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Believe it or not, the most fun Amber and Mark Sokolowski ever had was selling everything they owned—their home, their cars—and moving into his grandmother’s guesthouse in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood. “Probably because we were so free,” says Amber. “It was just the two of us, doing our thing.” The couple uprooted their lives so that Amber, a Southern California native with an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University under her belt, could finally follow her dream. Step one: quit her longtime marketing career. Step two: enroll in interior design courses at UCLA Extension. “We were like, what if I just change everything and invest in myself?” she says.

Courtesy of Amber Sokolowski

Going out on a limb and hunkering down with Grandma for a while eventually paid off: Today, Amber runs her own firm, Soko Design, and the pair found what feels like their forever home in Rossmoor, which they now share with their daughter, Mila (7), and son, Liev (4). They closed on the 1959 ranch-style home on Thanksgiving Day 2020. “The house was all white, but the strange thing about it was, it was covered in mirrors,” she recalls. The real issue, though, was the layout: To get to the laundry room, you had to walk out the front door into the garage, plus the primary closet was way too small. “My husband has a lot of clothes,” says Amber with a laugh. “And if there was a way to avoid walking out of the house in my pajamas, I wanted to do that.” 

Rug, Lulu and Georgia; Coffee Table, Noir; Side Table, CB2; Tree, Plants and Spaces.
Accent Chairs, Midcentury LA; Side Table, Arteriors; Dining Table, Bauhaus; Dining Chairs, similar to DWR; Pendant Lamp, Made by Hand x Iskos-Berlin, A+R. Rope Installation by Jim Olarte.

Rather than steal square footage from the backyard or extend upward, the designer shifted the front door and tacked on a 215-square-foot bump-out so they could fit a proper laundry room, walk-in closet with custom shoe shelves, and double shower. The facade got a dramatic makeover with drought-tolerant landscaping and Dunn-Edwards’s Black Tie. “When we were putting in our offer, I told my husband that the all-white house is going to become the all-black house,” says Amber.  

Sconces, Visual Comfort; Cabinet Paint, Drop Cloth by Farrow & Ball; Cabinet Hardware, Waterstreet Brass; Appliances and Plumbing Fixtures, PIRCH
Rug and Barstools, Amazon

Once inside, you waltz past the Saarinen dining table, through the kitchen, to the built-in wet bar (that is, if you’re the type who prefers to take the scenic route). It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Amber or Mark to offer you a Blue Hawaiian or Singapore Sling at that moment—they’ve got a range of tiki drinkware for you to choose from (the teal and orange one by Japanese artist Mookie Sato is Amber’s favorite). Mark was the one who started the obsession, picking up cool mugs on their travels to Palm Springs and Disneyland. But as a former bartender, Amber can make a mean cocktail—which she’ll hand you through the open awning window over the kitchen sink. “It’s our guests’ favorite feature when they come over,” she says. 

Console Table, RH; Ottomans, Twist Custom; Art by Yoshihiro Makino.

But when photographer Yoshihiro Makino recently paid a visit to the Sokolowskis’ home, she was most excited to show him the print hanging in the entryway—it’s his work. While the house was still full of construction dust, Amber discovered the shot of the desert landscape one day when she was browsing Midcentury LA and reached out to Makino directly to ask his permission to produce an extra-large version. “We started DM-ing, and I was like, it would be so cool if, one day, you could shoot my house,” she says. (And reader, he did.)

Bedding, Parachute; Nightstands, Worlds Away; Sconces, Visual Comfort; Headboard Fabric, Schumacher; Wallpaper, Phillip Jeffries; Art by Dabs Myla.

Makino’s piece isn’t the only artwork in the house that Amber jumped on buying during the demo phase. The rope installation (which was inspired by a similar setup in the Ace Hotel Palm Springs lobby) was another early purchase, although she originally started with just two. “We hung them on the wall where they are now, but it was way too small,” she says. Amber eventually came across macramé artist Jim Olarte, who created a custom piece that matched the scale of the dining space.   

Vanity Mirrors, CB2; Light, RH

The marble shelves in the kitchen also had to be tweaked post-install: The designer not only felt like the floating planks were missing something visually, but they were lacking in structural support, too. She worked with her contractor to turn remnant pieces into side supports. “Once we did that, it felt complete,” she says. The next space she plans to change up is the bedroom—well, really, just the bed itself. With something bigger on the brain, Amber made sure the velvet headboard would look good with either a king or queen mattress. Her custom design is made up of three large panels that extend almost to the edges of the nightstands. “It even has cutouts for the outlets,” she notes. 

Wallpaper, Mokum Textiles; Floor Tile, Bedrosians; Shower Curtain, RH.

It’s little luxuries like these that remind her of why she made her major career shift in the first place. “I’ve never been able to really live somewhere as nice as the homes I’ve designed [for clients] before,” she says. “This is the first time we’re able to experience some of this stuff.” The kitchen sink’s hot water filter is a beloved convenience, but nothing beats the crushed-ice machine next to the tiki beverage bar.

The Goods