“Packrat Modern” Style in a California Cottage

“Packrat Modern” Style in a California Cottage

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Emily Billings
Jun 17, 2016
(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Name: Hopie Stockman and David Branson Smith and Otto the pup
Location: Venice Beach — Los Angeles, California
Size: 800 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented

These newly-engaged California transplants have had to get resourceful in decorating their apartment in a 1920s Venice Beach house. Rose Bowl Flea finds, hand-me-downs and tons of books blend into an eclectic, East Coast-meets-California beach cottage vibe. Hopie is the co-founder of Block Shop Textiles and Dave is a screenwriter— and they have found a way to both work from home in this 800 square foot space.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Hopie and Dave's creative backgrounds and penchant for travel have inspired a home that is uniquely theirs. Hopie and her sister, Lily Stockman, are the founders of Block Shop, a textiles company that combines traditional hand-block printing processes with a modern California aesthetic, collaborating with a family of printers and dyers in Rajasthan, India. The home's decor draws from elements made by local LA makers and pieces brought back from India.

Referring to their own style as "packrat modern," every treasure has a story or a memory associated with it. Local artisan pieces, vintage finds from their many travels, gifts from family and friends, and well-read books all find a home here. Like any true labor of love, their space is a perfect marriage of their two styles: "All this stuff is our shared history: where we're from, how we fell in love, the places we've been."

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Having left their respective homes on the East Coast for California, the two settled into one of the four units in this historic 1921 cottage, which retains its original moldings, display cabinets, stained glass, and wooden details. "I think it's very reflective of the "bohemian Venice pad" if you will. Dave is a writer and works out of our home office, and we're a five-minute walk from the beach, which means surfers walking barefoot to catch waves before work is a regular sight." With a landlord that selects tenants based on "whether the hair on his arms stands up when he looks into their eyes," this cottage has a lot of character.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: "Packrat Modern." We have a lot of stuff. It doesn't all fit perfectly in our space, but it tells the story of our lives– the 1950s spelling bee poster we bought together in Hudson Valley on our first weekend trip together; a college copy of The Sportswriter filled with underlined passages and "!!"s owned by one of us that the other discovered; the blue dhurrie from India in our living room that's folded in half because it's so enormous. And most recently, a French folk art wedding print by Gerard Laplau, given to us by Dave's parents on our engagement, which now hangs by our bed. All this stuff is our shared history: where we're from, how we fell in love, the places we've been.

Inspiration: Knock-off Eames Chair + Indian block-printed pillow + map of Newport, Rhode Island from 1895 = our magpie mishmash. Both of us grew up in different parts of the East Coast and settled in California as grown-ups. So in our first apartment together we've tried to retrain the fusty style of New England with the modern kitsch of the West Coast. Add to that a growing collection of textiles made in India by Hopie's company Block Shop and it feels like home.

Favorite Element: Our apartment is one of four units in a 1921 beach cottage. The moldings, display cabinets, and stained glass are as good as the day they were installed a hundred years ago, and add to the oddball spirit of the place. Our building is made up of a wonderful group of neighbors, plus a landlord named Walt who looks like Kurt Vonnegut and predicted that we'd get married when we signed the lease.

Biggest Challenge: Organizing the stuff. Hopie's design projects and Dave's stacks of paper and books spread during the day like the plague and have to be dealt with each night–so that we can wake up fresh the next morning for another day of two self-employed people sharing the same 800 square feet.

What Friends Say: Three things usually: "Your dog is three? I thought he was eighteen." "Can I borrow one of your three copies of Middlesex?" "Your plant wall is three times the size of ours."

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Biggest Embarrassment: The Real Flame 8020E-W Crawford Electric Fireplace that's hidden in our storage closet. A stuffed Ween doll bought on Etsy at age 31.

Proudest DIY: Otto's portrait, painted by Hopie for Dave's 30th birthday, which we vowed to hang in every living room we ever have.

Biggest Indulgence: Vintage Contemporaries. Anytime we go to a new city, Dave likes to drag Hopie to used bookstores on his lifelong quest to get every book in the Vintage Contemporary series from the late '80s. They are cheap paperbacks of no value but have these bright color-banded spines and tacky De Stijl covers that we love–plus a rogue gallery of Great American fiction writers.

Best Advice: What's in your house is all for you and for no one else, except those who can swing by for breakfast tacos two Sundays from now, let us know if you can make it.

If your dog is barking incessantly at 12:43 in the morning and you think you hear a rustling, that rustling is a robber, and your dog is barking because he is robbing you, both, of your bikes. Always lock your bikes.

Dream Sources:

  • Walls: Bar Palladio (Jaipur, India)
  • Bookshelves: A Clockwork Orange
  • Cozy quotient: Boat House (Lambertville, PA)
  • Far out furniture: Wary Myers' Instagram
  • Fraying WASP maximalism: Tina Barney's photos
  • Saltiness: Colonial Cottages in Little Compton, RI
  • Screened-in porch: TBD – will let you know only once we've made it. :)

Resources:

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Thanks, Hopie & Dave!


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