Name: Jaya Williams, Maggie Shafran, Steph Sloan
Location: Silver Lake — Los Angeles, California
Size: 1250 square feet
Years lived in: Rented 8 months
Jaya writes: "Maggie and I met during undergrad at Pitzer College in Claremont, California and Maggie and Steph grew up together in Sun Valley, Idaho. We all three got together after we graduated in 2014 and moved to Los Angeles and have had this amazing sister-best-friend-wife dynamic. This is our second house together—we majorly upgraded apartments but our bond has remained so special and close to my heart."
"We live in Silver Lake, a neighborhood on the East Side of Los Angeles beating with a creative pulse. Fittingly, our home is a creative sanctuary— I am a designer and I work in a hotel, Maggie is a portrait artist, and Steph is a musician. I sought to create a beautiful space where we could all live and work among the sun-drenched hardwood floors and sweet breezy airflow. All of the built-ins, great big windows, dark wood, and arched ceilings gave us a great foundation for decorating."
Get the look! → Handmade & Upcycled Modern Style
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: I chose to go with a modern Californian style with unexpected shapes, ample plant life, sheer white drapes for maximum sun exposure but a little privacy, vintage over-dyed rugs and funky artwork. Most of our wooden furniture is handmade by my dad or brother, the sofa is a family heirloom, all of the dining chairs are vintage, and the art is all made by us or our friends, with a lot of upcycling and repurposing from old apartments we've had throughout college, thrift stores, and, of course, Craigslist hunting.
We took great care in choosing every item; nothing was hastily done. I looked for a lot of soft, plush pieces to adorn many of our surfaces to make them cozier with so many hard angles inherent in the design of the unit. I also like the idea of playing with scale—dwarfing or miniaturizing things disproportionately to create surprise. We have a miniature Eames style rocking chair, lots of tiny pockets of art and decor, and mini plants and crystals hidden in windowsills. Our kitchen is a foodie's dream: glass jars filled with superfoods, a built-in breakfast nook, all the storage you could dream of, a vintage stove, and sun pouring through the windows; and our bathroom is a soothing light violet/lavender wonderland.
Inspiration: I am inspired by so many different disciplines—from historic architecture to feminist art to interior design to data visualization and graphic design to print publications to hospitality and urban planning. I grew up in a very creative household—my dad and grandfather are both prolific and talented woodworkers by hobby, my sister is an amazing chef, my brother is a mixed media visual artist and art teacher, and my mom is my design-loving partner in crime—but they all have science and medicine backgrounds as well, so that kind of synergy dictated the way I see the world and how important a beautiful and practical living space is to me.
In a big-picture sense, I think Los Angeles is at a strange moment design wise—it is home to so many jaw-dropping architectural tributes to the past while also grappling with a very different future—for environmental reasons, because of gentrification and lack of rent affordability, and because it is massive and ever-expanding. But it has and always will be a place that is blooming with creativity. It's really exciting to me to be a part of that and to witness its evolution. That constantly inspires me and informs my design choices.
Favorite Element: Hard to choose because there are so many unique parts that are unlike the boxy post-war, mid-century apartment buildings in this city. Before moving to LA I'd looked at a lot of Ed Ruscha's photo series on Los Angeles apartments and they all looked so stark, brutally square and sterile. Most places we've toured are exactly that, which is nostalgic, place-specific and lovely in its own way, but this apartment was full of dark, rich walnut and was dripping with old charm and character. My favorites are the original 1920s fixtures, the purple bathroom tile, all of the quirky art, the iconic leather sofa. I think we'd all agree that the best built-in part of our place is the breakfast nook. When we have friends over everyone gravitates toward it—it's so cozy and inviting and right in the center of activity.
Biggest Challenge: 100% budget. I searched for a style for a long time that would work but not bankrupt us. Maggie and Steph essentially handed me the reins and we split most things three ways. It was definitely challenging but it's also kind of a fun constraint to have to be so thrifty. We really did not spend a ton of money on our place at all—I'm still kind of shocked at how we were able to do it.
What Friends Say: Our friends have been so sweet and complimentary of our home and it's translated into a few new projects for me. It's been great to be able to entertain and have parties in a space that really feels like ours, as opposed to college dorms or temporary sublets. We got really lucky.
Biggest Embarrassment: When our parents and grandparents come visit (or, even better, a Jehovah's Witness coming to the door) and see how many nude motifs we have going on—from boob pillows, to cactus butt sculptures, to nipple pots and a massive nude oil painting of our friend Cuyler done by Maggie, to phallic cacti arrangements and so on. It's funny and empowering but also more simply just reflects how weird we all are.
Proudest DIY: All of our art. We sourced it from our friends—Nick Williams, Meridith Burchiel, succulent artist Joey Glickman, Reed Burdge, Akop Tashchyan, a local Armenian artist, from flea markets, some of our favorite local LA craftspeople, and of course, our "artist in residence" Maggie Shafran.
Biggest Indulgence: Maggie contributed an original Matisse sketch to our living room. It's pretty understated so no one really recognizes it till they get close. It's a beauty. We also have an original Marcel Breuer "Wassily" chair in our dining room that I found on Ebay and restored.
Best Advice: Read! There have been so many inspiring and brilliant designers that have taken the time to share all of their knowledge and it's just right here at our disposal—find books written by the greats and get a sense of their ethos—Dieter Rams "As Little Design as Possible" was a big inspo for me as well as Paul Rand's "Thoughts on Design." Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister & Walsh in NYC is a bit of an idol to me too. They are all such dynamic cross-discipline design thinkers.
In terms of more concrete advice, don't furnish your house all at once. It's tempting to want to get it all done and make it immediately habitable but it's so much better to pick things out over time and be thoughtful about it. I keep a lot of lists and charts in all aspects of my life but it is the most helpful for furnishing a house and keeping it cost effective. I always have an idea of what I'm looking for at my fingertips so that when I go to flea markets or garage sales or vintage stores I don't get distracted and buy things that don't work. Accumulated clutter is the enemy.
Dream Sources: So many. It's fun to walk through all of the furniture shops on La Cienega and Melrose here in LA, but right now it's mostly window shopping. I am always dreaming about getting a dark blue velvet Hollywood Regency Chesterfield sofa. I have serious chair envy too—I would love to buy Charlotte Perriand lounge chairs (such a badass female designer in a time when it was a seriously male dominated field), Hans Wegner wooden dining chairs, and of course, Arne Jacobsen pieces—he's a furniture god to me. Sam Maloof is a big inspiration as well—I'm into the more organic forms.
But I also love the idea of supporting local artisans and I hope in my next space I can continue to do that on a larger scale and keep that eclectic mix of local and vintage. I work in hotels and eventually want to open my own hotel down the line so I am always on the lookout for things that can work both in small apartment spaces and in larger scale hospitality environments.