A Minimalist Los Angeles Home Where Quiet Is Key
Designer and champion of local craft Rachel Craven has created a peaceful family haven ﬁlled with treasures made by friends.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:54 AM
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Rachel Craven doesn’t love the word restraint. It feels too uptight. Minimal and spare are too cold. Describing her house (and her way of living) as pared down implies that there’s something sacriﬁced or missing, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I like to call it quiet,” Craven says, standing barefoot in the peaceful living room of her 1940s modern home, which is a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles and surrounded by oak and eucalyptus trees. “The world is so full of noise. Here, I think it’s important to just embrace the quiet.”
Craven, the designer of a small but growing collection of natural-ﬁber tunics and separates and the cofounder of the popular biannual Echo Park Craft Fair (as well as a contributing editor at Domino), also has two boys with her husband, writer and director Jonathan Craven. Quiet, as you can imagine, is a rare commodity in her world.
Six months ago, the family pulled up their deep roots in Echo Park, a bustling and crowded creative enclave, and moved. The reason for their exodus was simple: They needed space for their growing sons, and Craven wanted room for her studio at the house, so she could juggle the demands of working parenthood with less driving. Their new neighborhood, Chevy Chase Canyon, is about 10 exits away from their old stomping ground, but the energy is completely different.
[On Craven: Velvet Caftan and Linen Pants, Rachel Craven.]
The child of two artists, Craven was excited to have space to incorporate more of the beautiful pieces she has acquired from friends and family over the years. She inherited her parents’ painterly skill for color and proportion, and their work is prominently displayed—her father’s paintings hang on the walls, and her mother’s ceramics, which she custom-made for the house, ﬁll the built-in shelves.
Other standouts include pottery lamps by Victoria Morris, modern Bari Ziperstein planters, and Lily Stockman’s Block Shop textiles. “There was a lot of bartering that went on to furnish this house,” says Craven. “My friend and Craft Fair partner, Beatrice Valenzuela, wanted a new coat, so I traded her for her husband Ramsey Conder’s hooks. [Painter] Louise Bonnet wanted a dress, so I got one of her husband Adam’s [Silverman] pots. We have a great community of artisans and makers. We all talk. We pick one another’s kids up from school.”
The ﬁrst thing the Cravens did to turn down the volume of their home—which they purchased from two painters, who used the garage that is Craven’s peaceful showroom as a studio—was to create a neutral canvas. The couple painted the exterior olive green to blend in with the surrounding landscape, stripped back the carpet to reveal wood ﬂoors, and brightened up thedark wood paneling
and interiors with a few coats ofwhite paint
The kitchen was gutted and replaced with Northern European–inspired simple cabinetry, stainless appliances, and open shelves, which is where discipline really pays off. Everything superﬂuous was donated or sold, and the kitchen is stocked with only things that are both beautiful and functional.
Then Craven assembled a collection of handmade furnishings and some custom-made pieces, like Conder’s sculptural lighting and Douglas ﬁr bunk beds in the boys’ room made by her former studio-mate, artist John Williams. The resulting space feels like a cozy, well-curated gallery where you would want to linger with a cup of tea.
“Everything in my house is either a mid-century piece I’ve been searching for, a vintage ﬁnd from local stores like Amsterdam Modern, or made by hand here in Los Angeles,” says Craven.
It speaks to a thriving culture of artists and makers in LA, many of whom the designer has introduced to one another through the craft fair, and all of whom are invested in creating beautiful, functional things that suit the West Coast lifestyle. “The way I see it is that you have a certain amount of space, and you can live simply within that space,” Craven says. Sound advice, indeed.
5 Ways To Cultivate Quiet
Use color sparingly
Aside from a stained-glass window near the front door and the blue-gray Farrow & Ball paint, Craven keeps the palette earthy and subdued, focusing instead on interesting textures.
Seek out handmade goods
Scan local message boards for studio sales, and search Etsy for artisans in your area who make beautiful furnishings
and housewares. Try inquiring at local galleries or art schools. Many of the US-based makers also ship nationwide.
Because the Cravens’ house is shielded from the neighbors by foliage, there’s no need for window treatments. The greenery outside becomes a part of the view inside.
Imposing guidelines with what Craven puts in her house—only things that are handmade or vintage, for example—may seem restrictive, but it’s actually freeing. Think of all the time saved by not scouring the Internet for stuff. Contain electronics Craven keeps her sons’ bedroom free of technology and screens, which can produce mental and physical clutter, housing them instead in the TV room. “They have more space and time to create and think,” she says.
[In this image: A thoughtful curation on the kitchen shelves. Carved Angle Vase, Victoria Morris Pottery, $240; Reversibility of Time, Linda Francis; Black Creek Mercantile Serving Board, Nickey Kehoe, $175; Mug, Edith Gwathmey, $60; Study, Douglas Anderson; Plywood Clock by Lemnos, AC Gears, $99; Ikebana Bird Bowl, Knotwork LA, $64; Dinner Plate, Edith Gwathmey, $150; Polka Dot Bird Pitcher, Knotwork LA, $220.]
[In this image: In the boys’ room, the blue-gray walls and ample storage create a calming space. Table Lamp Model 9AD, Noguchi, $350.]
Shop Craven’s look:
3 Arm Light, Ramsey Conder, $1,200 Huntington Print, Laure Joliet, $45 Nancy Pearce for Commune Large Bronze Bowl, Commune, $800 Collins Backless Counter Stool, Serena and Lily, $798 Cubic Pyrite, Place 8 Healing, $320 Golda Sphere Soap, Studio Cuela, $18 Hongo Stool #1, Liza Reyes, $500 New Zealand Sheepskin Rug, Forsyth, $145 XXL Raw Terracotta Hex Planter, BZippy and Co., $3,000
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue under the headline A Quiet Confidence.