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Stories for being at home.
A home that channels creativity.

Codie O’Connor’s Cozy Live-Work Studio

07 29 21

We visited Austin-based artist Codie O’Connor in her live-work studio space — a warm, cozy space, with decor that reflects the art she creates. The abstract painter draws inspiration from everyday life, and her home offers plenty of it. A space dedicated to creatives, the home reflects the artistry and visions of previous creatives who lived there. We spoke with Codie about her home and what she draws for inspiration in both her artwork and in home decor.


Give us an intro!

My name is Codie, and I am a painter with a studio based out of Austin, Texas!

Your artwork is very calming. What is the biggest inspiration behind your art? Is there a reason you choose to work with specific colors or patterns?

Thank you! That makes me happy. I don't have one main inspiration for my work; all of my work is a direct reflection of my day-to-day life and serves as a sort of accidental mirror into how I'm feeling. The paintings I make are an attempt to access the part of my brain that doesn't have rules or limitations or judgment and just lets me experience color and shape in whatever form it comes out as.

The color palette I work with is based on what I'm drawn to at the time and is often repeated until my brain has fully wrapped itself around the depths of the color combination.

When it comes to patterns, linework is certainly a recurring one in my work — I've been doing that since I was a kid doodling on napkins and homework. I'm not totally sure what it means other than it just feels good to my eye and hand.

I think music is incredibly influential in my work as I am often surrounded by it. My partner is a musician, as well as many of my friends. I've been drawn to music from the 60s to early 70s since I was a little kid listening to Neil Young in the car with my parents. I have no doubt that the imagery this music drums up makes its way onto a canvas.

 

 

What made you choose this home? Were there elements that you were drawn to? Does your home help you channel creativity?

My partner and I rent this house. It's affordable, allows for both of us to have studios, and it has 1917 charm. Also, it didn't hurt that, for whatever reason, peacocks happen to roam this particular South Austin neighborhood. Our landlord has kept his rent at a reasonable rate in hopes of fostering a little oasis for creatives. He wants tenants involved in the creative industry who love and want to take care of this house, and in some way, make it their own. A concept that has probably all but died since the 1970s.

This house is outfitted with beautiful carpentry by a former tenant who was a carpenter, a somewhat self-sustaining A-frame in the backyard built by a hippie couple that eventually moved to Mexico, and little wabi-sabi touches all over. These features give you glimpses into lives lived out in this little artists' haven. The wood floors, the exposed brick in the kitchen where a fireplace used to be, the clawfoot tub, and all the special little quirks that surely would have been erased if a new property owner were to take over. In this way, this house does help channel creativity. It's a safe space for me and also serves as a revolving door for all of our friends who regularly bring their instruments, their cameras, or their fresh batch of tepache that they've brewed. I certainly feel like this home has felt like a second home for many of our friends to create in as well.

Home design, to me, is just an extension of how I express myself. What I do in my studio and the headspace that I go into doesn't just stop when I leave the four walls of my studio; it naturally seeps into the things around me. Maybe our home's most intentional design aspect is using our collection of records and stereo system as the focal point of the living room area. Music is a large part of my day-to-day life as both an influence and daily necessity.

 

 

Do you create art for your own home? When decorating your space, what type of art catches your eye?

I do have one of my own paintings hanging in my house. I don't decorate my home around hanging my own art normally, but this particular painting has a deeper story involved. It's a giant canvas stretched over homemade (far too heavy for its own good) stretcher bars. One day, back in college, I was biking to work and saw this couple throwing this giant canvas out. The couple was getting rid of all of their belongings — including this giant canvas — to travel the country by motorcycle. I was a broke college student who regularly painted on cardboard because it was free. I promptly threw my bike down on the ground and lugged this canvas back to my house, figuring that work could wait. It lived on my porch that year (because it was too big to fit in my tiny room) and has been in every house I've lived in since. It has layers and layers of different paintings dating back to when I was 21. It's a painting that slowly evolves over time and grows with me.

Ironically, I don't own many paintings by other artists, but I'd like to! I've noticed that I am really drawn to photography when it comes to hanging art in my house. But I also don't have any rules when it comes to art — if it catches my eye, even if it's different than the rest of the pieces I have in my house, that's really all that matters to me.

Do you find the decor of your home reflects the art you create?  

I think the decor of my house likely reflects the art I create. Both my house and what I make are extensions of how I express myself, so I feel like it'd be inevitable!

Tell us about a couple of your favorite pieces. 

One of my favorite pieces in my house is a ceramic bust on a wood slate (artist unknown) from my childhood home, and it's one of the earliest pieces that I have a memory of. Another is a rare Milton Glasser Bob Dylan print that is hard to find in good condition and is typically fairly pricey. My partner and I had been looking for one for years, and one day, we hit the jackpot and found it in a vintage store for $14! I also love my Kelly Lu drawing titled "Cultural Appropriation." I was 22 and used the little money I had to buy it. It was the first piece of art that I ever purchased and is somewhat sentimental and nostalgic because of that.

 

 

You were able to create a studio space in your home. How have you designed the space to work for you? Can you tell us more about what makes for a great studio space and how you draw inspiration from your studio?

Because I'm just a renter, I worked around the existing space. Luckily I had pretty good bones to work with — large windows, good light, and a sun seat facing a giant pomegranate tree that grows just outside the window. To make the space function a little better as a studio, I took down the blinds, kept bulky furniture out, and painted the floors white to let light bounce around more easily. I personally think that an open floor plan, giant windows that open up to let the breeze in, and some storage space for a plethora of art supplies would make for a great studio space. Having a studio to work from is a luxury, and I fully support just working with what you've got, even if it's working from the kitchen table in your house. I've been there!

 

 

Being a full-time artist wasn't always the plan. What made you choose to focus solely on your art?

Being a full-time artist certainly wasn't always my plan, but when I look back, I can sort of connect the dots and see how I got here. In college, I studied arts management, which I often describe as a major that utilizes both sides of the brain. I had so many friends in college who were doing incredible work, and I was so inspired by them that I'd constantly brag about them. I wanted to work in a space that essentially boosted up my friends' artwork; I wanted to go to work and be surrounded by art that I was excited about. When I graduated, I worked at a contemporary art gallery and got to do what I went to college to do, which was amazing. But eventually, I left and traveled for a while, and when I came back to the U.S. and was waiting to hear back from jobs, I painted — A LOT. Eventually, a small business asked me to create a series of paintings for their shop, which sort of snowballed into making commissions and eventually murals. I couldn't have planned for it, but now I feel so spoiled and can't imagine doing anything other than what I am doing right now.

Has your style evolved over time? Does this reflect in your art and home?

I hope so! I think no matter how much your work has changed, anything you do will inherently look like "you." Think about your parents' handwriting or the way your friends dress; it can change and get slightly nuanced with time but will inevitably keep little pockets of "them." Over quarantine, I've definitely taken a departure from my previous style and dived a bit deeper into abstract work. I think anyone who has followed my work for a while would be able to see how my older work translates into the work I'm making today. I'm really inspired by the deconstruction of a painting right now. My goal is to continue to evolve and grow with time; I think that's pretty crucial! When it comes to the evolution of style in my house, I think I am just slowly chipping away at what I like. This will probably be a lifelong practice, just continually refining who I am and, in turn, building a home around that!

 

For more about Codie please check out:

codieoconnor.com

@codieoconnor

 



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Content creator Alyssa Coscarelli brings her creative approach to fashion to her home.

Alyssa Coscarelli's Expressive Home Perfectly Blends the Old and the New.

07 21 21
Kate Connors

Freelance writer, brand consultant, and content creator Alyssa Coscarelli has been a must-follow for years. While she is known for her creative approach to fashion, she’s spent the last year in Los Angeles designing a space that’s just as inventive. We got a chance to speak to Alyssa about some of the special second-hand pieces she is drawn to, her realistic sensibility about design inspiration, and why she always loves to mix the old and the new.


You’ve been setting up your space over the last few months — did any of your design priorities change with the onset of the pandemic? We’re all at home so much more now…

It’s been a great creative outlet during this slower-paced time, and as I near the “end” of the bulk of the furnishing, I’m almost bummed not to have this project to spend much of my free time on anymore! Spending so much time at home definitely got me thinking about which spaces I could work from home in, which spaces I could lounge in, where to keep an open space for working out… How each area plays a part in this new lifestyle and my daily routine. There’s no shortage of cozy blankets, plush rugs, comfy places to sit...

 

How would you describe your interior style? Has it evolved over the years? Do you think it tracks with your taste in fashion, or is it a little bit separate from that world?

Honestly, I hate having to put it into words because it’s so many things! I’d say it’s a mix of midcentury, 70s, postmodern and a bit of minimalism. It’s always evolving — constantly! — just like my clothing style is, just like I always am. My interior style definitely reflects some aspects of what I’m into in fashion at any given time.

 

Where do you find inspiration for your home? Books? Stores? Instagram accounts?

Yes, all of the above, but I also just jump on what truly excites me, and always ask myself if I really love each item along the way. Then, somehow, that becomes an aesthetic that’s all my own, that you can’t really box into any particular name or style, and I love that about the process. I feel that my spaces never end up looking like the inspiration images I save, and I’m okay with it because I love watching it take shape as its own “thing” entirely — something totally “me.”

Do you tend to change and experiment with your furniture/decor or do you stop once you consider a space “done”? What’s the latest piece you’ve added to the space?

I agree with those who say that interiors are like living, breathing beings that are constantly changing and evolving along with you. I’ve learned that it’s never really “done.” There’s still so much I want to do with this space, in fact at the time of shooting this I had new cushions on the way for the vintage dining chairs. Don’t underestimate the power of reupholstering!

 

Did you furnish the home from scratch, or did you bring in pieces you loved from previous spaces? What’s the piece you’ve had the longest?

I started mostly from scratch with this place in an effort to cut back the cost of moving across the country, and with my knowledge that new spaces (especially in a new city) often have a completely different vibe and therefore might require a new direction furniture-wise. But, I couldn’t give up my Luigi Massoni Dilly Dally (the orange vanity in my room) — it’s such a special piece and I was lucky to find it on the Real Real in furnishing my last place. I’ve also had the framed line drawing near my bed for 3 apartments now. Some of my vintage lamps also made the cut. I originally brought my bedframe to LA, but it didn’t work well once I got it in the space; the Floyd ended up being the perfect replacement for the calming, airy vibe I wanted in the bedroom.

 

Do any of your pieces have a fun story behind them?

I think every single piece in here has some kind of story behind it, but the Togo couches are always kind of a funny one because, to make a long story short, I got them through a stranger that I was connected with on WhatsApp, and they came from Germany and took months to arrive and it could have easily been a scam but I’m just so glad it wasn’t... ha.

 

For more about Alyssa please check out:

@alyssainthecity

alyssacoscarelli.com

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Cook, writer, & photographer creates a lush edible garden around the exterior of her “glass tree house”.

Julia Sherman’s Garden has a Life
of Its Own.

06 18 21
Kate Connors

Julia Sherman spent the last year creating an edible garden at her Los Angeles home. The cook, writer, & photographer behind the blog and subsequent books Salad for President and ArtParties, sees the creative potential in everything she does — including the lush landscape she’s created around the exterior of her Boyd Georgi-designed “glass tree house” that seems to float over a rugged stream.

We visited Julia’s garden, where she spends time with her family cultivating the ingredients to her famous salads, and spoke to the author about the emotion resonance of the space, the most delicious things she’s harvested, and the party she’s dreaming about throwing.


For the past year you’ve been in the process of making this beautiful home your own. Can you talk a little bit about that outdoor space? Has it been shaped by your work as a cook and a writer?

I am a cook, artist, writer and photographer. I never call myself a professional gardener because I feel like I'm a lifelong student and definitely still learning a lot. I try to keep all my work within the intersection of the art world and the food world, and to think about how creative people integrate food into their everyday lives.

The garden for me is my meditation, but it also really dovetails really nicely with my work. I grow a lot of the things that I find difficult to source. Those are more unusual herbs and vegetables. Then just the things that I find I need on a daily basis, especially during the pandemic it's been really nice to not have to be constantly outsourcing everything. When we bought the house, the front garden was the previous owner’s prize rose garden, but my friend Nina Whitethorn helped me to make it into our vegetable garden. She was my savior because the week that we were supposed to be planting, I got COVID. We had to plant, and she just took the reins and got everything in the ground for me while I was really, really sick.

The plantings are really happy because it gets full sun. The back of the house was a very extreme slope and a conundrum from a landscaping point of view, because the house is cantilevered over a natural stream, and there's a bridge that goes over it. I knew I wanted to have a fruit orchard back there, so we worked with Terremoto to make what we call our Zorro cut through the landscape. It's like a big extreme switchback, a Z-shaped path in the back. Along it are fruit trees and a lot of native plants and pollinators. The idea being that we're growing a lot of native plants that attract bees and birds, butterflies. Then we have 30 different types of fruit trees growing back there.

 

Your garden is full of edible plants that often form the base of your cooking. What are you growing?

Right now I'm growing cardamom, which is totally amazing because the leaves smell incredible. All my cilantro has gone to seed now, but that was great. The green coriander berry is amazing and people don't use it enough. Before it dries and becomes a coriander seed, it's this really bright, vibrant green berry. I just harvested artichokes and marinated them in oil, which is really delicious. I have a curry plant which is something so special. You often see curry leaves in Indian food, often fried and added to rice, but it's really hard to find fresh curry leaves. That is a really cool thing.

What else? Oh, ice lettuce, which is this succulent plant. The stems and the stalks look like they're covered in little droplets of water, but it's actually just these nodules of salty deliciousness. That is a really cool plant that is hard to get to establish, but once it takes off, it just does its own thing and barely needs any water.

 

What emotions does this outdoor space, which you’ve put so much effort into creating, evoke? Did you create those feelings very intentionally or has it been more of an organic experience (no pun intended)?

I'd say there's a mix. I tried to really keep feelings of anxiety at bay because with edible plants you have a lot of constant responsibilities. You're mulching, you're pruning, you're doing pest control. Each of them has a personality of their own. There are times when it can feel like every time I go outside, I'm like, "Oh, fuck. I have just so much to do." It always feels for me really urgent.

But then I think the other part of it is this deep satisfaction of feeling self-sustaining. There's also a lot less pressure in terms of everyday cooking, because when you make a salad from the garden and you pick 20 different greens that are just right there, you don't have to do much. You can just put vinegar and olive oil on it and it tastes delicious. I think there's this sort of comfort with simplicity because you feel so accomplished already at having grown the vegetables.

I'm a nurturer, and plants just make you feel like you're constantly moving in the right direction. So for me, that's important. I think as an East Coaster in LA, I miss the seasons. The best way here to really actually connect with the seasons is to grow food, because you experience the reality of them with your hands. I would actually have no idea that it was April right now if there weren’t artichokes and fava beans growing.

Has being at home over the course of the pandemic changed how you think about your home and garden at all?

When we first moved in, which was peak pandemic, I found myself putting a lot of my feelings of lack of control into the house and having a really hard time accepting the fact that a project like this is never done.

Getting to spending so much time in the home with all of us— we have a two year old and I am expecting our second baby in July—has definitely made us realize that we have to actually to be really intentional about enjoying our space and not thinking of it as always something that's waiting for our attention to fix it, or to change it. We just have been looking around like, "We're so lucky and so happy to be here." I think that it’s made it an important time as a family to just be somewhere where we can be outside and garden together and just feel grateful for what we have.

 

You obviously are spending a lot of time in your garden with your family and for your work, but how else do you envision sharing this space down the road?

We are serial entertainers and hosts. My next book is actually all about entertaining. It’s called Arty Parties: an Entertaining Cookbook, and it’s all about the concept of entertaining as an experimental pursuit that is also fulfilling for your guests and for you as a host. So, entertaining was such an important part of our vision for this house.

We're really feeling like we need to have a big party, because we're used to having 30 people over for dinner on a regular basis. We haven't been able to do that. The past year really has been a very different experience of a house that we designed to be a place that can accommodate people really collectively and comfortably. I think it's been very weird for us to not have had that and have lived here over a year.

We're having a baby in July. I'm so excited about the bris because it's the first chance we'll probably have to have a real party. I'm the only person who's ever been excited about a bris! I think the vision ultimately is that there's always somebody crashing and people show up for dinner unannounced, and that's just not been a reality. I think it'll be a really different way of living here once that changes.

 

What's your ultimate dream for the garden?

I think that for me the ultimate goal is that the garden starts to just really take on a life of its own. My philosophy about gardening is to let it start to breathe and have its own rhythms. This year is my second year with the garden. The thing that's the most gratifying right now is seeing how there are things that are just feeding themselves.

I don't pull things as soon as they start to look like they're done or they're not giving me what I want, I let them go to seed or I let them flower. That way they're feeding the bees and the pollinators, but also it lets me use the plant in its entirety. Now I have a Calendula that I didn't plant that's just growing up everywhere, and Chrysanthemum and Dill and things that I didn't plan for. I love that the garden gets to that place where it's a living breathing thing and it really just takes on a life of its own.

For more about Julia please check out:

Salad for President

 

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Keegan Fong built and designed a restaurant that reflects his family and his heritage.

Woon: A Family Built Pop-Up Turned Restaurant

06 11 21

A conversation with Woon founder, Keegan Fong.


Can you tell me how Woon came about?

Woon was a passion project / pop up concept that started in 2014 born out of a desire to share my mom’s (Mama Fong’s) food. I’d come home from my day job and just feel like I needed to work on my own thing, so I decided to build a business plan for a theoretical noodle shop. One day, my cousin presented us with an opportunity to be a food vendor at Parachute Market - a Los Angeles-based craft fair which was being hosted at my Uncle’s antique showroom, JF Chen Antiques. I rallied my family together, and we built a pop up business - from logo conception, apron design, menu, food cart build – within 30 days. It was pretty unbelievable now that I think about it. We sold out of food both days of the event and from then on we just became a noodle cart pop up, jumping around different bars/venues in Los Angeles. Our main spot was an alleyway behind our friends’ studio in Koreatown called Pico Studio. It was pretty much always a BYOB party with our friends DJing and us providing the food. In 2018, I decided to quit my job, raise some money and find a location to make Woon a permanent restaurant concept which opened its doors in March of 2019.

 

While we were at the space you pointed out a lot of furniture pieces that were gifted to you by family members—can you tell us how your family has been involved in the restaurant and design of the space?

My family and friends built this entire place….literally and figuratively. I had taught my brother-in-law, Philipp, how to use a wok during the pop up days, so he was literally cooking all the noodles along with my mom and I every single pop up. When I first opened, he managed the kitchen for a few months so I could focus on running the business. My sister, Andrea, and cousin, Bianca, helped me with all the merchandising and front of house training when we first opened. My mom trained the entire kitchen on her recipes after her radiation appointments because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer the week after I signed the lease on this place.

In terms of the design of the space…the Chinese cabinets, framed photos, and some various vases are “borrowed” from my mom’s house. I still need to replace those for her :). My uncle is in antiques so he has contributed some unique pieces that he will rotate out sometimes. In the bathrooms are some Mao propaganda posters which are originals. The main wall in the dining room currently has two original scroll paintings of a royal family. The furniture was designed and built by myself and my roommate at the time, Peter Wilday. All the furniture is really a reflection of my personal taste mixed with a bit of Taiwanese inspiration from a trip I took there before opening Woon. My good friend, Ty Williams, is essentially our Art Director now…he hand painted a lot of the signage and canvas pieces on the walls which helps balance the traditional feel with the contemporary loose and colorful feel of Ty’s work.

 

You mentioned how important Fung Shui is to your mother, and how it has made its way into every corner of Woon. Would you give us a little context into the process?

My mom is a Feng Shui die hard….before I opened I had to hire a Feng Shui master to read the room. Each section of the space has it’s own representation and certain things need to be placed in those areas in order to counter balance or enhance that representation. So when you look around woon and see the random trinkets and ’turtle dragons’ in the corners…they actually have a function. For instance, there is a shelf high up in the dining room with some brass horses on it. The horses represent “movement” to help encourage more movement in the dining room and to turn more tables which in turn means more $$$. There are also some hidden things around the kitchen…like a jar of salt water to help absorb the bad energy in specific corners. I can go on and on about all this but I’ll save it for another time haha.

What was the main design inspiration for the restaurant?

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but it all happened very organically. Generally speaking, it’s a direct reflection of my personal taste in style blended with more traditional aspects of my mom’s and my uncle’s. It’s sort of an intersection of my Asian American upbringing…blending the new with the old. Also, I had just come back from a trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan and I was really inspired by the dichotomy of new and old. Additionally, everything just felt so comfortable, especially in Taiwan. You walk into a cafe and you immediately feel like you’re a guest in your family friends’ home. That’s exactly how I wanted Woon to feel like.

I’ve always had so much gratitude and appreciation of the Chinese and Asian communities in the cities I spend time in. Chinatown is always where it’s all happening—the confluence of tradition and a real openness to new ideas. It’s evident that the community plays a big role with your project as well and it feels awesome that you’re bringing it to a new corner of LA. How has the community informed what you’re doing at Woon and how you use the space?

I am very fortunate to have ended up in Historic Filipinotown. When looking for a space I knew I wanted to find a spot that felt like it was in a “neighborhood”….and a corner location really helps bring that feeling together. Temple is a busy street, but our cross street, Reno, is a quant little street with families and buildings that have been in this neighborhood forever. Everyone is very supportive of our business and always look out for us. I’m on a first name basis with all of our filipino and Latinx neighbors. Actually, 4 of our staff have worked here since the beginning and they live across the street. My landlord is an immigrant from Thailand and her and I share food and stories with each other on a daily basis. She’s a gem.

With that said, community is obviously a very important part of Woon. Not only our immediate neighborhood, but the broader community of Asian Americans as well. I feel like I’ve acquired this responsibility to help tell our Asian American story which will hopefully bring new perspectives to anyone who isn’t familiar with it. As long as we can continue to support this broader community and keep telling my mom’s story, then it’s up to everyone else to take that information how they please. Best case scenario, it helps them gain a new perspective.

 

When you think about restaurant interiors that really inspire you, what comes to mind?

It’s quite broad, but I think the most important thing is that it has to be comfortable. It can be the hippest of the hip and on trend, but if I sit down and it doesn’t feel inviting or home-y…then nothing else matters. My favorite restaurants are ones that feel like you’re inside someone’s home. We tried to keep that balance here at Woon by bringing in my mom’s furniture and the family photos. I pretty much replicated the same wood and furniture that was built in my house by my buddy Peter. We decided to provide round cushions for everyone so that their bums wouldn’t burn and they could sit more comfortably. I think small details like that go a long way. Obviously having great lighting, plants, family photos and my mom’s Feng shui stuff help really round out the overall feel.

Now that we’re almost on the other side of this thing [covid] what are you looking forward to the most at Woon?

There’s so much to look forward to. I think I’m most excited to actually host people again. Before COVID we had such a great atmosphere in here…we had families with kids, grandparents, young LA rats, foodies all just sharing food family style over a bottle of natural wine and African Psych music blasting in the dining room. It was just always so fun and inclusive which is how my mom hosted myself and my friends. She’d let us put on our music and set the ambiance, and she just did her thing with the food.

I’m also looking forward to sharing Woon outside of these 4 walls. We’ve built such a great retail program with our packaged goods. I hope to grow that to more stores nationwide so that we can bring a slice of Woon into everyone’s homes. Additionally, I think it’d be fitting to expand to a second location, whether that’s in a different county altogether or another in LA.

 

For more about Keegan Fong and Woon, please check out:

Woon Kitchen

Mama Fong 

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This creative couple spent nine years building a net zero home from the ground-up.

Lizz and Isaac's Net Zero Home.

05 28 21
Julia Sherman

When I enter Lizz Wasserman and Isaac Resnikopf’s net-zero home perched on a hilltop in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Isaac is cradling their 8 month old baby, Esphyr, in one hand, and washing rainbow chard from their garden with the other. In actuality, he is using his feet as well, since their water-conscious sink is controlled by a foot pedal so it only flows as absolutely needed. This is just one of the many thoughtful details that Lizz, creative director of Fred Segal, and Isaac, designer/artist and the Founder of collaborative design studio Project Room, have baked into the home that took them 9 years to build from the ground up. Collaborating with Lizz’s father, an architect, and her mother, a landscape architect, they achieved the impossible: four family members with fiercely strong perspectives built a home that expresses their respective aesthetics while also proposing a model for what the eco-friendly family home of the future might look like. And, they lived to tell the tale.


The Net Zero house is an ambitious and admirable thing. Can you explain what that means?

We worked to “balance” the house energy consumption with our solar energy production. Since there’s only a certain amount of solar our roof can capture, we had to work to decrease the energy consumption of our house. So, we tried to view the whole thing holistically: we heavily insulated the house, there are a lot of passive cooling elements, and we didn’t install a gas line: so the balance of the house is more energy in, less energy out, even though we charge our car off the solar!

 

What is working well for you guys, and what still feels like a day to day hurdle while trying to live as ecologically as possible?

We do keep an eye on what appliances or electricity-reliant machines we add to our ecosystem because we want to stay net zero and generate as much, or more, energy as we expend. The good thing is, once you have the system in place, it pretty much runs itself. But, the bad thing is, if you have to make changes, it can throw your calculations off. For example, we bought a very efficient dryer which sounded great, but in practice, it meant things just dried extremely slowly (with two kids this is just not practical). Then it broke, like, a day after its warranty expired. We had to replace it, and in a net zero house, it’s not so simple to find a dryer that doesn’t destroy the balance of our total energy consumption. In the end, and with a lot of research, Isaac sourced the new dryer and did the calculations. The new one brought our total energy usage up 1% but we still make more energy than we use.

 

I am curious to hear how the two of you negotiate your relationship to home design. You both have professional practices rooted in art and design, and I wonder what your experience was working together on this home? Do you divide and conquer, or work in tandem on all decisions from the hardware to the furniture?

We tend to divide and conquer, but our roles are constantly shifting. When it comes to materials and furniture, I lay the ground rules and set the guiding light, and then Isaac does the hands-on design and the research. For the decor, I do most of the sourcing but it’s always a conversation and ultimately, a collaborative decision. For more practical fixtures like our hardware, we (meaning myself, my dad and Isaac) all loved 1980s/90s Hewi, and my dad used it in a lot of his design projects back then, and he still does. Isaac found tons of deadstock on Ebay! Isaac does the research and the selection when it comes to the guts of the house, anything that’s a system (like our energy usage or our garden wicking bed, for example).

Tell me a little bit about how the project developed? I know you purchased the land long ago, and worked with Lizz's parents on the landscape and architecture. Did you always know you wanted to build from the ground up? Or did the land present itself and dictate the parameters of the project?

We bought our land in 2011. So a pretty long time ago! We always wanted to build from the ground up, but we originally thought we’d do it ourselves, constructing one piece at a time. But as we got older we had more responsibilities, we realized if we wanted to stay married, that was not a good idea. We also realized that the city of Los Angeles would never let us do it that way, from a permitting perspective.

The topography of the land, a spot in Highland park with fantastic views, shaped the design of the house, as my mom, landscape designer Caren Connolly, sited the project, and my dad, architect Louis Wasserman, designed it. We didn’t break ground until 2018, and we moved in 18 months later.

 

How did working with your parents change the way you understand their practice? Did you share an aesthetic already, or did your parents treat you more like clients, and attempt to cater to your vision?

This is a really nice question, Julia. I think we both gained even more respect for their intellectual approach, and also for the personal love and care they put into their work as designers. We welcomed their vision, but they also appreciated how far we pushed them, and didn’t want to play it safe in any way.

From a more intimate standpoint, they’ve known Isaac for 20 years now, but this really seeded an entirely new aspect to their relationship. For a while Isaac was talking to my dad daily. A lot of the project was collaborative, which could have been tough had my dad not made the overarching design of the house so succinct and clear that we were able to support the overall plan with our interior and materials decisions in a complimentary way.

 

What are some of the more custom details of the house that made it worth building from the ground-up?

While there are some custom details, I think what really made it worth it is that this house truly fits our lifestyle, from how we entertain our friends to how we function as a family.

Any regrets? Personally, I feel like I spent the first year in our house cursing myself for the little things I forgot or didn’t get right, feeling like I only had myself to blame!

There are a couple of conceptual details that we pushed for as designers, that maybe we should have thought about more from the perspective of everyday use. For example, from an aesthetic and sustainability standpoint, we thought we should just have a shower in the master bathroom. But in practice, I find myself wishing I could take a bath without being surrounded by our son’s toys! And we should have made a laundry shoot. But other than that-we think it’s great and can adapt to our needs as our kids grow up and we age.

Tell me about your garden, the water system in the backyard and what you are growing.

The garden is turning into one of our favorite “rooms” of the house. We get to it right away, and I think we wish we’d done it sooner!

We thought a lot about water usage, given the fact that we live in a desert. We just finished putting in a greywater system that feeds most of our fruit trees from our master shower.

 

Does this limit the kinds of products you can use in the shower? How easy was this to do?

It kinda does, but maybe in the way we should be limiting them already! The soap and hair products we use aren’t a problem. There is a switch installed so you could shut off the grey water if you needed to clean with harsh chemicals: but I think I just prefer to make sure we never use harsh chemicals.

And tell me about the system for the rainwater-fed wicking garden beds.

Isaac ran pipe from our rainwater barrels (set up outside to capture natural rainfall), to the garden beds and installed a float valve to keep the water level right. Water wicks up from the reservoir below and keeps the plants happy — we’ve only hose-watered twice all year!

What are some of the things you are growing back there? I seem to remember this land was a cardoon forest (a native, wild relative of the artichoke, that is pretty difficult to cook but totally delicious)…

It is still a cardoon forest, and there was always a fig tree, a palm tree and a lot of black walnut trees. But we planted a ton of fruit trees, a bunch of pollinators, and a lot of native ground covers that are drought tolerant plants. In the raised bed we have rainbow chard, lettuce and other greens, strawberries and radishes, and hopefully tomatoes soon. I like that your garden is about 3 years ahead of ours, so I can look at your trees and see what’s hopefully coming. I also love that our kids will grow up alongside these trees.

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