Don’t Call It an Accent Wall—In This Bungalow, Patterned Surfaces Act Like Headboards and Room Dividers
Kellie Brown invites you to her Palm Springs home.
Published May 25, 2023 1:51 AM
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It was Valentine’s Day 2022 and Kellie Brown had a hot date—with her real-estate agent. There would be no impossible-to-get dinner reservations or candlelit massages for the content creator and founder of Deeply Madly Modern that year, just tour after tour of prospective homes in Palm Springs, all in pursuit of finding a true connection.
Like most love stories, there was at least one heartbreaker along the way. The home she really wanted—a furnished four-bedroom—got snatched up before she could put in an offer. “It was so good, I was weeping,” Brown says. “I was really devastated.” Now that she’s more familiar with the area, she realizes the location wasn’t ideal (a little too close to the airport for comfort), so it was never meant to be anyway. She went on to see a 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom bungalow that was also on her top-five list, and she decided to settle down.
Brown, a native New Yorker living in a Los Angeles rental, started flirting with the idea of buying in Palm Springs after she joined a friend’s destination birthday trip several years ago. “In a far-off time, I knew I’d own something there,” she says. Fast-forward to last year, when the thought of buying started turning into a real possibility and she couldn’t stop thinking of that Sonoran Desert city. “I wasn’t sure where I wanted to live forever,” she says. “But I knew I loved Palm Springs and would want to be there a lot.”
What made this place the perfect match was that it was essentially turnkey. Because the pandemic left behind a wake of construction delays, Brown didn’t want to be bogged down with time-sucking renovation projects. The bones were there, and the home was furnished. The only thing that needed an overhaul was the decor. “It was kind of a big-box [retailer] situation,” Brown says. Not for long. By the time she got the keys, she already had everything listed and mostly sold through Facebook Marketplace, so come move-in day, the house was nearly empty. “I’m a vintage hoarder, and I timed it so the mover would arrive the next day with everything from my storage unit,” she says. “It was almost an instant flip.”
There were a few things from the storage haul she would use as placeholders, but she knew the yellow leather glove chair was going to stay. (“Everyone loves to sit there because it’s literally hugging you,” Brown says.) Her style leans postmodern and primal (peep the mix of playful silhouettes and organic shapes throughout), but do you even live in Palm Springs without some nod to the ’50s or ’60s in your home? A vintage pine credenza fills the mid-century modern role to the left of the entrance without being too on the nose. “It’s just one of those pieces that I’m so glad didn’t end up in a landfill,” she adds. Instead it’s filled with extra blankets, board games, and toolbox essentials like a hammer and spare Command Strips.
To the right, there’s a galley kitchen that previews a slice of the patterned wall leading into the next space. “I’m not an accent-wall girlie,” Brown says and continues to explain that because of how the house is situated, there’s only one real wall as it relates to the living room. If you’re sitting on the sofa, you’re facing the kitchen and your back is to the glass doors; the other wall makes up the dining room. For that reason, the Sarah Sherman Samuel covering is less of an accent and more of a way to delineate the space. As for the choice of print—it’s a wink to her taste in fashion. “The way I dress is eclectic, and I like to mix patterns,” she says. “And I love a nice, allover neutral print because it plays well with so many things.”
Opposite the nonaccent wall, Brown Frankenstein’d a dining table for eight from pieces she collected over the years. The Lucite and gold legs originally came with an oval top as a set she bought years ago that ended up being too small for her L.A. space. When she later found a table that had two wood pedestals as the legs and a large rectangular piece of glass listed for just $100, she said: “Immediately, yes.” Together, it was the perfect fit for the bungalow, and the two pedestals are back in her apartment holding up a couple of sculptures.
Even though the inside of the home was a no demo-reno, outside, she made more significant changes with landscaping and furniture. Beyond the sliding glass doors, a barrier of cold, whitewashed cinder blocks enclosed the yard until she warmed things up with a row of ficus trees. The firepit was also already there, but Brown gave it some personality by surrounding it with Roly Poly chairs. “Being a New Yorker, I had never designed anything outside beyond a small patio, so this was a really fun exercise,” she says. The existing pergola was a little too small, so she swapped it for a Wayfair find paired with a more comfortable outdoor dining set. “In a place like Palm Springs, dining alfresco is the number-one thing you want,” she says. “I’m a plus-size person, and outdoor furniture can be tough. I wanted every single thing in my home to feel incredibly accessible, no matter what your body is like.” Not only did the teakwood set add warmth to the space, but the heavy seating with built-in cushions makes everyone comfy in this corner of the yard.
Although the outdoor space was tricky, the primary bedroom challenged her the most. “This was the hardest room for me,” Brown says. “I tried like 10 different headboards, and I have documentation for all of it.” First, she went with the one that matched the dresser, but it was too Art Deco. She tried several upholstered options, but none of the shapes hit quite right. Then there was a wood one she tried, only to discover it had been nibbled on by some type of pest, so that had to go. After adding more tone-on-tone prints to a single wall and a set of custom-color-matched light fixtures that trail up the surface on either side of the bed, it hit her. “There was never supposed to be a headboard here,” Brown says. “The wallpaper and the lights are the drama.”
The only room that got a light reno touch was the primary en suite. “There wasn’t a door to the actual bathroom, so you’re just exposed to the elements,” Brown says with a laugh. “I don’t know who uses the bathroom just wild like that.” So she called in a woodworker friend to build an enclosure that would suit the space. There wasn’t room for it to swing out, so they took the towel racks off the wall and put them onto a sliding door to add some privacy without sacrificing storage.
From Brown’s own artwork on the walls, to curated collections of small ceramics clustered in the corners, to a number of rugs (vintage Moroccan rugs are her passion), every detail was thoughtfully considered. “There’s a lot of cute little things to look at that make you smile in here,” Brown says. It was a labor of love, but any relationship that’s worth it takes a bit of work.