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After Working For Leanne Ford, Anita Yokota, AND Living In A Van For 6 Months, You GOTTA See What Bronte Athearn Did To Her DTLA Loft

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.

Paper Lantern (ellipse) | White Kitchen Knobs | Cabinet Paint

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

Rug

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.

Paper Lanter (large round) | Bed Frame | Bedding | Nightstands (no longer available) | Circle Vase

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.

Filing Cabinets |Desk Chairs

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

Cowhide (vintage) | Drink Table

Left Art: Vintage from Saasaan | Right Art: Desert House Party by Slim Aarons

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:

  1. 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 closet
  2. It 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Dress

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.

*Design by Bronte Athearn
**Photos by Veronica Crawford

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8 days ago

You did such a great job transforming the space! I really love the bookshelf. It makes the posts feel purposeful and intentional. Also, I can’t get over how much you look like a young Britney Spears!

this is so gorgeous. lofts often feel cold, but this one feels so warm. the bookshelf room divider is soooooooo awesome. i want to build one now! and the desk is perfect. i want to do that too now. glad they didn’t replace the countertop. the green looks good with it. love the work with what you’ve got attitude!

Courtney
8 days ago

Anyone else getting New Girl vibes from this loft …? (I mean that in the best way!)

R
8 days ago

This is great. Great job of creating separate spaces while maintaining the openness. The green cabinets complement the warm wood and brick nicely.

I would love to see these photos with fewer filters — they really distort the colors and natural mood.

Kj
8 days ago
Reply to  R

Curious, how can you tell when filters have distorted the colors? This is pic is also different: https://www.instagram.com/p/CRVC2FwJJoL/

Alice
8 days ago
Reply to  Kj

Oh wow, look how much cooler the tones are in that pic.

Elaine
7 days ago
Reply to  Jess Bunge

Lighting is *everything*!!! To which that beautiful floor, those beams, the walls and the sofa are casting orange/yellow light everywhere (lower kitchen cabinets being a case in point). So with the exception of the last image which reads, to my eye, a smidgen over-saturated (I have a degree in photographic media but let’s face it, who the heck am I to critique anyone’s work), these are really nice images that convey the warmth of this really stunning space.

DeniseGK
8 days ago

Wow. I love this light in this home. Your styling is great don’t get me wrong, but as someone who grew up in homes with great light and now lives in a house with the worst window situation, the fact that everything looks so warm and lit even though I can clearly see the leaves and flowers outside is completely stealing the spotlight. I suspect you could style it with all black or grey ultra-minimalist stuff and it would still look bright and warm. I hope the two of you get to live here as long as you desire to and that it’s wonderful the whole time!

Ingrid
8 days ago

Love the way you created your own desk!

8 days ago

It’s perfectly beautiful!….the complimenting dynamic of the colors, the arrangement to the atmosphere that it creates makes me go home in that place.

Anja
8 days ago

What a wonderful transformation! It feels so warm and cozy and yet so calm without beeing just beige, white and “emtpy”. I think my favourite thing is the painting behind the sink, and something I would love to do in my apartment.
Hope you have a lot of happy days in your space (and outdoor)!

Heather
8 days ago

I love that you painted the cabinets when Jordan was out of town. Ha! They look so so good!

Roberta Davis
8 days ago

Great example of how you can do a lot with a little (money). You’ve made this a very nice space to inhabit!

beks
5 days ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

what makes you think this was done with a little money?

Erin
8 days ago

Such smart, real, livable design. Love it!

Shana
8 days ago

Such a great transformation! I’m assuming that the wall the couch is facing has a TV?

Bronte
8 days ago
Reply to  Shana

We actually did a projector instead of a TV! It’s super fun to have a big screen for movie nights with friends and it’s so affordable.

Rusty
8 days ago

Bronte, I love this!💗
I love thd way you fyrnished the soace and let all the natural materials shine, like the beams, floors and brickwork…you added so much texture and natural objects too.
I like me a found object, like a rock, branch or sumthin’ on a shelf. It’s really grounding for me.
Gorgeous!
Thank you for making my eyeballs twinkle and my head spin, full of ideas.
😊

Saeag
8 days ago

This is glorious!!!!
Em, could she join the team? Such gorgeous do-able, inspirational projects. Also a more neutral eye that may be missing in your fabulist existing group?

Sarah
8 days ago

I would *LOVE* a post on how to navigate FB marketplace. I can’t tell what I’m doing wrong, but I must be because all I ever see on there is stuff available to be shipped, when I thought it was a craigslist alternative. Help!

Suzanne
8 days ago
Reply to  Sarah

You should be able to filter by local pickup. It’s annoying how the shipped to you listings are starting to populate the top of the search results.

Lola
8 days ago

Can you share where you got the couch?

Korinb
8 days ago
Reply to  Lola

Yes please.

Bronte
8 days ago
Reply to  Lola

The couch is HD Buttercup and I actually got it on Facebook Marketplace for 80% off the original price!

Christa
8 days ago
Reply to  Bronte

That couch! Lucky girl. Your place is fantastic, just so fun and cool.

Admin
8 days ago

VERONICA!!! these photos are gorgeous!!! who do you think you are being this talented?! (i’m sure having a beautiful space didn’t hurt, either :))

Bronte
8 days ago

Veronica is the BEST!

veronica c.
8 days ago

Caitlin hiii you sweet human, thank you! Bronte’s beautiful styling and the gorgeous space made my job very easy 🙂

Patti
8 days ago

What an inspiring post! So many fab ideas to steal! That bookcase is for dying! I’ve never seen PPG Paint here in Canada. Anyone know of a Ben Moore or SW match for that green?

Vicki Williams
8 days ago
Reply to  Patti

You just need to ask BM or SW to match the name and brand. they will figure it out. I loved the color also!

Annie
8 days ago

Beautiful loft!

Just curious, is Emily planning to do any updates on the farmhouse? From her stories it looks like construction is well underway, but it’s just been quite awhile since we’ve seen any substantive posts on how it’s going. Thank you!

Paula Carr
8 days ago

I love the green cabinets! With all the natural wood, I might have gone with wood knobs, but the white ties in with the white walls, so they’re prefectly fine. I’m not a loft person (I LIKE walls), but this is nice and actually feels cozy. However, as another Angeleno, the book shelf makes me nervous. Are you using eq putty? 🙂

Courtney
7 days ago

love your space, love how simple and purposeful it looks and love it’s not overly full with decor. Simply beautiful.

Love it.

Sarah
7 days ago

Very suburban mom of two now fantasizing about your loft. In love with this space.

Sarah
6 days ago

This is SO beyond pretty!! I love how they made this work. I have a totally different living situation (3000 plus sq foot house and 3 kids in the burbs) but I love this-it was a feast for my eyes and imagination. Thank you!!! Green cabinets are my fav part.

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