It’s a pretty regular occurrence that we come across a space and think, “Hey, how’d you do that?” From custom built-ins to expert styling to genius pattern combinations, pros in the interior design business know just what to do to make a room or a home or even a coffee table stand out. So with this series, we’re asking them how to let us in on their secrets in the hope we can take our own spaces to the next level.
Today, we’re talking with jewelry designer and ceramicist Kathleen Whitaker, a true master of minimalism, who made her mark—designed, furnished, and appointed—on this tiny ADU in Los Angeles. The finished interior product maximizes efficiency and space but also includes comfortable, classic, and lux elements. Here’s how she did it:
Clever: What’s most important to you when designing a space?
Kathleen: As is the standard for so many tucked-away spots in Los Angeles, the hilltop views and light do all the work in this tiny space. With sliding doors and windows on three sides of this box, the immediate objective was to maximize the outdoor spaces and orient the layout to take in the views.
How do you approach a new concept or design? What do you do first?
I think a neutral, easy palette with scaled furniture pieces makes for a flexible and modular layout. The space is too small for a cacophony of color, so a mix of textures and materials in a muted palette is what suited the space. I also selected pieces that can easily move around for a variety of layouts—for the restless amongst us who like to change it up!
What’s your favorite detail of this space?
Wherever possible, I tried to incorporate hidden functionality and efficiency. So, a lot of the elements in the room are multitaskers: a kitchen cupboard houses a tiny dishwasher; a space above the under-counter refrigerator accommodates a retractable span of extra counter top. Two side-by-side IKEA cabinets were wall-mounted and topped with ply for continuity with the kitchen counter. With outlets on the interior of those cabinets, they house all manner of electronics, tech, and small appliances. But with the addition of a simple, customized plywood board, these cabinets convert to a standing desk. There is a void under the couch bench cushion that houses low-profile storage bins for infrequently used items.
Was there an aspect that stumped you?
The space came equipped with a platform bed housing six deep storage drawers. Without that, it would be a challenge to find or create sufficient clothing storage.
How do you choose what to display or highlight?
I have a penchant for ceramics and always select the handmade work of local L.A. designers who make beautiful, functional pieces—the kind of cups and dishes you wouldn’t want tucked away in a cabinet. So, they are ideal for the kitchen’s open shelving.
If someone was inspired by this space, what is one thing you would tell them to copy/buy?
A rug can transform a room. Buy as large a rug as the budget and space allow. This space is really warmed up by this basic wool rug, quite large at 9 by 12 feet. It comes off-the-shelf in just a handful of colors, one of which is this warm gray color, which turned out to be a monochromatic match to the polished concrete floors. It grounds the “living area” with a large footprint and has the effect of making the entire studio feel larger than it is.
Was there anything you splurged on? Or saved on?
Window coverings can be so expensive, particularly in such wide expanses. They are essential for this space since without them it is a complete fishbowl! I ordered very inexpensive curtain rod brackets online, powder-coated them the same paint as the wall color, then fitted them with long 2-inch wood dowels—readily available in the lumber section—cut down to size. Just one 16-foot span of windows would otherwise require super costly custom hardware, so this was a good fix. The draperies are ready-made 100-inch-width panels in a flax linen.
Where did you source the major pieces? Where do you like to shop?
Some of these pieces—the Cassina chair, the grain storage chest—were from a buying trip to Brimfield Antiques Market; others from Billings Auction and Amsterdam Modern. I found a small-scale cube table at Rubbish Interiors, which I covered in sheepskin to create a textured bedside table. I frequently check Chairish and Bonita Interiors for vintage pieces. For a project of this kind, I am a big proponent of mixing chain store basics (rugs, draperies) with vintage pieces in custom upholstery. That way you circumvent ubiquity and get a kind of singular aesthetic—on a budget as small as this space.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest