A Mortician’s “Victorian Naturalist” Los Angeles Home

updated Jul 29, 2019
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Name: Caitlin Doughty
Location: Mid City — Los Angeles, California
Size: 1.000 square feet
Years lived in: 8 years, renting

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Death is often portrayed unrealistically in television and movies. It’s a major “scary” element to Halloween (in costume and decor). And death is no longer something that happens in the home, as it did for generations before us. As a mortician, author and owner of her own funeral home, Caitlin Doughty is dedicating her life to creating a more open conversation about death and dying, in a culture that has a huge discomfort with both. She speaks around the world on the history of death culture, rituals and the funeral industry, and her home is both a reflection of her passions and a celebration of the things she’s dedicated her life to.

Caitlin is a mortician who owns her own funeral home, Undertaking LA, where she values the importance of honoring the dead. She has created a space where families can come, regardless of their economic status, to properly mourn for their loved ones and be as involved with the process as they would like. She also guides natural burials without any embalming and works with Joshua Tree Memorial Park for burials there.

She is also the founder of the Order of the Good Death, a “death acceptance collective” that she began in 2011 and that has since been featured in the LA Times, NPR and more. She is the energetic and informative host of the popular (and funny!) Ask a Mortician web series and an author of a New York Times bestseller, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.

Since this tour first ran, Caitlin has published another book! From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. The Order of the Good Death is also launching a new podcast, “Death in the Afternoon.”

This is the first time in Caitlin’s adult life she’s lived without a roommate, so she is obsessed with the freedom she can have over every little detail of her space. Perhaps not surprisingly, Caitlin’s home is filled with Gothic, ancient and religious relics that pepper an ordinarily normal West LA apartment building. You’ll find old doctor’s artifacts, books from ancient times focusing on death, an entire wall dedicated to pictures of her ancestors, relics from her parents’ international travels and lots of candles to complete the mood.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Victorian Naturalist

Inspiration: 16th & 17th century Vanitas paintings (reminding us death is coming for us all), and cabinets of curiosity

Favorite Element: The big windows and natural light during the day, the amber lighting and candles at night.

Biggest Challenge: Finding time to search for the perfect piece to add to the controlled chaos

What Friends Say: “Oh shit, you can never move. It would take too long to get everything off the walls.”

Biggest Embarrassment: I move things around, so there are probably more holes in the wall than strictly need to be there.

Proudest DIY: I’m not the handiest person in the world, but I have done all the painting, framing, and hanging in the apartment. So I can step up when I need to.

Biggest Indulgence: Vintage taxidermy. Shipping things back from overseas trips.

Best Advice: Kinda basic, but all the items in your house should either be useful or bring you real aesthetic happiness. Otherwise ditch ’em!

Dream Sources: European natural history museums & medical museums

Thanks, Caitlin!

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