Photography by Natasha Lee

Published on November 22, 2020

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When Los Angeles–based writer Camilla Blackett had the opportunity to design a kitchen that was just for her, she didn’t settle for any ordinary, off-the-shelf hues. The cabinets are Celine pink (Blackett got a sample from the designer store and had the shade color-matched by Benjamin Moore), while the emerald tiles were inspired by a photo she took of a courtyard at El Fenn, a hotel in Marrakech. “I sent it to my designer, Thayna Alves, and she texted back “Yessss, backsplash!”

Blackett had a good reason for going big on color: This kitchen (er, kitchenette) isn’t in the main house she shares with her husband, who prefers a much more streamlined aesthetic; the space is in a separate building on their property that was previously the garage. Thanks to Alves, the 285-square-foot building now pulls weight as an office, gym, bar, and guest room. While the everything-in-one space looks like it came together effortlessly, the path to transformation had its challenges. 

“It’s very difficult doing any kind of contracting work when you are a woman and a woman of color and your designer is a woman of color,” says Blackett, particularly in a city like L.A. where the building industry is male dominated. Overbilling was just one issue they frequently encountered (subcontractors assumed they wouldn’t catch them skimming some extra cash off the top). “That’s the hardest thing to reconcile when you’re doing any home improvement project,” she adds. “It’s so frustrating because you’re the one passing the check. I wish there were more women of color contractors.” Ahead, she shares three more lessons from the reno.

Hack the Cabinets—And While You’re at It, the Fridge 

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Because this isn’t a high-traffic area, Blackett didn’t want to invest thousands of dollars in custom cabinets. “They just had to work,” she says. So she chose budget IKEA cupboards instead (though you’d never know it with that bespoke paint color, which Blackett also used on the walls of the bathroom). The countertop, sink, and faucet are also from the Swedish retailer.

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The boring refrigerator also got a facelift, except not with paint but with terrazzo-pattern contact paper. It took all of 30 minutes for Blackett to apply the stick-on sheets to the facade of the appliance. For any of the air bubbles that she couldn’t smooth out with a credit card, she poked holes in them with the end of a safety pin. “If I get bored of it, I can just peel it off,” she says. 

Make Your Camera Roll a Reality

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The dreamy blue hex tiles in the shower were also inspired by Blackett’s travels to Morocco. “I saw a wall at Moustapha Baloui (a furniture and decor store in the souk) and told myself I had to find a way to do it at home,” she says. Alves sourced this handmade pick, along with the green tiles for the backsplash, from Elite in Los Angeles. 

Prepare to Swap Storage for Company 

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The mezzanine was originally just going to be extra storage—a spot to keep Christmas decorations. But around the time that COVID hit this spring, the couple was hosting a friend, who ended up having to stay with them for way longer than they thought. “She was stranded at the last minute,” recalls Blackett. The spot up there was big enough for a mattress and cool enough for someone to spend the night. “It basically became her bedroom,” she says. 

Blackett’s favorite thing about the room now is the view (they reconfigured the windows in the space during the renovation): “I love all the palm trees. It’s like a picture frame of peak California.” 

Our Fall Style issue has arrived! Subscribe now to get an exclusive first look at Ayesha Curry’s Bay Area home—and discover how design can shape our world.

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