- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Website: protohomes.com
- Founded: 2007
- Founded by: Frank Vafaee, Manish Desai, and Andre Farhang
- Headquarters: Los Angeles, California
Last week, I braved a torrential downpour to take a look at the Proto Homes model home. Proto Homes is a modern take on home construction that marries developer, architect and homeowner together to offer customizable, sustainable and flexible homes.
Each Proto Home is designed around a central utility core and controlled by an iPad. I loved the feature that allows you to move the walls on the second floor around to create a bedroom for the weekend or an office for the summer! Emily Desai styled the home and shared her thought process…
Our overall goal in designing the interiors of the Proto Homes space was to achieve a simple, modern feel to the home that was affordable and accessible. The house is a great space to begin with, since it is so open and natural light is spilling into the whole place. It is literally a blank canvas, so I thought about color palette, types of textures, what kind of items to place and where — imagining the people who might inhabit the space. All the while trying to keep everything on the less expensive end of the spectrum.
Trying to keep to a hard budget means that you have to shop around —we hit the basics like IKEA, CB2, West Elm and Target — all go tos for affordable, yet well-designed, goods. Then you have to dig a little deeper — thrift shops, Craigslist, Overstock, eBay. These are a little trickier because the inventory is always changing and they are hit-and-miss. Sometimes you win (great rugs, designer pieces, vintage goods, awesome lights and old books), sometimes you don't.
This space is voluminous, with ceilings that are about 20 feet tall, and yet it had to feel intimate and comfortable. So, to start, we dropped the pendant lights low — just above head height — and chose a deep sofa that could multi-task: lounge, movie night, work from home. The sofa was a relative steal — for a sectional, that was substantial-feeling it was just $1,700 from Jaxson at The Helms Bakery Complex in Culver City. It was the warm gray that I was looking for, which was a bonus. Then we added a nice shag rug — necessary to add texture and warmth on top of the concrete floors. Now you have a nice little "zone" that you start to personalize. Books are great — always. I like thrift stores for old hardbacks (that cost well under five dollars) and for new or large format books, I love Powell's online store — good people, great prices, no tax, good shipping.
Finding good artwork is also important — in this case, we worked around the colors in the space and the organic forms of the landscape and developed large prints — the work had to be large enough to hold its own in the space. I love gallery framing, but on a budget —IKEA Ribba frames are the workhorses of choice — affordable and neutral. Then finish a space with small pieces like bowls, vintage dishes, ceramics or old ashtrays (yep!) that can hold flowers, candles and the mandatory (in my opinion) candy .
The master bedroom hovers over the main living space, but thanks to the low walls, it feels like a nice private space —we call it the "treehouse." Upstairs has hardwood floors throughout, so it already feels warmer — then I wanted to create a retreat, a place to read and relax. It seemed to me like a minimalist would be at home here. Definitely a less is more thing going on. The bed is very simple, just a frame. For bedding, we shopped Target. They have a great selection of sheets, duvets, pillows — really a good place to start. Then we added some pillows found on Etsy, as well as one that we made with some remnant Hable Construction fabric. FLOR, one of our design partners, has amazing choices when it comes to color and pattern in their carpet tiles and that added the pop of orange that we were after. Chairs played a role in this space too — from a pair of vintage Barcelona chairs in the reading area, to an awesome plywood chair by LA-based furniture makers ToDoSomething that did double-duty as a bedside table. Art is a more fluid thing — for the shoot, we borrowed the plywood pieces by artist Tim Forcum (courtesy of Den Contemporary). But, once that gets taken away — we had to come up with more permanent pieces. With this project, the idea of posters and lithographs kept coming up, as they are often modern, simple and affordable — so that is what we worked with. A pair of posters fit the bill perfectly and were winners because they echoed the punch pattern on the staircase and rails.
Kids rooms are fun — they are light and optimistic, so finding the perfect items for this space just required some playfulness and an open mind. We started with the kids FLOR tiles — they were colorful and basic with simple, iconic images. From there we decided to add pieces from different parts of the world that tied in with the oranges, yellows and green from the tiles — Mexican papier-mache masks, Batik prints from Africa and even a little llama from Argentina. Then we added vintage toys and books, games and another beautiful chair from ToDoSomething and we found the room we were looking for — fun, different and modern.
FlexZone Room Studio
This may be my favorite spot in the house — it is the kind of space that I could working in day in and day out. The FlexZone configuration that we set up was two bedrooms plus a large studio space. Here we were going for a multi-use space where you can work, have a meeting, and play with the kids at the end of the day. We started with the simple and super affordable table tops and sawhorses from IKEA — they worked with the floor plan we had laid out, providing ample work surfaces while keeping the feel of the room light and the FLOR tiles gave definition and color to the space. The Eden light overhead light from CB2 provides light in the evening. A vintage couch and a small table work well as a meeting spot and are also perfect for a reading break — the view out the window stretches from Century City to the Hollywood sign. Then we used everyday items like colored pencils and stacks of paper and envelopes to pop in parts of the space. It makes sense to have the things you use at your fingertips — and have them pull some design weight, too. The wall display was based on the 500 pencils installations from Social Designer; they mix function and visual appeal in a simple, yet effective way. We used wall-mounted votive holders from CB2 to hold the pencils (I think we ended up with something like 350 pencils!) and it has been a constant conversation piece ever since. The office was not complete without nice books, pottery, art prints and some other little finds that give personality to the room — that's what makes it unique. By being practical about most parts of the space, we could afford a couple splurges like the Herman Miller chairs from Room & Board or the Tivoli radio and still come in under budget.
Oh, simplicity. The powder room is smart and small. The big gesture here is the cubic wall tile that sparkles under the light, and casts hundreds of tiny reflections on the dark chocolate walls and ceiling. All that we needed to complement that drama were some small gestures like the air plants in the hanging glass orbs from CB2, a simple round IKEA mirror and a pop of color in the form of the orchid. The painting was by Michael Napper (again, courtesy of Den Contemporary). Here, less is more.
To learn more about Proto Homes, click here.
Images: Lisa Romerein for Proto Homes