After living in New York City for 55 years, Betsey Johnson says, she woke up one freezing-cold morning and said, “I’m out of here.”
The 75-year-old fashion designer packed up her belongings, sold her apartment and her second home in East Hampton and headed west. She found a community of some 270 mobile homes tucked away on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and bought one that she now calls Malibu Betsey.
“It had to be pink,” says Johnson, who spent more than $500,000 transforming it into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom sanctuary that includes a room for her daughter Lulu’s children—Layla, 13, and Ella, 10—who also live in Malibu and often come to visit.
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“Lulu and I are a mother-daughter combo from birth,” she says. “She’s lived in my loft. She’s lived in my apartment. Her kids like to play dress-up in my closet.”
Although Johnson greets the occasional visitor with a wide smile and a glass of white wine, she admits that she does not like to throw a party.
“I’m not a shopper, a preparer, a cooker, a cleaner-upper,” she says. “A rare boyfriend may come over, but I get terrified of entertaining. To me, my house is the entertainment.”
Throughout, tables and shelves overflow with antiques, tchotchkes and vintage portraits from a lifetime of collecting. The floor is covered with colorful rugs.
“I would like people to think of this as a funny little museum. The decor replaces the good meal,” she says. “I can’t cook.”
She also showed off her fully-functioning outdoor tub, which she bathes in as often as she can. “I will use it when it gets a little warmer,” Johnson says. “I hate showers.”
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Johnson, whose fashion line is turning 40 this year—she still spends much of her time designing at her kitchen table—insists that she has never had regrets about something she’s purchased and “constantly” makes trips to antique shops.
“I’m in heaven just looking at these things I’ve never seen before,” she says. “I’ve made lots of mistakes with boyfriends and husbands. I don’t think I’ve made more than two mistakes with my houses, purchases for my houses or the clothes in my closet.”
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