Making a home that’s thoughtful, understated, and individual takes some patience and, honestly, it might take some help. Michael Woodcock and Lara Apponyi of Work + Sea, a LA-based interior design firm, are just the people to ask. Their apartment in LA (they’re just friends and colleagues who also live together—modern!) is filled with unexpected art and patterns used in unexpected ways, like the giant batik stuffed snake posted up in their living room, the hand-painted wallpaper (designed by Apponyi) that depicts sunny-side-up eggs and breasts (!) in the dining room, and the oriental rug pinned to the wall in a bedroom. It’s an eclectic mix that feels at once haphazard and by design, weird but also elegant. It all just makes sense together.
Apponyi and Woodcock met 6 years ago at the architecture studio Raad in New York where they quickly realized they shared an aesthetic and a creative vision. “Our roles are very indicative of how our designs come out,” says Woodcock. “I’m trained in architecture and Lara is trained in painting and fine art. Neither of us are traditional interior designers but we both understand elements of art that apply to space and design.” The fact that neither are traditional interior designers is important and encouraging. Their more-is-more and like-what-you-like vibe is something we can all espouse when arranging a room. But it’s not just pile it on and go—there’s a method. So we asked the Work + Sea squad to share some interior design skills for creating a living space filled with pattern, color, personality, and some weird shit.
Just Do It
The worst thing to do is give in to any reluctance you have towards boldness. Woodcock and Apponyi swear by Going For It in a living space.
Woodcock: Add color, add pattern, add texture. I hate to use the term “maximalist” because that’s so…Jonathan Adler. But just don’t be scared. If you like it, you like it.
Apponyi: Yeah, whatever word you could thesaurus and use in place of that “M” word, do that. More is more when it comes to these things. I think people are generally scared of using color and crazy things. But we like to see choice. We like to walk in to other people’s homes and see that people have made a real choice. Even if it’s really ugly and like, crap, it’s a choice and I respect that.
Read A Book
Don’t look at Pinterest. Well, look at their Pinterest (because it’s very good) but err on the side of vetted, printed material.
Woodcock: Looking for online inspiration isn’t a bad thing but limiting your choices based on pictures you’ve seen pigeon holes you into that certain thing. For the normal person who doesn’t see interior inspiration in things like a cup should look at magazines. Published work is always the best—anything in a magazine or a book is best. The fact that it’s been vetted and has some sort of rigor to it makes it more valuable.
Apponyi: Actually, the thing to do instead of copying something from Instagram or Pinterest is look at a piece of art you really love or something you find incredibly inspiring and more using that to invoke an atmosphere. Just working from something that draws you in is going to be more personal.
Start At The Bottom
Have an empty box? Don’t buy a sofa first (like I did, and now thoroughly regret). Get you some rugs.
Apponyi: We work from the bottom up. We’re obsessed with rugs (we’re actually developing a line of carpets)—they’re like paintings for the floor. We pin a lot of rugs on the wall, actually. There’s so much change you affect by adding an extra rug. We’re into ones that are bold and tell a story, so we think it’s good to start with a rug because it gives you a setting and elements to work by. And if you want to work with it or contrast it is part of the process but maybe starting with some medieval rugs that your grandmother left you and then decided that this is going to be the only antique thing in your house and the rest be pink bubbly furniture.
Woodcock: Rugs are expensive and should last a long time so it’s a good basic. Like the groundwork, literally the groundwork
Build a Narrative
Woodcock: I don’t think the whole house needs one umbrella narrative—a narrative naturally evolves when you put two items together, like a coffee table and a rug. There’s a line that occurs between two things.
The relationship between a mid century modern floor lamp and an upholstered leopard pouf with embroidery on it is important. There’s a language between the two items. Everytime you buy something you should think about how it will relate to the other things in the room. It doesn’t have to match but it will be in the same space so you have to think about what role it will play.
Don’t Set A Timeline
What, eating dinner picnic style in your living room isn’t cutting it for you? Push through. Taking time to pick the right things makes a difference.
Apponyi: Don’t allot any amount of time to finishing your house! It should be like a snowball, moving through space and gathering as it goes, changing and evolving. Obviously when you first move in there’s a first big push but then you need to decide how you use the space. For example, do you like sitting on the floor? Do you like sitting in an upright chair? You learn the space and you inform it, and it informs you. A deadline really forces you to shop and buy things from those big box stores and it kind of scares you from leaving a space open and going to a flea market every month until you find the amazing sofa that will stick with you forever. Or that amazing light fixture.
Michael: We understand that people want to decorate and entertain and get on with things so we try to have a space very livable and entertain-able 6 months after moving in but then we also want to encourage people not to fill everything up with things that don’t mean anything to them.