Carla’s Simple City Living in Downtown Los Angeles

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Name: Carla
Location: Historic downtown; Los Angeles, California
Size: 700 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years; Rented

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You may think living in the heart of a major metropolitan city would be stressful, but Carla proves adapting to city life can be surprisingly serene. Living in a small, but airy studio in Downtown Los Angeles, she resides four floors above the streets and rides her bike to work, successfully avoiding the “joys” of traffic. Her high ceilings, large windows and clean, minimal decor make for a calm retreat from which to peacefully lookout over the bustling streets.

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(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Carla’s place reflects her cool, laid back personality. Her entryway is adorned with large-scale photos of people who beg to have their stories told. Next to the bus pass photos she took in 1998 and later developed in a college photography course, hangs a blown up photo of an adorable homecoming queen circa 1968. This vintage photo of Carla’s mom looks gallery-worthy, but, Carla explains, “at my mom’s 20 year high school reunion they had a bunch of photos blown up and my dad asked if he could keep it. They just had this sitting in their garage!”

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: girly meets tomboy

Inspiration: My grandma’s house, which later became my great uncle’s house, had an odd collection of lowbrow art and tchotchkies, as well as black and white photos and Bing Crosby records. I’m attracted to pieces that would fit in there. Also Kim MacAfee’s bedroom from Bye Bye Birdie.

Favorite Element: The giant window. It would be nice if I had a higher view but I’m lucky that the historic Chester Williams building across the street is attractive.

Biggest Challenge: It’s challenging to make a big open space charming. Its just one big room with high ceilings, and it was recently renovated with modern finishes. I’m used to living in older places with original floors, tiles, built-ins, nooks, crannies, etc.. I rent, not own, so I can’t change the modern elements that I’d like to. I just remind myself its not my forever home, and embrace the space. And hey, the new smooth, pristine floors are great for dancing around barefoot!

What Friends Say: “It looks like you live in Manhattan!”, which makes sense because they often film New York-based shows on my street.

Biggest Embarrassment: There is no clothing closet in my unit, so most of my clothes are stored in the kitchen cabinets, which there is an absurd amount of. What single person would have this much dishware?!

Proudest DIY: Quite fond of the AV cart found outside an Oakland elementary school. It was bright orange but I repainted it a seafoam green. Also, everyone loves the bus pass photos I took and blew up.

Biggest Indulgence: Living downtown… it ain’t cheap! Especially with the extra garage space since there is no street parking. However, biking and the Metro are so convenient here, so I do save on gas.

Best Advice: More of a frugal tip, if you don’t have a nice bed frame and need to hide the box spring, use a flat sheet as a dust ruffle.

Dream Sources: Even though it would not suit my current place, if I had my dream California craftsmen or Spanish colonial home and a blank check to decorate, I’d use Eric Berg’s Early California Antiques. I have Spanish-Californian ancestry that dates back to the Junipero Serra days and so that style feels elegant yet homey and personal.

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Resources of Note


  • bus pass photo prints, diy
  • mother’s homecoming queen nomination ceremony print, mounted at her high school reunion
  • coat tree, Casablanca Furniture in Echo Park


  • Dan Clowes Sunshine Cinema newspaper ad, found on the streets of NYC
  • Target shooting print, Vintage Navy dude selfie, wood owl wall art, all bought from Shopclass in Highland Park
  • Loveseat, Living Spaces
  • Computer desk, Target
  • rug, Urban Outfitters
  • coffee table, hand-me-down
  • vintage Pioneer turntable, belonged to an aunt
  • metal cart, found on the street
  • wooden end table, hand-down
  • gold cats, gift
  • rotary phone, Alameda Antique Faire
  • aqua radio, Alameda Antique Faire
  • vintage big eye art, ebay
  • dining table, moving sale
  • chair, Rose Bowl flea market


  • toaster and tea kettle, Michael Graves for Target
  • vintage kitty photo, Alameda Antique Faire
  • German World Cup Champs scarf, gift
  • Kate Spade polka dot sheets
  • Mike Reddy framed illustration, gift
  • mosaic end table, found on the street
  • Les Bicyclettes wrapping paper used as poster, Lab 3
  • clothing rack, Ikea
  • original art by Fawn Gehweiler
  • antique Vargas calendar page, gift
  • vintage kitty photo, some thrift store in Philly
  • Linus commuter bike, Cocos Variety
  • Granny cart, Santee alley
  • (Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

    Thanks, Carla!

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