How One L.A. Creative Changed Her Home’s “Square” Architecture Without a Reno
Plus her tips for avoiding the trend trap.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:22 AM
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When Kellie Brown moved to Los Angeles from New York City in early 2019, she considered her one-bedroom near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to be a “first-year apartment,” she says. “I wanted to have a tester year, just in case I hated living in L.A.” No surprise, she loved the city—and after 12 months in a small space, she wanted an upgrade. In a stroke of especially good real-estate luck, Brown signed a lease for the first apartment she saw, a classic mid-century, just weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ready to abandon what she refers to as the Golden Girls aesthetic of her last home, Brown brought just a few big pieces (her bed and her dining table), some smaller furniture (her nightstands and a waterfall table), and a handful of decorative items along to the new space.
“I approach texture and scale the same way I do with getting dressed.”
Tasked with furnishing an entire house at the start of the pandemic, Brown says the project gave her purpose. “It let me focus my energy on something I really love doing; it let me get creative with my space; and it felt like self-care,” she explains. Acclimated to working from home—Brown is the founder of style community And I Get Dressed—her primary challenge wasn’t adjusting to the new normal, it was sourcing furniture and decor sight unseen (she prefers shopping vintage) and coming up with creative ways for her home, which she describes as “very square,” to better reflect her distinctive aesthetic.
Create Your Own Curves
Brown describes her home as “the basic version of mid-century, without any of the cool swirls or dips or sunken living rooms.” So she found herself creating shapely details via the furniture instead. An L-shaped sofa arranged as a V against the living room wall gives the space some architecture, while a round mirror hangs above the dressers.
Don’t Go Into the Search Blind
“Knowing what you want is really important,” says Brown. She browses magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram for vintage finds and takes notes. “Instead of scrolling through Instagram for an hour before bed, I will do a quick scan of the apps I follow to make sure that no one, before they went to bed, listed Grandpa’s dresser,” she says.
If you’re looking for cool pieces from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, Brown recommends Facebook Marketplace; if you’re on the hunt for antiques, she suggests Chairish; and if you’re in the market for a true deal, OfferUp and Letgo are her go-tos. “You have to be really willing to dig,” she notes, “because it’s a lot less organized.” Another tip: Get specific with search terms. “If you are on a furniture website and you know you want a bouclé chair, you can type in ‘bouclé chair,’” she says. “But when it’s vintage, just search for ‘chair,’ or ‘upholstered chair.’ It requires you to look more, but you’re more likely to bump into the item you want.”
You Don’t Know You Like Something Until You Live With It
Carving out your own style, one that you won’t grow tired of in just a few months, involves a lot of trial and error. “In my last place, I invested in a pink sofa,” says Brown. “But I came to learn that I can’t live with it. It was stimulating me in a way that I didn’t want to be stimulated.”
She adds, “When I’m in my living room, I want it to feel serene, with pops of color. But you don’t really learn something like that until you live it.” In this apartment, her couch is a soothing white canvas for lots of greenery and an amber throw blanket.
The Outdoors vs. Indoors Debate
“My yard was the most challenging part of the home,” Brown says. Having come from Manhattan, she had never decorated an outdoor space before—and she quickly realized the decor selection left much to be desired. “Outdoor furniture all looks one way, and it’s very much not my vibe. I thought, How do I have a vintage version of this? Or if I do need to buy it new, how do I make it look the way I want it to?”
Since most of Brown’s home is postmodern (specifically classic French postmodern), the obstacle was pulling pieces that worked both stylistically and functionally. Her desk was originally meant to be the outdoor dining table, but the marble ended up getting too hot in the sun. A lighter-colored stone table took its place. For seating, Brown went through 10 different options before settling on sink-into-worthy Arhaus sofas in an easily washable Sunbrella fabric.
Let Layers Tell the Story
Marble, metal, suede…there are so many different materials in Brown’s home that, even if they are in neutrals, they still feel impactful. “I approach texture and scale the same way I do with getting dressed,” she says. “I have a pretty deep understanding of what it means to add color, proportion, and texture to elevate an outfit—especially being plus-size, where you really have to fight for style.”
The smoothness of the mirror and the lacquer dressers, juxtaposed against the rough edges of the column—that’s what makes her bedroom, for instance, interesting. “We don’t want our home to look like a showroom; we want it to look lived in and tell a story,” she explains, “and that comes from the layers.”
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