It’s safe to say that when you finally fulfill your dream of opening your own event space/photo studio, the last thing you think is going to happen is a national order for everyone to stay at home and forbid events. The same idea goes for debuting your first furniture line like EHD alum, Ginny did. This is where photographer and owner of DTLA’s The Revery, Monica Wang, is at. She is navigating this truly unimaginable time with patience and figuring out how to temporarily pivot so that hopefully someday soon she can share this wonderful space with the world…in person. But for now, we are lucky enough to get a VERY special sneak peek.
Here is a video, courtesy of Monica, that gives you a real understanding of this awesome undertaking (just wait for the ad to play then enjoy:))…
But before we move on, let’s rewind for a minute. A few weeks ago Anne Sage, whom you probably know, (and if not check out this post), emailed me about featuring Monica’s new space (including a studio she helped design). She and Monica have been friends/collaborators for the past 5 years and Monica actually shot Anne’s “nursery” that we posted about last month. To make this even cooler, I found out that about 7 years ago Monica was Emily’s photo intern in the midst of a full-time career in finance. Like I said, COOL (and inspiring).
“I remember being interviewed by both Emily and Orlando and wishing so badly that I could have a creative job.” – Monica
I love getting to hear and see how small the world is AND how someone can truly create their career path with hard work and dedication. So, I asked Monica (and Anne later in the post) a bunch of questions about her journey and this new venue. Let’s get to it.
Let’s start with your professional background. When did you make the switch from finance to your now very creative career? What was the moment that you knew it was the right decision?
For a few years, I had a full-time finance job in the tech industry and I photographed part-time on the weekends. I don’t recommend doing that long-term because of the sheer number of hours that I was working, but it worked for me. I had the energy to explore and the yearning to learn more about photography. Eventually, I knew I wanted to find a way to blend both my creative and finance backgrounds together and that is what led me to The Revery.
I didn’t fully quit my steady finance job until we found a location for The Revery. While working simultaneously in finance and photography, I mapped out my business plan, created a financial model, figured out how I was going to fund the project, raised the money, and assessed the property to see if it was feasible for my business plan. There was a lot of homework that needed to be ironed out before I even presented the idea to a prospective business partner and/or investor.
I had done similar work in my full-time finance job for other companies and watched first-hand what the fundraising and due diligence processes looked like, so I soaked in as much I could and eventually figured out how to do it for myself.
Why did you start The Revery?
I truly saw a need in the market that wasn’t met and I thought there was a way to do things better! I wanted to find a location that had both an indoor and outdoor space. More photographers were shooting in natural light vs. artificial light and our location gets a ridiculous amount of amazing natural light. I also found an opportunity to design the space to be versatile enough for two separate uses — it functions as both an event venue and photo studio. In the venues I encountered as a photographer I saw these two uses being melded together rather than treated separately and thought there was a huge opportunity to create a space that never existed before.
Jess here, back for one sec! So now that you have a little intro, let’s dive into this dreamy space of truly limitless transformative abilities and more of its journey. If you missed the video go back and watch and you will see that they started with nothing (i.e. no plumbing, electricity, AC, the list goes on). Ok back to the interview.
The Common Areas
How long did this project take?
From start to finish, it took 2 years. It felt like 5 though! Ha!
What was the thought behind the design plan and did you have any specific inspirations?
I gave Venn Studio (the main architecture and design firm involved) adjectives of what I wanted the space to feel like vs. specific design instructions. I wanted the space to feel editorial, collaborative, sophisticated, calm, inclusive, urban, airy, and inspirational and they used those to draw up the design concepts! They also understood the objective of the space very well — it needed to function as both an event venue and photo studio as seamlessly as possible. I hired them for their vision and their design and architecture background, and trusted them wholeheartedly throughout the process.
What were some of the biggest challenges in creating the space/working with collaborators in creating your vision?
We had so many subcontractors, engineers, architects, designers, etc. involved every step of the way. I had little to no understanding of the construction process and didn’t realize just how many different little steps I had to take to get to the end result. It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience. When mistakes were made, it had a domino effect on everyone involved and created scheduling delays; and time is money. I have experienced firsthand how painful and expensive it is when you hire the wrong person, so if I were to tackle another project like this in the future I would go through a more thorough vetting and interviewing process before selecting my team!
With the installation of that truly stunning and yet welcoming kitchen, was it your intention to have the space feel both warm/homey as well as airy/grand?
That was exactly what our vision was — to create a kitchen that felt elevated, but warm and approachable. After photographing so many beautiful kitchens on different photo assignments, I was finally able to create a dream kitchen in our lifestyle photo studio. I’m hoping for many cooking shows and TV commercials to be filmed in it! And if people want to incorporate the kitchen as part of their event, they can easily do that as well.
Is there a design element that you are most excited about in the space?
I absolutely love how the wood reeding turned out on our kitchen island and dressing room vanity. The craftsmanship is incredible and something I cherish every time I see it!
We know all too well that despite how beautiful a space is, mistakes are inevitable. What were some the mistakes that were made and how did you adjust?
I did catch a few oversights in our electrical plan — we forgot to add outlets for hair dryers and curling irons in the dressing room. Luckily I was on site almost all day, every day, so I was able to keep a close eye on all of the details. Could you imagine?!! Haha! Before our drywall went up, I did a thorough walkthrough with my general contractor, City Constructors, to review the electrical work and we were able to coordinate with our electrical team and fix the problem right away. I know that most people have terrible experiences with their general contractor but I have nothing but good things to say about mine. They were amazing from start to finish.
Did your designer have to talk you into anything that you now love?
Venn Studio had to talk me into the green onyx in our luxe restroom island vanity! I love it now, but in the beginning, I was trying to stick to neutral colors only so I’m glad I listened because the green onyx came out stunning! That vanity is truly a work of art.
Jess again! Julie and I both gasped when we saw that vanity. We are SO happy Monica went with their suggestion:) What a DREAM.
How many studios do you have within the space? Are they any full-time tenants or are they meant for more temporary use like photoshoots?
We have two large photo studios, designed to be temporary locations rented by the day or week, that can also be used as a single large space. We have a foldable partition that can be used to break up the studios, but most production crews in Los Angeles are anywhere from 40 to 80 people deep for filming and commercials so I wanted to have a large photo studio for filming and still have space for a “base camp” set up.
Jess here! Let’s now pass it over to Anne to talk about the beautiful studio she designed…
Anne, I know that you and Monica work together regularly but were there any new challenges with designing this very personal space? What is your collaboration style?
I have such fond memories of all the work Monica and I have done together over the years—including the first time we ever collaborated back in 2015! We were shooting engagement rings together (not an easy subject!), and it went so smoothly that I knew I had found my perfect match. She and I are both methodical and exacting, willing to spend hours tweaking every detail to get the perfect shot. For this project, we poured over every round of designs, going back to the drawing board as many times as needed to achieve our shared vision.
And honestly, that meticulous design process wasn’t a challenge at all. We had a blast letting our inner perfectionists out to play! The hard part was meeting my own high standards and designing a space I felt was worthy of this woman who inspires me so much as a photographer, an entrepreneur, and a friend. I’m proud to say, I think the final result exceeds both our expectations!
Were there any challenges in designing this studio specifically?
There were plenty of considerations I took into account when designing this studio. We knew we wanted it to be a place where people could buckle down and get work done, but also feel homey and stylish enough that it could be used for meetings and intimate gatherings. I, therefore, avoided furniture that felt too “office-y” and instead chose comfortable pieces that could just as easily be found in a living space.
I’d been itching to use a daybed in place of a sofa in a lounge setup—it’s such a chic look that feels very current—so I was delighted when Monica was open to the idea. The open-backed seating nicely echoes the airy, open feel of the lofted room. (Sadly the exact Living Spaces daybed we used is no longer available, but the brand has an equally lovely daybed in the same color). The silhouette of the daybed also allows the graphic construction of the background storage cabinets to shine through. I adore the look of built-in cabinetry and we were able to get the look on a budget using several IKEA BEST units mounted next to each other on the wall!
For the floor plan, we created three separate functional zones: a kitchenette, a large work table that can be used by up to 8 people as a shared desk, and a cozy seating area suited to breakout sessions.
That big gorgeous wood plank table is from Living Spaces too. It’s actually one of their outdoor tables, which is fantastic because it means it’ll be up for the wear and tear of a high-traffic space like this one. Then, I’d recently used Design Within Reach’s Hoffmann Side Chair in my husband’s office design—he loves it!—so I felt confident using it as a work chair in this setting as well. The woven globe pendants from Serena & Lily provide overhead lighting as well as an organic touch.
In the kitchenette, our goal was a streamlined area where Monica’s employees could prep a quick lunch or make TGIF cocktails—but that also could be used to style and shoot recipes or kitchen products. We kept the backdrop simple yet really elegant, using a foundation of richly grained cabinetry in reclaimed Douglas Fir from Reform Copenhagen. Engineered quartz countertops and backsplash by Mikado mimic the look of Calacatta marble without the upkeep – I’m absolutely obsessed with the narrow display ledge made of the same material. It’s an extra element that takes the kitchenette to the next level! For the fixtures, we chose sconces and a faucet from Rejuvenation, one of my favorite sources for timeless finishing accents. The luster of the brass fittings softens the honed stone and planed wood surfaces.
To ensure that each functional zone felt distinct, we used three different overdyed rugs from Jaipur Living to ground each space. They bring a vintage, timeworn feel into the office that subtly contrasts with the modern lines of the furniture and nicely dovetails with the raw architectural envelope of the warehouse. I especially love the quiet splash of blue in that pretty kitchen runner! - Anne Sage
The neutral space you created is so layered yet serene. What are some tips for people to do the same in their home?
Whether at home or in an office, when you’re working with a neutral palette, a strategic blend of textures and materials is key for achieving a dynamic look. I group materials into categories—fabric, leather, wood, metals, stone, glass—and make sure I’m pulling from at least three or four as I design. The leather Living Spaces chairs in the lounge are a great example of a piece that adds tons of personality while still maintaining a quiet vibe. The supple leather injects warmth, and the slim brass legs have a luxe sensibility, yet the overall clean lines and taupe hue gel perfectly with the rest of the decor!
Jess one last-ish time:) As most of us are trying to adjust to what our hopefully temporary way of life I wanted to chat with Monica about how she is holding up.
Monica, I know that this is likely hard to talk about but I don’t want to ignore the fact that this is undoubtedly a difficult time to open an event venue. How are you pivoting any part of your business plan or just doing your best to ride it out?
It’s very challenging and hard but I am hopeful that people will be able to safely gather again after the curve flattens, starts to decline, and more testing is widely available. Ultimately, I don’t foresee digital content going away any time soon and after the quarantine, I expect people to cherish gatherings and celebrations more than ever before. I am doing my best to ride it out but at the same time, I am exploring different ways to rent out the space that I didn’t consider before and we will be offering in-house photography services very soon! That way brands can send us their products and we can photograph them for them.
We have also experienced an incredible amount of support from other businesses in the industry, so the help we’ve received in spreading the word about our space has been instrumental in getting us through this difficult period. We have all experienced huge setbacks and struggles from COVID-19, and I am hoping and praying for the best outcome possible so we can get back to sharing The Revery with others.
Ok now it’s Jess for the actual last time and all I can say is that we cannot wait to come to some wonderful event and see all of this beauty with our own eyes. Thank you SO MUCH to Monica and Anne for talking with me and sharing this space with us. We hope you are staying as safe and healthy as possible.
What is your favorite part of the space? Dare you to choose just one. Can we also talk about the return of the glass block wall trend? This space has me pretty into it. See you wonderful people in the comments!
Love you, mean it.