Before I dive into talking about the loft, I’d love to share a few moments leading up. Last summer when Covid became a harsh reality, my partner Jordan and I bought a van, and decided to leave Los Angeles for six months. We explored 32 states, took very few showers, saw dozens of National Parks, and eventually ended up in Brooklyn. We had become true nomads and had completely altered our habitual routine.
Living on the road, I had fallen in love with two things: the big city and the wilderness. I’m so grateful to have gone from exploring rural Montana where your only neighbor is bison and tall pine trees to exploring the Big Apple where your neighbors are street vendors and tall buildings.
We thought about staying in New York for a while but ultimately with my and Jordan’s work, we decided Los Angeles would be home for the time being. (Jordan is a filmmaker and I’m an interior stylist).
I didn’t always know I wanted to pursue interiors. I just knew I needed to do something creative with my life.
After college, I was floating. Questioning what to do with my Studio Art degree. I considered painting or even graphic design. Then, my career aspirations ended up completely changing when I became interior designer Leanne Ford’s assistant. Watching her transform a blank canvas into a masterpiece people could live in was an entirely new art form to me – one I was completely enamored by. I knew I would have A LOT to learn but that this was the path I wanted to pursue.
After working for Leanne, I decided to try out interior styling. I love interior styling because you get to collaborate with designers and other creatives. I’m currently a freelance interior stylist and have been consistently working on a range of projects with interior designer Anita Yokota.
As every creative knows, it’s important to give yourself a balance of space and time to grow to find your own creative voice. I saw our future LA apartment as the perfect canvas to play with a creative approach that was uniquely my own.
Once we made our way back to Los Angeles the apartment hunt began. We toured at least 10 apartments before stumbling across a loft listed on Craigslist. We set up a tour, fell in love with its character and charm, applied then got approved to move in the next day.
Crazy how some things just work out.
Moving day was a hilarious sight – picture a 1,200 sq ft open space with the only piece of “furniture” a queen-sized mattress on the floor.
It was time to start from scratch and I was ready for the challenge.
First Project: The Kitchen
I went back and forth on what to do. After all, this loft is a rental. Our landlord gave us the OK to paint the cabinets. Which then led to the question: “What color?!” I knew I’d be keeping the majority of the space neutral with tons of plants – so I wanted to tie in an earthy green that reminded me of the many trees we saw on our road trip. Jordan was hesitant to paint the cabinets… so I actually waited to paint when he was out of town to surprise him LOL. He came home to a very green kitchen. Don’t worry, he loves it.
The color I chose is Evergreen in Semi-Gloss and I also replaced the hardware with very affordable white knobs from Amazon. The green cabinets ended up complimenting the existing countertops so I decided to leave ’em be.
Second Project: Designing The Bookshelf
When it came to designing the space, I wanted to highlight what was already there – the tall windows, original hardwood floors and brick walls, the wood burning fireplace, and 12ft ceilings. I ended up sketching an 8 ft long, 12 ft high open bookshelf to wrap around the ceiling beams. This would divide the bedroom and living room space while still maintaining the loft/studio vibe.
We consulted four different contractors/woodworkers to build the bookcase and all of them quoted between $4,000 -$7,000. Which was too expensive, especially for the loft being a rental. Then it dawned on us that maybe Jordan’s dad, Mark, could build it! He’s flipped dozens of houses and is very talented. Mark had all the pieces cut so that all we had to do was install. On the day of install we realized our old floors are slightly slanted – so he ended up having to cut each post to fit the slant in the floor. Somehow each post is a different height but all the shelves look straight. Still don’t know how he managed to pull that off but so happy he did. The entire bookshelf ended up costing us less than $500.
Another fun piece we made was our 10-foot desk. It was important to Jordan and me to have a nice spacious workspace. However, it was hard to find a long desk. I ended up going to a local lumber yard and got a 10-foot slab of butcher block then bought three IKEA filing cabinets. This was the perfect solution and cost less than $500.
Third Project: Choosing The Furniture
When it came to choosing the furniture, I remembered our time in the van – waking up in a different state every morning with a different view of nature. I couldn’t help but want to bring natural elements into our industrial loft. So, I styled the space with branches and rocks I found from our road trip mixed with aged leathers, woven rugs, and vintage furniture. Some of my favorite finds are our vintage cane dining chairs from Urban Americana, and of course Leanne Ford’s chairs she designed for Crate and Barrel. I also befriended this guy named Saasaan who travels to Europe every couple months and brings back a shipping container full of vintage furniture. He has a warehouse a few blocks from our loft. I got our coffee table, dining table, leather chairs, and artwork from him.
I love vintage shopping because you get to have one-of-a-kind pieces making any space extra special. I’ve learned a few tricks to vintage shopping:
Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you should buy it – I used to buy cheap decor or furniture all the time just because of the price. Reality is, you’ll only use it for a few months before it ends up in the back of your closetIt doesn’t have to be in perfect shape – I am all about pieces that look lived in. My favorite is vintage leather… I love the way leather ages, it’s timeless.Look for local mom-and-pop thrift shops/flea markets near you – I’ve come to find that “Trendy” thrift shops are overpriced and local thrift shops or flea markets tend to have better finds.Facebook Marketplace is your new best friend – to be honest, the only reason I still use Facebook is for FB Marketplace. I found our HD Buttercup leather sofa there for 80% off the original price.Don’t rush – It’s almost impossible to find anything when you’re under pressure. Take your time and visit your local thrift shops frequently. When you visit consistently, you avoid settling for something you’re not completely in love with.
I’m so excited that the loft is complete and to be back in Los Angeles. Though, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about where we’ll explore next.
Read more: stylebyemilyhenderson.com