was literally our best customer over and over and over again,” he said. “And I was, like, I wonder who this is? And then I had a lovely conversation with him. And then, you know, one thing led to another. Now that customer is an investor via a family office.”
Mr. Christiansen, at first, courted individual investors for funding rather than venture capital firms. “I hate dealing with money,” he said. “I don’t even check my A.T.M. balance.”
For all that, the Flamingo Estate brand just closed a round of outside funding. It raised $7.5 million, earmarked for working capital.
“We have left the kids’ table and gone to the adults’ table,” Mr. Christiansen said.
“We spoke to some people who were green investors, and a number of them were, like, we’ll only invest in organic-certified or regenerative-certified, whatever — just very didactic about it. I said that for some small growers, getting certified organic is really difficult. It’s expensive.”
Mr. Christiansen is also open to working with large agricultural companies. “For 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’s got room to improve. In our industry there’s so much greenwashing. It makes me irate that people give themselves a pat on the back for one or two ingredients that are goodish for the world.”
This summer, Flamingo Estate is opening a pop-up in an old auto body shop in East Hampton, N.Y., the idea being to bring your body in for a summer tuneup. The gas station snack section will be called the Inconvenience Store. There are books coming out later this year, including a workbook on how to live 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 allure of Flaming Estate, the brand, even if having one’s home as a kind of living set and rotating dinner party can be annoying. Mr. Harvey, he said with a laugh, is frustrated with it: “He’s tired of making the bed.”
“Even though we’ve grown quickly, it’s still super-personal,” he said. “We make stuff that I want to use in the kitchen. I use the soap in the shower. I do all of the social myself. It’s still my kitchen, my bathroom, my dogs and my trees.”