If there’s one thing Scooter Braun is known for, it’s his ability to spot potential. After all, this is the man who discovered Bieber, back when Justin was just a shaggy-haired, small-town tween whose mother had posted a couple-dozen clips of him singing R&B covers to YouTube. (Scooter seems to have found his wife, Yael Cohen Braun, in much the same way: “I saw [a video of] her TEDx talk,” he reports, referring to a speech she gave in 2010 about her nonprofit, F*** Cancer, “and I just really wanted to meet her.”)
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Scooter—a mega talent manager and record-label boss whose other clients include Ariana Grande, Karlie Kloss, and Kanye West—instantly perceived the potential beauty of the couple’s Montecito, California, house, despite its dark, old-fashioned interiors and somewhat neglected grounds . . . though he and Yael weren’t, at that moment in early 2014, even in the market for a new home.
While they were visiting Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, their hosts kept talking up Montecito and pushing Braun and Cohen to spend more time there. “We were like, ‘We’re not going to buy a house.’ We weren’t even married yet!” Scooter recalls. “Then they took us out to lunch, and when we got back to their house afterward, there was a broker waiting for us. We said, ‘This is ridiculous! We’re not doing this.’”
But the pair, whose primary residence is roughly 90 miles south, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, nevertheless agreed to check out a few properties in the charming, celebrity-friendly enclave. “We saw two places, and we weren’t interested,” Scooter says, “and then this was the third. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, between all those trees, we kind of instantly knew that we were going to buy it.” (“It’s 100 years of growth on five acres,” he enthuses, later in the conversation. “You just don’t see that!”) He and Yael were especially taken with the butterfly-shaped rose garden. “We were like, Let’s get married here. We had no idea we had a two-year project on our hands.”
“Once you’re in, you realize how many things in an old house need a little love and attention.”
Of course, the house had plenty going for it. A six-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot Arts and Crafts structure (with a separate guesthouse) originally built in 1916 by the renowned Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck, it had, as Yael says, “fantastic bones.” But it was also “kind of a gingerbread color, inside and out,” which didn’t exactly suit the couple’s style. “We thought we’d update the kitchen and the bathrooms, and paint a little bit,” she says. Instead, with the help of the architect Marc Appleton and the mother-son interior-design team Kathleen and Tommy Clements, they “ended up painting every inch, redoing the lighting, the roof. Once you’re in,” Yael says, “you realize how many things in an old house need a little love and attention.”
Still, everyone involved was working with the same goal in mind: to brighten and modernize the home without losing any of the historic details that make it so special, like the century-old damask panels that decorate the living-room ceiling. At first, Scooter and Yael weren’t sure they wanted to keep them. But once everything else was painted white, they came around to Tommy’s assertion that they’re “a beautiful nod to what was originally happening in the house.” Once the interior work was done, Yael, Kathleen, and Tommy chose a combination of antique, vintage, and ultramodern furnishings to further the conversation between old and new.
Scooter, Yael, and their son Jagger, now three, moved in around August 2015, just as their architect was ramping up the second phase of the project. “The landscaping was a little bit disheveled,” Appleton explains. “We wanted to give the house a setting that was worthy of it.” The work was extensive: In addition to redoing the rose garden, the lawns, and several stone terraces, they built a poolhouse, “separate from the main house but designed in the same materials.”
“We wanted a place where we could use every inch of the outdoors,” Scooter says, and there’s no denying they’ve got it: In addition to more-expected features like the outdoor living and dining areas, they’ve installed alfresco gaming tables and not one but two fire pits.
“I’m obsessed with fire pits,” Scooter says, “and that’s because some of the best concerts I’ve been to in my life have been around them. I can’t tell you how many times our friends have sat down to sing and play at the piano in the living room, but the real fun happens around the fire pits. We literally sit around and jam. And we are fortunate enough,” he adds slyly, “to know a couple of people who can really sing.”
Scooter’s love of music—and his massive success in the industry—made the purchase of the house possible. But he gives Yael all the credit for its transformation. Because of her, he says, “I live in homes I don’t deserve to live in. I’m a guy who was super-excited when I bought my first futon, and she has a sense of taste that’s really astounding. I kind of just get out of the way and say thank you.”