Planning This L.A. Loft’s Ceiling Paint Project Simply Required a Pencil and a Broomstick
Inside the home of a muralist.
Published Apr 21, 2022 6:00 PM
Photographer and mural artist Champagne Dubois—known on Instagram as @champagneunicorns—couldn’t believe her luck when friend Danielle Nagel of Dazey LA revealed her dreamy Los Angeles apartment was up for grabs…and asked if Dubois wanted to take over the lease. “I had been there a ton before. It’s a beautiful, large loft, with 360-degree views of Hollywood,” gushes Dubois. Add to that an earthy hug of surrounding trees, tall ceilings, and three outdoor patios. To sum it up: “It’s huge.”
At the time, Dubois and her feline friend, Pony, had been living in a cramped one-bedroom in Koreatown. It wasn’t necessarily bad, she explains, but it definitely wasn’t conducive to hosting big dinner parties, the first thing Dubois imagined doing in the new space she and two human roommates would soon be occupying.
While Dubois certainly loved the three-bedroom rental as is (Nagel has good taste, after all), she was itching to put her stamp on it—so why not start with the best way she knew how? Paint. Before personal belongings or furniture moved in, Dubois mocked up her initial ideas in Photoshop, hauled over buckets of bubblegum pinks and mint greens (the same bright hues that are a trademark of her wardrobe), and got to work.
The first space Dubois tackled was the living-slash-lounge area, with its three large, 20-foot walls (the fourth is occupied by a tiled fireplace). Where Dubois envisioned placing a sectional sofa, the trio agreed on a checkerboard motif. “Most of the time I’ll play around with different schemes digitally before getting after it in real life,” she shares, but this was a bigger undertaking—it involved math. “I didn’t want to end up cutting half the checkers off, so I measured the wall and figured out how to squeeze in 10-by-10-inch squares,” she says. A laser level helped her maintain straight lines much more than tape ever could.
On the adjacent wall, Dubois drew a half-circle around the window with a makeshift protractor (a string attached to the end of a pencil), and the result was a perfect curve. But while she is pretty precise about these things—and always when it comes to client creations—she happens to have a strong aversion to testing paint swatches. “I look at a color and just go for it,” she says, laughing, which is how she landed on the muted chartreuse for the checkerboard and the summery yellow, Dunn-Edwards’s Lightning Bug, for the half-circle.
Elsewhere, Dubois was more carefree with her mural setup. Her bedroom, for instance, is a revolving canvas—the plan is to switch it up as it strikes her fancy, experimenting and trying out new formats and silhouettes. Currently the headboard wall is a solid blush hue, but waves make up the latest recurring element throughout the home. (It’s even found in her outside studio space, where she often poses in front of squiggly wallpaper, also shades of pink, for Instagram posts and reels.)
The less linear nature of the style means numbers are eliminated from the equation. For the dining room ceiling, Dubois simply taped a pencil to the end of a broomstick, eyeballing the rings and nailing it in one go. The doorframe’s scalloped edges? She traced a mixing bowl. Her strongest advice: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t take it too seriously. “You can always go back over it,” she says.
Paint isn’t limited to the walls—Dubois grabs a brush to revitalize all sorts of thrifted furniture finds, like the grand piano found on Craigslist for $100 and a bar cabinet that had been left at the curb. Even the doors to each space sport different shades. “When guests are over, it’s easy to direct them to the bathroom,” she notes. “Just use the orange door.”
But Dubois makes sure her artwork doesn’t grab all the attention through statement-making choices like the wall sconces by Mitzi or the funky layered rug that is likely to become Pony’s favorite scratch post. In fact, more often than not, the conversation starters are the U-shaped bench or custom tiled tables her carpenter boyfriend, Tyler Cancro, made by hand. Still, the whole design experience, which she thought would take months but took closer to a year, has been freeing. “I get to do whatever I want and no one is telling me, ‘No, be a little less extra,’” she says, smiling.