Just when you guys thought we were done documenting The Fig House, I sneak away to shoot the bridal suite and shock you with a super insane/weird makeover. This room is where the bride (or anyone really) gets ready and stages all their stuff. We wanted it to be pretty and pulled together and of course, this was our opportunity to do something really feminine and girly. By the time we got to this room we were on a pretty tight budget as the priority was the actual event space. Often these kinds of projects run in phases – phase one was to be the main space, and then this building was more of a phase 2. But we ended up pulling it together in phase one because we realized how much time was going to be spent in this building – a lot.
Click through to see the whole makeover and ‘get the look’:
I’m still shocked out how fun and stylish it turned out – for such a small budget. It’s not for those of you who are into, ahem, ‘masculine’ or ‘minimal’ – it’s definitely on the girly side … you’ll see.
When we started this part of the project, this building was basically a Chinese restaurant, and when I say basically I mean it was literally a Chinese restaurant. Like with shrimp chow mein and peking duck. It actually looked like this:
The owners of the restaurant had run it for decades and they were ready to retire, so they put the building up for sale. When we came in to design it, we had to really reimagine it. The shell of the building remained but otherwise it was completely demo’d on the inside. This building was turned into the RoomForty and Fig House headquarters on the same property as the event space. For those of you just joining the party, The Fig House is an event space that you can rent out for any event – wedding, party, bar mitzvah, corporate event, book signing, etc and RoomForty is the catering company that is attached to it – owned by the same guy.
Back to the ‘chinese restaurant turned bridal suite’ issue. I did most of the demolition myself. In heels. While pregnant.
Actually the construction was done by KD Construction, headed by the wonderful General Contractor, Ken Hale. The whole project took a year (including the event space), but taking that shot of me ‘pretend-demo’ing’ took a cool 5 minutes.
Ready to see how it looks now?
Woah. What I love about it is how understated and masculine it is. I really used the power of ‘pulling it back’ on this one. So let’s get into it.
You may have noticed that the two rooms (the before and after) don’t look anything alike. That’s because the architecture was totally changed and the windows were taken out. If you are ever on the fence about taking out a window (a source of natural light), don’t. We did because the owner really wanted a sense of privacy for the brides and the street that is on the other side of the wall is kinda busy and not very private. And from the outside he wanted an architecturally really simple facade, without windows. One of the reasons that we put off shooting this for so long is because it is extremely hard to shoot anything without natural light – at least not in a way that is my style (you can use flashes, etc, but it’s not very ‘editorial’). It has two small skylights that bring in natural light (that was our compromise) but in the photos those just shine down like spotlights on the sofa (you can see the light reflection on the wall and the shadows it created with the lamp).
It makes for a super private and cozy room with enough natural light from the ceiling, just one that is really hard to shoot. And since I get most of my satisfaction in life by shooting and then staring at photos of my work, this one has always been tricky for me. But Jessica did a great job.
As you might remember most of the Fig House space is deco inspired with big pops of color. There is no shortage of velvet or tufting over here. This furniture in here is basically the leftover furniture from the main space. Not that we didn’t like it, AT ALL, but as we were styling out The Fig House we realized that the pink was working better in smaller doses in there. We didn’t have a clear cut plan as far as what furniture is going where (except for that green sectional and the pink corner sectional) so we played and played and the leftovers were relocated to other spaces – including the bridal suite. Of course these actually work really well in here, and originally I wasn’t like – ONLY PINK FURNITURE. It just happened that way.
I hesitate to show you what comes next but it’s pretty darn juicy/disgusting stuff to blog about so here goes. There are thrift stores in LA that have auctions in the morning before the store opens. These auctions are mainly full of disgusting things that the thrift store deems not really sellable. They are often wrong. Of course these things aren’t livable as is, but often their bones are good, their finishes are not. So one morning we went to one of these auctions and bought a bunch of furniture for like $5, $10, $20.
The process is a bit hairy, certainly, but we are scrappers and we were also over budget so 5 pieces of furniture for $75 was a very good thing. I know what you are thinking – That’s disgusting. I can’t believe you show your client this, immediately followed by, “How did you possibly make sure that it’s clean enough? and then the inevitable ‘WHERE ARE THESE AUCTIONS AND CAN ANYONE GO??? I don’t think I actually ever showed the client these photos, but it has been 2 years now and well, I want a good blog post so you are getting the dirty stuff (but not the location/store, sorry!!!).
Here’s the deal with disgusting furniture – your upholsterer should always remove all fabric and foam from a piece. YES, you need to specify this because even our dude, who is awesome, often used to just secretly leave it and hope we didn’t notice. We did notice and he had to redo them. So make sure to specifically say, ‘All new foam and filling’. I’ve never had any problems with anything that has had new foam and filling. In fact the one time some furniture did have bugs was in a brand new wood dining chair set from a really large reputable furniture store that will remain nameless because they apologized, refunded and stopped carrying that manufacturers pieces immediately. Point is – if you get rid of everything except the frame, you should be fine. I’ve probably recovered 200 vintage pieces now in the last 6 years and not one problem.
Those chairs above were probably around $300 to recover and the fabric was $30 a yard (I think, possibly more), The fabric is from Pindler and Pindler which is a wholesale company that has more commercial grade fabrics and it ain’t cheap. We needed 5 yards for that piece. So all in, we are at about $500 for that little love seat. Had it been for a residential client we probably would have purchased cheaper fabric, but we wanted the good stuff for longevity.
But, that’s not the only piece that we recovered for this room:
I purchased that chaise on Craigslist for $75. I love that little piece so much – the scale is just perfect and it doesn’t have too many crazy lines or tufts. Have you ever actually laid in a chaise? It’s a total wonder to me why we all don’t have them in our houses. They are like personal, individual, human-sized sofas and are incredibly cozy and comfortable. Your back is well supported, your legs are stretched out and relaxed – it just doesn’t make sense to me why we aren’t putting more of these in our bedrooms, at least. Perk up, large furniture retailers, start making a modern chaise because why buy a chair and ottoman when you can just have one pretty piece of furniture?
That piece was probably around $300 to recover as well. We had our dude clean up the wood, too. I don’t think he refinished it, just gave it a sanding and a coat of oil to get rid of the years of dust.
Now this bench (above) was from the flea market and we left on the original fabric – because it is beautiful. We had it cleaned but otherwise left as is. I love those little brass legs. Underneath that deco mirror, it’s the perfect little place to get your makeup done. We bought the mirror at an antique store (I believe it was $400).
All the art, mirrors, side tables, etc were basically thrifted or from vintage stores. At the beginning of the project we started collecting vintage mirrors (we found many at thrift stores for $15 – $30) and throughout the project they found homes. Especially in a room without a lot of windows to break up the wall space, the mirrors were crucial. Not only did they reflect light but they act as windows and make the space feel bigger.
The portrait is obviously controversial. I’m pretty sure Steve, the owner of the space, would love to see it accidentally doused with lighter fluid and burned while he accidentally chanted ‘BURN BURN BURN’. It’s ‘crazy lady’, for sure, but it’s also really exciting and fun. I think it was crazy cheap, too, for how big it is (I think it was $75 and it’s huge – like 3′ x 4′). The standing vintage brass dress rack is actually not vintage I found out. I bought it at the flea market from Big Daddy’s (a vendor that manufactures new things and sells vintage pieces as well). I thought it was vintage until I saw it the following week at the flea market and was like ….hey….wait a minute. I HATE getting fooled by new things at flea markets.
The amount of times I’ve bought ‘vintage mid-century pottery’ for ‘a steal’ at $5 then later realized it’s 2-year-old Z Gallerie or West Elm is hilarious. DUPED!!!! In fact this one flea market dealer is dead to me now, DEAD, because she sold me this “vintage” “one-of-a-kind” pinup poster for $200 (it was life-sized and already framed) and the following month, I saw from afar another one in her booth, identical to mine. As I got closer, she saw me and freaked out and proceeded to try and hide it. That was the worst part. She could have said ‘Oh, it’s a limited edition, from the 60’s, I happen to have 3, blah, blah’ but instead she scrambled to deceive me. Every month she tries to win back my sales by kissing my ass about something as I walk briskly past her booth, but she is dead to me. Dead.
Anyway, the protocol is that yea, you can sell that stuff, fine, just don’t actually lie and say ‘it’s vintage/one of a kind, etc’.
The rug was around $350 from an antique store. The standing lamp was around $300 from a vintage store (I love that lamp and we needed something modern in there) and the hanging guy was cheap but I forget from where or how much. And in case you are wondering if these are the prices that I charged my client the answer is yes. For this particular project I worked off a fee instead of hourly or commission (not smart) so I passed on the prices that I received in order to stretch the budget as far as possible (this is what happens when you are personally and emotionally invested in a project – the idea of ‘profiting’ takes a backseat to being proud of the project). Now we sell our vintage pieces for market price. I know I keep hinting at this, but the online vintage store is getting close to ready!!!
I love that rug. I get asked constantly where I get vintage rugs and my answer is ‘everywhere and nowhere’. Most clients don’t want something so worn or antique, but I do. I find the best rugs under tables at flea markets or displayed in vintage stores on the ground as their rug. Rug dealers are expensive and shady, but we do buy from them often for clients. But all my favorite vintage or antique rugs were random finds. I personally don’t bother cleaning them for myself unless they are actually dirty. I shake the hell out of them to get all the dust out, but cleaning them is rarely less than $200 so it kinda defeats the purpose of finding cheap rugs. You can use a carpet cleaning service that comes to your house and does each rug for less than $75 a rug (you have to have a minimum of a certain amount of carpet/rugs to do), which is what I’ve done for my own. I have no idea how much it actually cleans them but I mentally feel better. Pre-Charlie I didn’t really care, but now I do because I don’t want that little baby rubbing his cheeks on Bette Midler’s 1980’s drug and orgy matter. The rugs for The Fig House (those three that I bought from Bette Midlers estate – they were from the 20’s but she bought them in the 80’s, of course) were $250 each to clean professionally because we really wanted those colors to feel fresh and to pop.
Man. This post is really going on and on. I’m back to my ‘wake-up-at-5am-drink-coffee-and-write’ schedule and I can’t tell if this is too much blabbing or if it’s valuable. You tell me.
The wallpaper. So that wallpaper is from Farrow and Ball and it’s a light mossy-green and metallic. In retrospect I wish that we had only done this on the top half of the room and added a chair rail on the bottom half. What is so great about metallic wallpaper is how it reflects the light around and since we didn’t have a lot of natural light in here, we needed some action on the walls to help everything from feeling flat and dead. It’s a subtle pattern that makes is really soothing. In a room with a lot of natural light it really really shines, in a good way.
So there you go. All you brides have a pretty adorable/insane place to get ready with furniture that make for the perfect photo backdrop.
Naturally we pulled together a ‘get the look’ for those of you who wanted to recreate this almost 100% vintage look could.
1. Venetian Mirror | 2. Gold Chandelier | 3. Wallpaper | 4. Pink Tufted Settee | 5. Green Vase | 6. Floor Lamp | 7. Gold Side Table | 8. Pink Area Rug | 9. Woman Painting | 10. Green Tufted Bench | 11. Morrocan Tea Glasses
Well, folks. Are you shocked? Surprised? In love? Scared? Every time I walk into the room I get so happy and I just want to throw on one of my vintage muu muus, drink a pimm’s cup and rouge my cheeks.
*All photos by the lovely Jessica Isaac.