When they moved into their first apartment together, Los Angeles couple Brandon & Lily had a clear vision. “The most important aspects to us were functionality and keeping things simple,” Brandon says. Lily adds, “We’re both kind of homebodies, and we love to entertain, so creating a place that we enjoy spending time in was important. Our place isn’t that big, so clean, airy, and comfortable was key.” Luckily, they had a leg up on the design process. As the founder and principal at Heads Above Water, a multifaceted design studio with a focus on interiors, Brandon has been swimming in the design world for some time. However, the couple would soon find that putting down well-styled roots isn’t something that happens overnight.

Over the next four years, the 800 square foot space would transform. Located in the Miracle Mile district of the city, the couple gained inspiration from their surroundings. Brandon explains, “LA has such a rich design history. Our goal was to find a way to blend that style with elements of comfort that really made it feel like our own. In the end, we wanted a place that felt designed but lived in… We didn’t want it seem like we were living in a museum.”

Before she could wrap her head around the space, Lily had one major must-have. “I came home one day and convinced Brandon to help me paint all the walls white- they were an interesting creamy yellow color before – so you could say that was our fresh start. From there, we bought a few more pieces to really help bring the space together.” While many of us dream of rushing to our favorite furniture studio and picking up one of everything, Brandon & Lily knew that it would take time to fill the home with items they truly loved and valued. “We’ve replaced and upgraded a lot of things throughout the years. There were 3 really important pieces that set the overall tone. The first was our credenza. We had it custom made from a small millwork shop in Silver Lake. It came out exactly like we were hoping.” Next on the list? “Our dining room table. It’s the Dylan model from CB2 and has been one of those pieces we’ve never gotten bored with… I’m not sure if we’ll ever get rid of it.” Finally, the sofa. “It took us forever to decide on the color. We almost went with a dolphin grey, but that blue just adds so much more personality to the room. It was made here in LA by a great place in Santa Monica called Weego Home.”

The biggest challenge? According to Brandon, patience. “When I’m designing a commercial space, the project has a definitive end date. You pull everything together and then have that moment when you sit back and say ‘It’s done!’ At home, it’s totally different. You try things out, dream up new projects, and find ways to keep improving. I love for projects to have that moment when you know they’re finished… but it just doesn’t work that way with your own place.”

Lily, on the other hand, enjoys filling the apartment with valued pieces over time. A painting by her grandfather. Polaroids of her mother’s modeling days. Soon, a cabinet to house their prized record collection, built by her father. Of course, not everything is an heirloom just yet. “This might sound silly,” she says, “but there are a lot of items that we’ve collected together over the years that will always be important to us. This was our first apartment together, we got engaged right in our living room, and married while we were living here. We have so many great memories and being surrounded by these things that we’ve acquired together makes them sentimental.” As far as we’re concerned, that’s what building a home together is all about.

While they both agree that this apartment, or any home they reside in for that matter, will always be a continually evolving space- they’re more than content with the current outcome. The small yet functional kitchen prepares many a homemade meal, the dining room allows for plenty of dinner parties… always paired with riveting games of Cards Against Humanity, of course. Brandon reflects, “When our home is filled with friends and we’re breaking into our wine collection, that’s when I’m happiest.”

Declutter. Think about every piece you’re bringing in and what it adds from a functional standpoint. The more open space you can give yourself, the better.
Be selective and patient. Rather than rushing to fill a space with quick fixes, hold out for the things you have your heart set on. Find a way to budget for quality pieces that you collect slowly over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and decorating your home won’t happen in a day either!
Shop local! The credenza and sofa were made right in Los Angeles, and cost a fraction of the price it would have been at a furniture store. Research artisans in your area to create dream pieces within your budget.
Give the design room to grow. Buy furniture that won’t seem out of place if you decide to switch the art or change a rug. Who knows what you’ll be inspired by next? If you can design in a way that’s less constricting, you’ll avoid a complete overhaul every couple months.
Don’t overthink it. If you try and match everything, it will be obvious. Pick pieces that you both love, and chances are your space will come together better than you could have imagined.

To learn more about Heads Above Water, or tour their recent projects, click here

Make it Your Own: 1. Sofa // 2. Dining Table // 3. Floor Lamp // 4. Hourglass // 5. Starbursts // 6. Nightstand