All Crescent Manor photos ©Roniit
Estonian singer Kerli is a fabricator, a maker of material reality: not just of the vibrations of sound but also of space. Obsessed with creating “spaces,” Kerli has become a conjurer. From her hands and vision flow moon temples and confession thrones in forests, hip occult palaces in Los Angeles. Each space is its own distinct world, and each of these worlds expresses creative energy in a different way, like planets in a zodiac zooming around Kerli’s visionary central sun.
Kerli regards her designs as on the same continuum with her music. For her, there’s no significant distinction between creativity manifesting as a song or as a temple, as a room. “You envision it and then you make it,” she says. “All of these things are vibrations. These are the vibrations I create.”
One of Kerli’s latest conjurations is Crescent Manor, a magical retreat she shares with its owner Roniit, an electro-pop artist and self-identified “California mountain witch.”
Located in the San Bernadino Mountains, the house, built in 1957, carries a local notoriety. Kerli isn’t the first to call this structure, with its hand-carved Gothic fairy-tale arches, stained-glass front door, iron chandelier, and slate courtyard, a “witch house.” The house “has a lot of weird stories,” she says. A previous resident died in it of gas poisoning. And, Kerli continues, “there are random witches whom Roniit has met who are like, ‘We’ve cleansed that house’”—a statement that implies the house has invited multiple cleansings.
The interior of Crescent Manor is neo-Victorian, cool and sleek with ink-sketch edges, a combination of chessboard and Tenniel illustration. In the dining room lives a unicorn who has leaped free of his carousel. Mirrors in the shape of ovals and lozenges send light scintillating from almost every surface. Wallpaper of black and white birches leads up the stairs to a “celestial room” with a gold canopy bed and black ceiling adorned with gold stars. Or one can travel down to the “dungeon,” the master suite, through an all-red corridor that Kerli painted herself, brushstroke by brushstroke.
In fact, everything in Crescent Manor—every surface, every single piece of furniture—was fabricated, reclaimed, repurposed, or painted by Kerli or Roniit, which means that when you place your hand on the wall of the red hallway, you can know assuredly it was Kerli who left the red there. The two friends designed and decorated the entire house without outsourcing to contractors, a dedication that gives Crescent Manor a potent, creative momentum conducive to its purpose as a place to make art. “It’s really nice when you do something yourself,” attests Kerli, “because every time you do a wall, for example, you will get a whole other idea about something you want to do in another part of the house.”
That do-it-yourself ethic has yet another benefit: It lessens the impact on the environment. Almost every furnishing in Crescent Manor is made of materials reclaimed from the local dump, repurposed and transmogrified through paint and sculptural elements. So while still keeping its sleek aesthetic, the manor has a sustainable ethic consistent with Kerli’s loving bond to the natural world and its forests.
However, Crescent Manor is surrounded by entirely different forests than those of Kerli’s native Estonia: pine, cedar, and oak that are endemic to Southern California. So how does she soften the transition to this different biome? By identifying with the nature spirits, of course! “I really like the mountain spirits,” she says. “Mountains are my favorite things. And I love the desert: It’s very clean, almost the opposite of the North Pole. It’s the opposite of a snowy, clean landscape—it’s equally clean, but with heat. So I really like that energy.”
California’s climate adds an out-of-time quality to the manor, which looks like something out of Europe, yet the seasons don’t behave. “When I’m in Estonia in the winter,” explains Kerli, “it’s like nothing is supporting. When you live in that kind of climate, it’s like you need to live with the nature. You slow down and you sleep more and you do less. I was sitting with an old shaman man in Estonia, and he told me that in the summer, when there’s only about one hour of darkness, he doesn’t sleep. Then in the winter, he sleeps. In California, you can trick your inner cycles a little bit because the sun is out every day. It’s always warm, and there’s always energy coming from outside.”
Time and space, forests and interiors: The witchy force field swirling around Crescent Manor has made it a destination spot for artists, who are drawn to it as a site for photo shoots and music videos. But anyone can avail themselves of the manor’s charms: It’s an Airbnb, and you can even rent the whole house for $250 a night when Kerli and Roniit are afield.
Perhaps the intentions of the two friends have rearranged the vibrations of the house, settling and placating it, putting its eeriness to good use by giving it a job as a sanctuary for unorthodox artists who like to create out of a darker energy. It is an inspiration to others to look for the potential in cast-off materials and the creativity within themselves.
“Your home is your art piece,” says Kerli. “It can be an extension of who you are.”