Two Makers Create a Bright Haven in a Downtown LA Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019

Two Makers Create a Bright Haven in a Downtown LA Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Michelle Paul Toney and James Toney III
Location: Chinatown — Downtown Los Angeles
Size: 1,115 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, renting

Michelle and James’ lives seem to revolve around downtown LA. After meeting in the Arts District one fated Tuesday night, the couple have since been married, started the Los Angeles-based company Morrow Soft Goods with two friends, and moved into the beautiful and brightly lit Chinatown apartment where they currently reside.

Before starting their premium textile company, Michelle was an architectural history professor and James was the Senior Vice President of Technology and Innovation at 20th Century Fox (though when they first met he was still working at Sew, a creative agency he helped co-found). Though Morrow Soft Goods now keeps them both busy, they are passionate about the company they worked to create.

Their apartment reflects a brilliant mix of the couple’s love of history and politics as well as the influences of their world traveling, while also utilizing their own Morrow Soft Goods wherever they can. It’s only fitting that you must walk through a pedestrian-only path, covered with Chinatown lanterns, to approach their front door.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to interact with/learn about amazing designers and experience beautiful spaces and we’ve just taken a little bit of all of it and made it our own. We think it shines through across our Morrow collections — the two-tone linen, the texture of our raw cotton, hand-woven blankets, the styling of our alpaca throws — and in our space through the vintage furniture, the traditional rugs, and the diverse art.

Inspiration: We are both huge history nerds and it impacts our design choices in a variety of ways. It’s why we’re drawn to political art and why we buy rugs we like to think our future kids will want. We like objects that evoke history or can become a part of ours. We’re also inspired by our travel. James used to travel frequently to Stockholm for work and came back each time caring less and less for clutter.

Favorite Element: This place was beautiful before we ever set foot in it. We love the skylights above the showers and the warm, exposed wood ceiling. Our favorite elements that we’ve introduced are all of our textiles spread across our living and bedrooms. It’s satisfying to see this dream of ours become something friends literally come over and wrap themselves in.

Biggest Challenge: Closet space! (But everyone wants more closet space.)

What Friends Say: People always comment on how charming the street we live on is — it’s really quiet for being downtown, there are lanterns strung across it, and there are absolutely no cars. Next, friends typically comment on how cozy and warm it is. In the evening we always have candles going and dim lighting so it can feel like an R&B video.

Biggest Embarrassment: The balcony. It’s adorable all on its own and great for growing plants, but we haven’t invested in making it a place we really hang out. It’s a missed opportunity.

Proudest DIY: Definitely our dining room table. This is one we found on Craigslist for $25 (!) right after we got married. It was all beat up and Michelle had the idea that we could refinish it together. We had no idea what we were doing but fortunately we had some pro tips from our talented friend, Chris Earl. We love the way it turned out and it’s particularly special to us because it’s where we decided with Scott and Stef to launch Morrow.

Biggest Indulgence: Rugs and art.

Best Advice: Don’t worry about a trying to maintain specific aesthetic — fill your space with things you love and it will come together. Also, never sacrifice comfort for style.

Dream Sources: We’ve for sure been eyeing a custom bed from Stephen Kenn. In a dream world we’d also love to replace our Ikea desk with (patron saint of the dining table) Chris Earl’s Writing Desk, and our Target counter stools with his Wood High Stools. Lawson Fenning and Hammer and Spear are two of our favorite local “dream sources” for…everything .


Mirror — Craigslist
Entry Table — Mid Century Console from West Elm
Indigo Splattered Ceramic Candle — Chris Earl
Rug — Purchased in Turkey

Chaise Lounge Chairs — HD Buttercup
Brown Leather Couch — Crate and Barrel
Marble Coffee Table — CB2
Magazines — Darling Magazine
Coffee Table Tray — Target
Stone Coasters —
Iron Side Table — Vintage from James’ Dad
Candle on Iron Table — Haus Interiors
Ceramic vase on Iron Table — Heath Ceramics
Round Side Table — Target
Milk Glass Vase on Round Side Table — Vintage, bought at a Joshua Tree Flea Market
Candle on Round Side Table — Good Candle, Brooklyn New York
Copper Tray on Round Side Table — Cheesecake Dish from our Rehearsal Dinner
Pillows on Leather Couch — Custom made from a vintage Chilean Mapuche textile owned by Michelle’s grandfather (also Chilean)
Fringe Black Throw Pillow — Coming soon to Morrow Soft Goods Fall 2017
Black/White Throw Blanket — Morrow Soft Goods Remi
Floor Lamp with Marble Base — CB2
Rug — Purchased from same Turkish dealer as the other two rugs we bought in Turkey who actually made a house call to us while in the US!
Bookshelf — Pepe’s in Silver Lake
Mao Zedong Bust — Alex Cheung’s Shop, Chung King Rd, Chinatown
Ceramic Dutch Homes — James’ travel souvenirs
Chairs — Vintage Gunlocke Chairs found on Craigslist
Sheepskins — Etsy

Kitchen Table — Craigslist personally refinished
Beneath Table Rug — Rose Bowl Flea Market
Flamingos Embroidered Tapestry — purchased in Udaipur India wasn’t for sale was the art on the wall of the store we visited and James got them to sell it to us.
David Hockney Print — Louisiana Museum Humlebaek Denmark
Dining Chairs — Vintage
Candle Sticks — CB2

Runner Rug — Purchased in Turkey
Window Ledge — Hellen Levi Tea Pot, Marimekko Tea Pot, Mate Gourd – Michelle’s Family Heirloom from Great Grandfather, Ceramic Cow – Michelle’s grandmother, August Tea
Fruit Bowl — Heath Ceramics.
Flower Vase — West Elm
Framed Art — Printed Matter Art Book Fair
Counter Stools — Target

Nightstands — Vintage
Lamps — West Elm
Art Above Bed — Alexander Calder Lithographs arts district private dealer
Throw Blanket on Bed — Morrow Soft Goods coming soon
Two Tone Linen Duvet — Morrow Soft Goods
Accent Pillowcases — Morrow Soft Goods
Hat — Satya Twena
Jute Rug — Pottery Barn
Accent Rug —
Desk — Ikea
Desk Chair — Steelcase Vintage
Hope Poster — Original Print from Nevada 2008 campaign
Blanket Ladder — Lawson Fenning
Desk Lamp — Target Base
Desk Lamp Bulb — Baller Hardware, Silverlake
Pencil Holders — Kat + Roger
Basket — West Elm
Pillows — Morrow Soft Goods

Human Rights Postcard — Museum of Memory and Human Rights Santiago Chile
Beach Photo — Michelle’s family photo on Cisco Beach in Nantucket
Wood Trash Can — Target
Blankets on Ladder Top to Bottom — Morrow Soft Goods Dover; Morrow Soft Goods Remi; Morrow Soft Goods Emerson

Dresser Nightstands — Vintage
Lamps — Target
Plant Stand — Crate and Barrel
Vase on Shelf — Kat + Roger
Chinese Painted Panel — Long Beach Fleamarket
Hands Up Print — Gregorio Escalante Gallery
Lion on Dresser — Purchased in Stockholm
Ceramic Tray on Dresser — Target
Milk Glass Goblet — Rose Bowl Flea Market
Bear Animals Print —
Hamper — Cost Plus World Market
Rug — Ecarpet Gallery
Framed Poem by closet — Wedding†gift

Franklin Roosevelt WW2 Print —
Wood Trash Can — Target
Mud Cleanser — Osea
Essential Hydrating Oil — Osea

Thanks, Michelle and James!

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