Lauren Conrad looks up at the waiter. “Is the turkey panini delicious?” she asks. He shakes his head no, and her face falls. “What is…better than delicious?” he asks. “Oh!” she says, thrilled. “Then I must have it!”

We’ve met for lunch in Topanga Canyon, a vestige of wild Los Angeles, both in terms of the animals that roam the hills and the locals. The restaurant sits alongside a babbling stream, and our waiter—who proves to be, how should I put this, a bit eccentric—says that if we’re lucky, we might see deer, mountain lions, rabbits, even a reptile or two.

“I caught a rattlesnake,” he says, depositing a bread basket on the table. “I took it home, skinned it, and now it’s drying!” I glance at Lauren, fully expecting her to be horrified by the place I’ve brought her. Instead, she launches into her own snake story. “We’re actually de-rattlesnaking my house right now. My husband keeps saying we should get a mongoose, but I’m like one, they’re illegal, and two, then we’d just have a mongoose problem.” Her eyes go wide. “We’d be all pressed up against the window, like, ‘Oh my god, where is it?’”

Let’s back up a second. Lauren Conrad—she, who at 18 made her grand entrance into the public eye in the postcard-worthy scenes of Laguna Beach followed by the drama of The Hills, who oversees the Pinterest-perfect TheLittleMarket
.com and LaurenConrad
.com and is responsible for two beyond-feminine fashion lines—Paper Crown and LC Lauren Conrad for Kohl’s (which included a collab with none other than Minnie Mouse)—is tackling rattlesnakes? The image of it stands in stark contrast to her 4-million-follower-strong Instagram packed with flowers, food, and all the pretty things…often cast in a light pink hue. But then as a legit lifestyle guru in a sea of celeb wannabes (see her books Lauren Conrad Style and Lauren Conrad Beauty—her ninth, Lauren Conrad Celebrate, will be published next year), why shouldn’t she take on pest control? If anyone can make it look pretty, it’s this woman.

Our lunch is a welcome break from Lauren’s move into her new $4.5 million, mongoose-free home in the Pacific Palisades, where she lives with her husband of a year, musician and lawyer William Tell. Of her Rag & Bone top and jeans, she says she’s “wearing what I could find out of boxes.” Still, she looks every inch the style icon and fashion insider—a move that’s been deliberate. “Television was just sort of an accident,” she says. “I never felt really strongly about it. But fashion is something I feel passionate about. If I hadn’t done TV, I still would have ended up in the [fashion] industry, but I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I am now. I saw myself having a line and growing it as big as I could, but I don’t think I ever imagined having anything the size of my Kohl’s line.” The collection, which spans from apparel to bedding, is sold in more than 1,200 stores and online. 

On September 9, she’ll unveil a limited-edition LC Lauren Conrad Runway Collection in her first-ever runway show for the brand. “I love fashion shows, and five years after the launch, it’s fun to make a splash again.” The show and capsule collection will be a souped-up version of classic Conrad: feminine, whimsical, hints of boho, generous sprinkling of romance. There will be real flowers, paper flowers, scallops, ruffles, lace, and rose gold throughout. “I learned early on that it’s very important to trust your gut, because that is what is going to feel honest,” she says. “I’ve just always liked girlie things, simply put. That’s what makes me happy.”

Adored though Lauren’s buttercream-and-peonies style may be, edgy it is not. “I just prefer a feminine twist,” she explains. “I can’t do a Birkenstock or a heavy boot. I can’t even do a boyfriend jean. I tried to buy a pair recently. I was like, ‘I’m just going to do it. Everyone looks so cool in these.’ I was showing my husband, and he’s like, ‘It just looks like you’re having a rough month and trying to hide it.’” Far from offended, she agreed.

Therein lies Lauren’s enduring appeal: She just is who she is, even if that is—as she’s been called before—a little basic. “I probably am pretty basic,” she says, “but I’m also a pretty happy person, so that’s okay with me.”

Part of that happiness springs from said husband, William Tell, who she met in 2013. “A mutual friend set us up,” she recalls. “We were all going to a big dinner on Valentine’s Day, and I told her she could bring him. I had no idea what I was going to get.” What she got was The One. “I never felt like I was compromising with him in any part of my life,” she says of how she knew. “Things were really easy with him—and not in a boring way, in an everything-falling-into-place kind of way. I spent the first year of our relationship waiting for the other shoe to drop, like it might not actually be this good?” 

If the first year of marriage is supposed to be rocky, Lauren hasn’t noticed. “It’s funny, everyone is like, ‘Is it different?’ I feel like I’m disappointing them. The only difference is, there is more of a sense of family. You solidified the fact that you are partners in life.” The only other difference has less to do with them and everything to do with other people. “The second you get married, people think it’s okay to ask you if you’re pregnant!” she says. “It’s kind of a rude question—I would never ask one of my friends if she was pregnant.” To clarify…she is not: “I mean, we’re still very new, and we’re very content.”

The couple plays to each other's strengths. “He’s much more organized than me,” she says. “He knows how to fix everything, which is crazy to me because I can’t even work our remote. I just push all the buttons and hit it. But he’ll organize my computer and be like, ‘I updated your software.’” She swoons. “I’m like ‘I have the most romantic husband in the world. I didn’t even ask you to do that!’ It’s nice to be taken care of sometimes—not in a dependent way but just doing nice things for each other without being asked.”

When The Hills wrapped, Lauren swore off the medium that made her famous and is all the more stable for it. Others, not so much. Earlier this year, Lauren’s former best frenemy forever and Hills costar Heidi Montag proclaimed on We TV’s Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars that she forgave Lauren for “trying to ruin my life.” I ask her if she has any thoughts.

“No,” she says definitively, dabbing her mouth with a lilac-hued napkin, an Instagram-worthy background for her slate blue nails. After a contemplative minute, she adds, “I’m not really involved in that anymore. I don’t think it has anything to do with me. You just have to focus on the good people in your life. Focusing on what you lose is only going to make you sad.”

In other Hills news, her former (and reportedly fake) flame Brody Jenner now has his own sex- and dating-advice show. “My husband told me [about it]. I didn’t know!” she says. “People say ‘How do you not know these things?’ and I’m like—” she throws up her hands and shrugs. So she hasn’t seen the show, clearly, but does she think that Jenner will dole out good advice? “He has a lot of experience…so sure,” she says, “depending on what kind of advice you want.”

Lauren may have lost touch with Brody, but she sees other cast members on a more regular, if still infrequent, basis. She and Stephanie Pratt (Heidi’s sister-in-law) went hiking just the day before, and she and Lo Bosworth, who was one of her bridesmaids, hang whenever they can. As for Stephen Colletti, who many LB fans hoped would be LC’s one true love, they’re still friends. “I just saw him!” she says. “I don’t see him as much as I used to, but we’ve known each other since we were young, so [dating] was a blip in a long friendship.”

But she’s not categorically friendly, or so generous, with all her exes. “I always had fun with dating. Some I’m still friends with, some I don’t talk to. I think the goal should be to remain friends, but sometimes it’s too difficult to do so.”

I ask her if she ever goes back and watches the show—you know, for old time’s sake. She laughs. “No! I lived it. I got it. I know.” Still, she’s not bitter about the fact that it made her a household name. “When I did television, scandal was always around me. And I think one of the best things [about that] for me is that your life becomes more big picture. You have to develop a thick skin really quickly. It toughened me up, which is good.”

With her days of shitty friends and sketchy guys far behind her, she can relax a bit. “I’m at a point in my life when I’m not making a lot of new relationships," she says. "Everyone in my life, I love and trust. I’ve worked really hard throughout my 20s, so I’m hoping to slow down a little in my 30s. I think your 20s are about figuring out who you are and finding yourself. There is this really nice stability in your 30s, or at least that’s what I’m hoping for.”

She’ll turn 30 in February, “which is weird,” she says, but she’s not one to obsess over the future. “I stopped playing that game, because I kept getting it very wrong.” For now, she’s just trying to get through this move. We haven’t seen any wildlife yet, but we haven’t really been looking. She’s going to take the second half of her sandwich to go, excited about unpacking a snack. “My girlfriend came over, and it was her first time seeing the house. She was like, ‘Oh my god, you grew up! You’re an adult now!’” Conrad says as she puts the panini in a box. “I was like, shh, don’t tell.”