After fifteen years as an interior designer in Los Angeles, this project changed my career and my life. Part 1 of a double feature, this post reveals before, during, and after images, plus insider insights into the reality of the luxury design world.
As a creative and a business owner, you never stop learning. There’s a new takeaway from each project. I love that about my work as an interior designer.
But this project was different than most. I learned more about myself and my field than any other project in my career. It’s tempting to just show the finished results. Especially when the space is this beautiful. But the actual process — and what we learn along the way — is so much more than some good before and after photos.
So today, I’m sharing some intel from behind the scenes — the good, the bad, the ugly — and the invaluable life lessons I learned from a very special beach house remodel in LA.
It reinforced the importance — and the joy — of collaboration
As a luxury residential interior designer in LA, I get to work on some extraordinary projects. And I’m honored to partner with truly wonderful clients, contractors, vendors, and craftsmasters. It’s such rewarding work.
But if I’m being honest, this field can get lonely sometimes. I own my interior design studio in LA. Much of the creative work I do is solo. Sometimes, this is amazing. I work largely at my own schedule and enjoy full creative license in my projects.
Other times, though, it’s isolating. This was the first time I’ve paired up with another interior designer on a project, and Chelsea Sachs was the absolute perfect fit. This beach home belongs to her father, NBA legend Phil Jackson, and the project required in-person management and a connection to local resources that were hard to provide from her home base in northern California.
So, her contractor introduced us and I stepped in as an architectural designer and design project manager. I also conducted site visits and kept in communication with contractors for the day to
day details. While we each took on separate roles officially, we collaborated continuously, from the big picture space reconfigurations to the smallest design details.
I’ve said it before, but interior design is an intimate process, both with clients and colleagues.
Thankfully, Chelsea and I hit it off immediately. We have different styles, but we were a perfect match for this project. We were thrilled to discover that we have similar worldviews, values, and design ideologies. That’s really important in a design project.
Because her father was pretty hands-off with much of the project, we ended up presenting our ideas to one another — each taking a turn playing the role of the client. She would drive down to LA, her trunk filled with samples to go over together. We would spend time in the property to note how the light shifted throughout the day and let that inform our design choices. Because of her location, we also did the majority of our meetings remotely. That was a first for me at the time, but I’m grateful for the experience now! It really showed me what we can accomplish with virtual design meetings.
It was so wonderful to have another professional to bounce ideas off of. Good ideas are multiplied exponentially with great collaboration. The joy gets multiplied, too. There’s someone there to share in the wins along the way.
Interior design can be humbling work
It’s ironic that such a serene, zen beach house could have such a dramatic design story, but this project had a lot of issues throughout the renovation. We transformed it from a duplex to a single-family residence, which required shifting a lot of walls and staircases.
We created a really beautiful detail on the stairs to bring some much-needed illumination into the space. While every contractor and builder signed off on the design, we realized that once installed, their construction didn’t translate properly. This wasn’t just an aesthetic issue — it posed a safety concern.
Chelsea and I fought to get the issue resolved, but when no one else would take ownership, we ultimately took responsibility. We had to put our egos aside and figure out how to fix it. Luckily the fix was relatively simple and quick so it didn't kill the timeline.
I tell clients this all the time, but an interior designer should be your number one advocate in a renovation — to stand up to contractors and vendors so you don’t have to. And, in the end, it’s our job make the problem right.
Some interior design solutions can’t be forced
While this is something I’ve known and loved about my field for a long time, it was so clearly reinforced here. As a designer, you go over design plans again, and again, and again, shifting things mere inches because you know it matters. Even if most people wouldn’t notice.
Interior design is highly organized, cerebral, and a little OCD. One of the things I’m proudest of in my own design business is my design process. It’s holistic and mapped out from the onset. This approach prevents a lot of miscommunication and delivers projects true to timeline and budget. Not all designers are this organized, but my clients really appreciate the thorough attention to detail.
But some of the best moments in a project are entirely spontaneous. That perfect antique rug for the entry. A floor lamp that captures the mood of a space and provides the right amount of light.
One of my favorite shots from this home is the seating vignette from the main bedroom. It’s clean, modern, and calm, yet so striking. And this nook came together literally the day of the photoshoot when Chelsea brought in the vintage arc lamp and we hung the carved walnut wood art on the wall.
Chelsea and I both feel so strongly that great design takes patience. Sometimes the right pieces don’t come along until the very end. But once you find them — at a hole-in-the-wall vintage shop or a market in Morocco — you can feel it.
The design world is wide enough for all of us
Like many creative professions, the field of interior design can feel like a competitive one. I’m not sure many of us would actually use the word ‘competitor’ to describe our colleagues, but the air can feel a little cold. This project really opened up my eyes to the fact that we have so much to offer when we work together. It also helped me appreciate the diversity of design skillsets. While Chelsea and I have similar priorities and values when it comes to design decisions, we each enjoy different aspects of the job. She loves hands-on design details like selecting the perfect textiles for a project, but creating space renderings is the last thing she wants to spend time doing. Me? The complete opposite. It was so great during this project to dive into what lit us up, knowing that there was a fantastic partner to tackle what didn’t.
Which brings me to the main point: we don’t have to be all things for all people. This project really showed me how fun interior design can be when we hold things loosely and trust that the right clients will find us.
My relationship with the LA interior design community has felt so different since this project wrapped up. I’m still not sure whether that’s because my mindset has shifted or because now I know what qualities to look for in my ideal colleagues.
I can honestly say, before this beach house project, I didn’t have a close friendship with a fellow interior designer. Since then, Chelsea and I have remained close and have developed such a rich friendship. We’ve met one another’s partners. I’ve stayed at her home and had breakfast with her family. As she likes to point out: finding this type of soulmate-level friendship in this stage of life is truly a rare gift.
We’ve also expanded our circle of collaborators, meeting monthly on Zoom with a small designer collective we’ve assembled. (And that started way before standing Zoom dates were a typical part of life!) We discuss one another’s current projects, share career goals, and offer advice to help each other grow.
I’m so grateful that these opportunities have opened up for me. Especially in a time when the world — and the design industry — feels in crisis. It would be easy to panic. To see every other interior designer in LA as competition. But I refuse to do that now.
I’m so proud of how this project turned out. We achieved our goals. We honored her father and his legacy in the design execution. We gave his family a beautiful spot to continue making memories in the years to come. Luxe highlighted the project, an amazing honor for any interior designer. In the end, though, I’m honestly proudest of the personal and professional growth I gained over the 18 months of this beach house redesign. I know I’m a better interior designer because of it.
Curious to know more? Stay tuned for Part 2 in my next post, where I'll share even more details and design decisions.
Until next time,