I think this was one of my favorite projects to date because the transformation was SO dramatic and so satisfying. The raw potential of the space was amazing, with an abundance of natural light flooding through the vintage floor-to-ceiling steel factory windows, high ceilings, big concrete pillars belying the industrial history of the building (it used to be an elevator factory), and a beautiful concrete troweled accent wall.
It all started with the sofa. Long before asking me to decorate her whole space my client came to me (referred by a mutual friend) to order just a sofa (this was pre Clad Home days, so now you can order from us online or come into our store in LA.) We designed and made this beautiful teal blue mid-century number for her, which she enjoyed for a couple of years before deciding to tackle the the rest of the decorating project together (you can read more about my architect client and our work together in the feature that Domaine ran on us.)
I know it's kind of a grainy photo, but the comparison between these two images does a lot to demonstrate that although you can have some great pieces, it doesn't automatically mean you'll have a cohesive, pulled-together, well-decorated space. What's going on below isn't awful by any means, but it's lacking in character for sure.
Obviously the upsides of this loft were many and varied. The problems were many and varied too. The walls were painted in a really saturated turquoise color that was absorbing all the light instead of bouncing it around the space. The furniture was a matching set made in dark espresso wood and was way too small for the scale of the loft (if you take away one pearl of wisdom from this post please never buy matchy-matchy furniture sets, there's no better way to make a room incredibly boring.)
Here are the before photos ...
Guess what season it was? Boo. Here we have very busy chevron pattern curtains (and a cute little boy who sometime comes to work with mama, especially when the clients are as cool as this one :)
But that sublime light reflecting off the concrete wall in the dining room! That's what really got my heart going. I saw how amazing this loft was going to be.
My client went for repainting the walls right away. It's kind of surprising how many clients balk at painting, which you'd think would be one of the easiest changes we could suggest! But often they've just moved into a freshly painted space, or they recently repainted it themselves and don't want to deal with it again. And I get that ... painting is a pain in the ass. But sticking with walls the wrong color out of convenience, when you're about to spend a bundle on new furniture and decor, isn't the right move either. You want the shell of your space to be working with you from the get go, not against you.
Putting white paint on the walls transformed everything immediately. Such a relief. I thought the industrial vibe of the loft was a perfect opportunity for one of those plumbing pipe shelving units, plus just about anything we could have bought ready made would have been too small for the space. This way we got to activate all that vertical space afforded by the high ceilings.
We also designed a media credenza and bar cabinet in warm walnut wood tones to counterbalance the very dark wood floors and tie in with the mid-century vibe of the sofa. I love the creative process of seeing my furniture dreams go from a rough sketch like this ...
To this ...
Then to this ...
And this ...
Delivery and install day is when we get to see it all come together, and it's like Christmas morning every time.
And just about as messy ...
When I'm styling bookshelves I first layer it ALL on, and then I start to subtract. So the progression looks something like this ...
OK, that last shot is a ridiculously overfilled bookshelf. It does not look good ... don't aim for that.
My confession to you is that my big weakness when it comes to styling is the editing process! When I've just spent weeks and months amassing all these beautiful objects for a project I get a little attached and can lose sight of what needs to stay and what's really not working. I have to be ruthless with myself.
This is what I ended up with ...
I'd say that shelf might even still be a little full for some peoples' tastes, but apparently not for mine (or for my client's, happily.) And the vignettes are really pretty!
The gallery wall was another way that we activated all the vertical space, plus used art to distract the eye from the tv screen which is always a favorite trick!
In this case the black and white art helps to balance out the visual mass of all the black steel window muntins (your new word of the day.)
I don't generally design with a lot of black, but the masculine architectural elements here meant that this space could take it.
And that floor lamp! You guys know that I've long been obsessed with Serge Mouille lighting, and although this is a reproduction, it's just looks stunning in here. I love it. (Sources below, as always.)
The leather chair was a vintage score (I gave a rundown of my favorite vintage shopping haunts in LA here.) It's not a real deal Eames lounger, but it was made in the same era and is really high quality and nice. Being 50+ years old it had some nicks and scratches which we embraced because it makes the room look even more interesting. Perfection is boring, get over it.
On the other side of the room is the dining space, and my favorite troweled concrete wall! With an open floor plan it can be tricky finding ceiling fixtures that flows visually with the rest of the lighting in the space, but I think our understated but unique brass chandelier by Park Studio (we carry their lighting in our store and it's amazing...you've got to come see it in person) does this dance perfectly.
Ahhh the bar cabinet. Hard to go wrong with such a thing.
In the remaining corner of the loft we tucked a little reading nook where the chair and task lamp are the only vestiges of my client's previous belongings. In this shot you can also see a bit of the (ultra affordable) tribal motif wool rug that I wrote about here. It's back in stock now after having disappeared for awhile so if you're in the market, I'd say get on it!
I particularly love the black and white print of the cactus collection at Huntington Gardens and how it mirrors the steel windows opposite it. The artist, local photographer Laure Joliet, sells a few limited prints like this one on her site for pennies I tell you! It's printed on thin bond paper and is meant to be casual, so we thumb tacked it to the wall and it totally animates that entire corner of the room.
Melanie (assisant extraordinaire who does so much of the work and gets so little of the credit) and I felt that the wood legs of the little accent table needed to stand out better against the dark wood floor so we taped and spray painted them and in 5 minutes we had our solution. Never be afraid to go for a little DIY like that ... makes a big difference!
The "before & after" montages are just so satisfying ...
SOFA Clad Home
BAR CABINET Clad Home
MEDIA CABINET Clad Home
DINING LIGHT FIXTURE Park Studio at www.cladhome.com
TURQUOISE LAMPS Urban Outfitters (no longer available but they have something similar)
BLACK MANTIS FLOOR LAMP Overstock.com
BLACK & WHITE CACTUS PHOTO Laure Joliet
FAUX TAXIDERMY Home GoodsAZTEC SOFA PILLOWS Etsy
BULLET PLANT STAND Hip Haven
BULLET PLANT STAND Hip Haven
ROUND MIRROR CB2
DIPPED LEG SIDE TABLE Target (but DIY dipped)
CONCRETE COFFEE TABLE CB2
FRAMED CIRCLE PRINTS Urban Outfitters
BLACK LEATHER CHAIR Vintage
PIPE SHELVING UNIT custom Rosa Beltran Design
DINING TABLE West Elm
DINING CHAIRS Amazon
ELEPHANT WALL ART Z Gallerie
COWHIDE RUG that kind of crazy guy on La Brea Avenue
GOLD STRIPED DECANTER Crate & Barrel
A big giant thanks goes out to my sweetie, my photographer Marc Royce, who unerringly drops all his stuff on our shoot days to help me out in a big big way.