When Ryan and Amber Flynn first moved to Los Angeles in 2011, they spent a month crashing on the floor of their friends’ downtown loft. The space was impressive: a former munitions factory, the loft boasted 20-foot ceilings spanning two industrial stories. Fast-forward to a few years later and those same friends were expecting a baby and looking for someone to take over their lease. When they offered it to the Flynns, Amber and Ryan couldn’t say no. But at more than double their current rent, their dream home would take some financial creativity to make it work.
A big component of making the loft financially viable has been renting it out to commercial productions as a filming location and on Airbnb. It takes a lot of coordination and some flexibility in work schedules, but wanderlust suits Amber and Ryan, who both traveled extensively before settling down in LA. And sometimes, the apartment foots the bill. “We’ve been able to take spontaneous free vacations while the loft was being enjoyed by tourists,” Amber explains. “I thought [our friends] were crazy for thinking it would work,” Amber says. “We were used to paying about half what the rent cost. But we already knew that we loved the place and it didn't take long for us to realize it was a slam dunk.”
The Flynns have carved out areas of the oversized living space, creating distinct nooks and spaces for relaxing, entertaining, and playing. Ryan also outfitted the apartment with color-adjustable light bulbs and wired a system to control the lighting and stereo from an iPad. Amber was skeptical at first. “I didn't want my living room to look like an ultra lounge,” she laughs. “But Ryan is a tech fiend and I’m glad he talked me into it.”
The building itself, with hundreds of tenants also working in creative fields, inspires an environment that’s ripe with collaboration. “The scene here is a little bit like NYC’s Chelsea Hotel in the ‘60s,” Amber jokes. “Pretty much everyone in the building is an artist on the cusp.” And after two years of loft living, the Flynns are still happy to be a part of it all. Watching Ryan and Amber in their home, you can see the first-day euphoria still lingers. Ryan looks around, smiling. "I can't believe we live here!"
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: The loft is a mix of minimal, earthy, vintage and modern. I've always enjoyed contrast. I suppose I would (cringingly) call my personal style Bohemian Organic Modern, but it has been pointed out that our decor is decidedly 1970s. Completely unintentional, but I am a total hippie on the inside so I can’t really argue with that assessment.
Mostly we got lucky with the way our best friends, Isaac and Beck Trumbo (fashion photographer and model/stylist pictured in our wedding photos) built out the place before we moved in—they both have impeccable taste. They spent a ton of time, love and money transforming this brick box into a tasteful palatial space. We couldn't be more grateful to them for giving us first dibs on their lease when they were blessed with a wee baby girl and opted for a smaller house with a yard. We even adopted some of their gorgeous furniture—the massive sectional, the chrome side and coffee tables, the George Nelson bubble lamp, and the corner booth, to name a few.
Inspiration: Personally, we are inspired by nature, geometry, surrealism, texture, and our neighbors! The scene here is a little like NYC’s Chelsea Hotel in the ‘60s. We are surrounded by artists on the cusp; collaborations galore, ideas swirling—this building is an inspiration petri dish.
Favorite Element: Besides the rooftop deck, my favorite element has to be our original 1974 QuadraPong (4-player video game) cocktail console. Not only is it a ton of fun for drunken Pong tournaments, it is a piece of history contained in a minimal cream and black glass octagonal table that fits in perfectly with the decor. We hope Frida Kahlo approves.
Biggest Challenge: The loft is located in a very old industrial building / pre-WW2 ex-munitions factory. The existing walls were built in a hurry so there doesn’t appear to be a single 90-degree angle in it; there are strange industrial fixtures everywhere, and the earthquake fortifications are exposed I-beams angled in random directions. Decorating this weird brick and wood box as though it were worthy of being a film location was not easy. When in doubt, both Beck and I have both found that a deliberate color scheme and a lot of texture help blend the contrast of luxury with the grittiness of a hard industrial loft.
What Friends Say: “Wow.”
Biggest Embarrassment: Our first big commercial production loaded into the loft at 5:30am. I hadn’t brushed my teeth or hair yet and I walked downstairs to get coffee. Suddenly I am shaking hands with the surviving Sex Pistols while hastily patting down my bedhead.
Proudest DIY: I can’t take credit for the best DIY in this loft which is obviously the dreamy, open walk-in closet and the roof access hatch. That was all Beck and Isaac. But I am proud of my mini succulent and cactus gardens in sculptural bowls that I haven’t managed to slowly torture to death yet!
Biggest Indulgence: Ryan and I have both traveled extensively and lived in different countries, so neither of us had any furniture when we moved here. We've actually acquired a lot of it from set cast-offs from production clients. Most of the rest of the furniture and decor we managed to find secondhand.
That said, probably our biggest splurge has been our Phillips HUE LED light bulbs. You can change the color of every bulb. I was against it at first, because they're a little pricey (about $60-100 per bulb) and I didn't want my living room to look like an ultra lounge. But Ryan is a tech fiend and I’m glad he talked me into it. PLUS, I can turn them all off/on at the same time with my phone from the comfort of my bed. Same thing with our sound system. We even have iPads on the wall upstairs and down for controlling music and lights. We live in the future and it makes us giggle. We both grew up big fans of Back to the Future 2 and the Jetsons (we lovingly named our Roomba vacuum Rosie).
Best Advice: To save money on big home makeovers, try choosing your color scheme very deliberately; it helps with the illusion that everything is on purpose. Sometimes I find thrift store knickknacks or furniture and I will just stain, reupholster, or spray paint them to match my specific color scheme.
Also, if you have a home that is very special or centrally located, try making it work for you. Send photos to location agents in your area or rent it on Airbnb if it’s legal in your ‘hood—it's quite possible to make good money toward your rent/mortgage. We’ve been able to take spontaneous free vacations while the loft was being enjoyed by tourists, and made extra money for improvements by hosting productions.
Dream Sources: Moroccan souks, Palm Springs estate sales, disorganized garage sales, generously stocked small town thrift stores, nature. I am a big fan of mid-century modern design, furniture, and architecture and I get a thrill from the hunt itself. I’m dying to collect more originals, give em some love and restore them to their intended glories. Many elements in our home were simply collected on our travels—a bit of moss, a seashell, some bits of quartz, a rug from Mulégé, Mexico, a graphic wine list from London... They all contain really good memories. Recently while visiting Portland, we bought a very heavy 4 million year old fossil, which we haven't yet figured out how to hang.
PAINT & COLORS
- Cubic Sculpture: Hand-me-down from former tenant
- Mid-century abstract painting: Craigslist
- Stump table: lumberyard
- Aviator Chair : Wayfair
- Concrete table with DIY Copper legs : Wayfair
- White Moroccan rug : Target
- Beige modular sofa: Secondhand from Beck & Isaac
- Black vintage & chrome coffee table: Secondhand from Beck & Isaac
- Cream cow hide rug: Wayfair
- Custom farmhouse table: Secondhand from a neighbor
- Industrial bar: Wayfair
- Coyote velvet painting: thrifted gift from sister
- Nautilus fossil : secondhand
- Globe decanter : Wayfair
- Custom Wood Platform Bed: Designer Secondhand
- George Nelson Bubble Lamp: Borrowed from Beck
- Faux Horsehead : Borrowed from Beck
- White Lacquer Desk: Borrowed from Beck
- Mid-century Desk: Craigslist
- Sofa Bed: Ikea
- Coffee Table: Cost Plus
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