In the living room of Irene Neuwirth’s house on the Venice Canals in Los Angeles, the custom sectional is covered in a Schumacher floral, and the cocktail table is by Yves Klein. The pendant is by Lindsey Adelman, the Lobmeyr sconce is antique, and the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Atrium White. The large painting is by Neuwirth’s mother, Geraldine.

On a recent Wednesday night, jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth was sitting by the fire in her newly remodeled house on the Venice Canals. She was barefoot, wearing an elegant dress by Co and an opal heart necklace she designed that everyone covets. The table was set with French ceramics, candles were burning, and dinner was already prepared.

When the for sale sign went up, my obsession went into overdrive.

It all looked completely effortless, which is what real effort looks like. Guests were due to arrive in a few minutes, but she was calm, sipping Casa Dragones tequila and talking about her vintage fabrics and her obsession with the home in which she lives. “My mom moved to the Canals when I was 12. It’s home for me. I rented a place down the block, and every night, I walked [my dog] Teddy by this house and daydreamed about what my life would look like if I lived in it. I would peer through the tall vines and see the couple eating dinner—super-crazy, I know!

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In the backyard, Arne Jacobsen wicker chairs from Sika Design and a side table from JF Chen; custom fireplace screen, Studio Forge.

That night, I walked Teddy past the house, and while I was peeking through the windows, he got off his leash and chased their cat into the neighbors’ yard. I thought my chances were over. But luckily for me, when I put my mind to something, it’s pretty hard to tell me no.” And that, in a nutshell, is my dear friend Irene.

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Neuwirth wearing Johanna Ortiz and her own jewelry in her dressing room. The island is fitted with brass pulls by Liz’s Antique Hardware; wallpaper, Lee Jofa.
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In thinking about how to describe Irene’s aesthetic—the powerful yet deeply cozy way she accumulates and arranges objects—the first word that came to me was collage. A collage of influences, from the vibrant abstraction of her painter mother Geraldine Neuwirth’s work to the domineering wackiness of 1970s textile designs. And also a collage of time periods, from the classical Art Deco and Victorian shapes that populate her jewelry to the contemporary artistic sensibility of the Venice Beach area.

While jewelry designer can sometimes feel like the latest trendy job (what documentary filmmaker was 10 years ago, and what doula is now to a certain sect), Irene has been honing her craft for the past 20 years. And she has come quite far from the vintage bead-and-hemp necklace she first made while experimenting with jewelry, though in some ways, that bohemian vibe has remained.

Now she creates gorgeous, often one-of-a-kind pieces that use fine gems in an unexpected way: There may be a rare ruby or emeralds instead of vintage beads, and gold instead of hemp, but the looks are still as wearable with a caftan as they are with an Oscar gown. “It starts with color, always color,” she says about creating pieces that are recognizable before you even notice the celebrity wearing them.

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Neuwirth’s jewelry is draped on an Olympia Le-Tan book clutch.
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It was fitting that two years ago, Irene’s Christmas gift to all her friends and clients was candy shaped like brightly colored gems, since there’s something practically edible about the jewelry she designs. Walk into her elegant Melrose Place store, designed by Pamela Shamshiri, and you’ll see it’s still 100 percent Irene in the use of color and, of course, animals (a hippo planter stands guard near the jewelry, while dioramas of exotic birds and other creatures, made by Clare Crespo, are dripping with Irene’s creations). Or pass her counter at Barneys New York—you’ll want to devour it all.

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In the kitchen, an 1890s farm table is framed by vintage French chairs from Obsolete. The stove and hood are by Wolf, the counters are soapstone, and the Hans Verstuyft pendants are from Plug Lighting.

The look of Irene’s work owes as much of a debt to hippie girls in VW bugs as it does to Elizabeth Taylor’s oversize gem collection, and this range of disparate influences is what makes the pieces impossible to mistake or ignore. This same collage aesthetic is also the organizing principle behind Irene’s home—which was a collaboration between the designer and her close friend Sarah Shetter—and the mix of people she invites over. It’s by no means unusual to find vintage fashion dealers rubbing elbows with rocket scientists and comedians, and Irene’s loving touch makes this feel like the most natural thing in the world.

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A vintage Philip Arctander clam chair and a Stahl+Band side table in the living room.

She collects people like she does her rare artifacts. She might meet new friends on a wild trip to Italy and transport them back for some Stateside fun. She might include her best friend from elementary school. She is the two things that make a wonderful friend: generous of heart and loyal as hell. She’s hard to resist.

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A tableau on a kitchen counter.

“It makes me anxious if it’s not a good group of people together,” says Irene, a favorite designer of Reese Witherspoon, January Jones, and Gwyneth Paltrow. “I put extra time and thought into it.” Like everything she pursues, there’s an element of obsession in Irene’s decor. Just as she finds the perfect obscure German artist to carve semiprecious rabbits for her cameo-style necklaces and charm bracelets, she scours the world for the wicker chair of her dreams, or the vintage fabric that will make a room pop without robbing it of its homey neutrality. Even the house itself was an object of obsession before she made it her own.

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In a guest bedroom, a Meredith Metcalf lamp rests on a vintage nightstand; the artwork is a hippo drawn by Neu­wirth when she was seven.

What’s her ultimate influence? Well, it starts with the aforementioned mother. “Friends always look at my mom’s artwork and say they see my jewelry in it,” Irene says. “I think it’s our similar combination of colors and bold shapes. There is something free and wild yet balanced about her art.”

The same could be said of Irene’s pieces, which mix bulk with delicacy, organic shapes with geometry, and aggressive color with muted burnished stones.

It’s also pretty refreshing to hear Irene name her second major influence: herself. Given how women have historically been encouraged to act positively self-flagellating about what they do, it’s a joy to hear Irene describe the way her creative vision permeates every aspect of her life: “I think everything that I do—my house, my studio, my store, my car, my bedroom—always feels like ‘Meet the Jewelry.’ ”

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Neuwirth, in a dress by Co, cuddles her dog, Teddy, as friends—(from left) decorator Sarah Shetter, dressed in Giambattista Valli, Co designer Justin Kern, and actress January Jones in Paper—gather in the living room.