Interiorssneak peeks

In Los Angeles: making a small space feel big

by Amy Azzarito

Prior to moving into this 900 square foot home with two bedrooms, Sunny Lee, director for Brand Strategy at Applied Storytelling, had lived in a one-bedroom bungalow for 7 years so she came into this new space in the Brentwood district in Los Angeles, California with practically no furniture. Her first priority was create as much space as possible. She took down walls and focused on buying or creating multi-functional furniture. This was also the first time Sunny threw out cardboard boxes. She planned to stay and wanted the place to feel lived in. To further enhance that lived-in quality, Sunny ended up buying a lot of pieces from eBay because she felt like used furniture has that immediate lived-in quality and she wanted her home to feel like a favorite shoe. Classic, comfortable, loved but with flair. Thanks, Sunny! And a big thank you to Bonnie Tsang for the lovely photos. –Amy Azzarito

Image above: The condo is 900 sq feet. Small. There were walls dividing the kitchen and living room as well as built-in islands that made the space smaller. I removed the walls, island to open up the space and let the light brighten it up. I couldn’t afford to do a complete redo of the kitchen so I kept fixtures in the same place, kept a few of the cabinets and had the 3 long shelves built behind the sink. I’m lucky to have a friend in the cabinetry business (Hardwood Habitat). I went cheap on the counter with white corian but I went for stone tiles on the wall w/ dark gray grout. I painted the cabinets white but the inter edge in gold. Actually there are sprinkles of gold/brass throughout my place. A little sparkle/glamor never hurts.

Image above: This room is my office. I work from home so I need a private area to take calls and lock myself away to concentrate. However the room also serves as a spare sleeping area. The couch is a mid-century modern piece that converts into a day bed. The paintings are mine. Working as a graphic designer,  there are few outlets of creativity that I actually completely own. These are my outlets.

See more of Sunny’s Los Angeles home after the jump!

Image above: I have a soft spot for earthen wear ceramics and have amassed a small collection. Some of the dishes were gifts from traveling friends and some I purchased from a neighbor who threw pottery. They came from different times and places in my life but my subconscious must have had a palette in mind cause they worked when I put them out.

Image above: Tea just became a natural alternative to coffee. I don’t drink coffee. Coupled with my fondness for pottery, they just overlapped nicely.

Image above: Unintentionally, I was mixing a lot of styles. I had no master plan when purchasing furniture. I bought what appealed to me and knew I’d make it work. The couch was a find on Gilt. I wanted another sleeping option for guests and it looked sturdy and uncomplicated with just one moving piece (the back flattens down). Style wise, the couch is more contemporary than I would like, so the lamb’s wool rug/throw helped to soften it. The Japanese wicker chair was a fun find on eBay. It came from an estate sale and the prior owner had been the one to bring the chairs over from Japan. When I saw it, I wanted it. The seller was only able to fine one of the seat cushions so I sewed two in a gold fabric. The base of the coffee table was a hollywood glam eBay find and the glass top was something I kept from a rickety IKEA table. I was mixing a lot of styles. Restoration Hardware was doing a rustic French theme that season and the worn blue and burlap feel of the pillows helped to bring all the elements together. The mid-century modern fiberglass & iron flower potters was also an eBay find.

Image above: eBay was a big decorating tool for me. one of my favorite finds was the stone based lamp with the gold paper gilded shade. Not only was the lamp bigger than I had expected, (3ft 6inches tall) but the shade also broke in the mail. I was really disappointed. After working out a deal with the seller, I decided to mend the shade myself. Luckily I was handy with an exacto knife and tape. Design school paid off. Ha!

Image above: The books and objects are just inspiration for my work. They range from graphic design books and art books to cooking, ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), poetry, comic, and how-to books for making paper to smelting metal when setting precious stones.

Image above: My place is on the second floor with a car port below and I share the kitchen/staircase wall with my neighbor. There are 16 units in my condo community but each has a unique layout. No duplicates. I have balconies that run the length of both the long sides of my condo. I also have tall trees all round me. Whenever friends visit, they would comment that it was like a tree house and I’ve always loved that. Redwood is the main wood for the structure and in the original design all the walls were covered with redwood planks. Great to preventing termites and mold but it made all the rooms very dark. I kept some of it for accent but stripped the majority off to brighten the room. The floor was damaged/molding parkay. I wanted to do cement floors for a studio space look but it wasn’t practical. I found 24″x24″ Eko Grigio floor tiles with tinted gray grout and it worked beautifully. Also to avoid bringing attention to the uneven edges, I had the tiles placed at an angle no one wouldn’t notice that the walls were not straight. I didn’t have a plan when I started decorating but I knew I wanted my bedroom to be quiet and soothing, the office colorful with lots of trinkets to look at and the living room/kitchen/dinning area to feel open and welcoming. My taste has a tendency to skew masculine so I used gold and patterns to bring out my feminine side.

Image above: My dog’s name is Caesar. I adopted him from the pound 6 years ago when he was 2. I think he’s a chihuahua/corgi mix but I’m not sure. His favorite thing to do at home is sun tan on the balcony and bark at the FedEx guy delivering packages. Oh… and of course eat.

Image above: I’m lucky to live in southern California where it is sunny everyday. I take a lot of phone meetings on the balcony and tend to my succulents. I don’t have a green thumb but I’ve found tending a garden to be relaxing and rewarding.

Suggested For You


  • There’s something about home decorating that inspires the inner sewer no matter what your skill level. Want a pillow that can’t be found in the stores? Turn on the sewing machine. A set of curtains from that incredible vintage yardage found at the local antique shop? Adjust the tension dial on your machine and you’re off. Oh, how about a lux duvet to cover up that dingy one from college? Install a universal need for wovens and you’re off to the sewing races!

  • I always think of The Big Lebowski when I hear of Los Angelese (or am I getting confused there?), but these are certainly lovely and far removed from the very slobby The Dude. I particularly like the crockery stuff! Thanks, and have a great weekend, everyone!

  • Love this! What ceiling fans did you purchase? I’m having a hard time finding nice ceiling fans that are modern and unobtrusive.

  • The blue wall is so pretty! Is it actually different shades of blue, or is that just the lighting?

  • This is a lovely space! Where is the large pendant light from that’s over the kitchen island?

  • That ‘Caneline’ poster at the top of the stairs is super cool! Who is the illustrator? Does anyone know?

  • I love a place that lets your soul shine through, and your lovely home does that beautifully. There is no sense of ‘mish-mash’, as you said, but a nice harmony of different things. Differences make for more interest. Just like people.
    I absolutely love your paintings, by the way.

  • I love Sunny’s home! You feel like your close to nature with all the big windows and there’s also a sense of modern luxury with the mixed materials. Beautiful like a Jimmy Choo but as comfortable as Toms.

  • A gorgeous home! Love the windows, all the light, and the wooden ceilings. I am inspired to buy more ceramics for my kitchen. I know these are small things, but can Sunny tell us where she got her wine rack or knife block?

  • goodness, what a handsome little dog. hello, caesar!

    i love that multicolored towel in the kitchen; anyone know what it is?

  • Love the palette, the wood, and the combination of classy and relaxed elements. It’s the best of SoCal style.

  • Love everything! How did you do the stainless? panel behind the range? so clever..

  • Thank you so much for all the love! It is wonderful to hear. I wanted to answer a few questions. Let me know if I missed anyone.

    Shannon – the fans came with the house but I know the brand is Hampton

    Molly – The island is from Crate & Barrel

    Shari – I found the rug on Wayfair.com

    Emily – the paint is Behr premium plus, Self-priming Interior Flat, Quiet Storm S-H-540. The shade you’re seeing is a light effect but wouldn’t an ombre wall be cool??!

    Vicki Swan – The bed is a combo of two expedit shelves from Ikea that I had my cabinet friend make drawers for and a platform bed from West Elm. I couldn’t find a frame I liked so I made one from furniture I had.

    Susan – The pendent light is from ebay from a seller named ras_dane. He had a lot of great mid-century modern furniture and lights at the time I was looking.

    Nina Palmer & Susie – the poster is by Bjorn Wiinblad. A Danish artist from the 1950’s. He’s known for his porcelain work but I found his commercial posters more appealing. This one in particular was an advertisement for hats at a department store. I got it at a vintage poster store but he has a number of posters out there and several are on ebay. Good luck!

    Rachel – I think you’re referring to the Japanese wicker chairs in my living room. They were an ebay find.

    Joyelle West – the wine rack was an ebay find. If you put mid-century modern in the search you come up with lots of interesting finds. The knife block is by BergHOFF.

    Lauren – the towels are by Missoni

  • lovely home. I just love the redwood ceilings…had them in my own home when i lived in san diego, and they just added so much warmth and texture. Also, love seeing the close-up details in this home, and the rooms as a whole. gorgeous!

  • Finally! a book collection that actually looks like the books have been read and used. I am so tired of seeing books as props and really enjoy seeing a personal library. Thank you!

    And, the rest of the space is so lovely, too. It doesn’t feel overly trendy, just really personal, comfortable and boho.

  • Love the Japanese chairs. What keywords did you use to find them on Ebay? I’ve always wanted ones like them!

  • The tile with the grey grout looks fantastic. You would have never known that you “couldn’t afford a full renovation” because everything looks very intentional!

  • Like other I really liked that poster at the top of the stairs. For some reason I can’t see it as an add for hats. I laughed when I read that. What I like is how cozy a feeling I have looking over all the pictures and I love the ceiling because it reminds me of our vacation home we had to sell last year. Which I am still crying over.

  • Sharon – the stainless panel behind the stove is just a stainless sheet that’s glued to the back wall.

    Linda & Karen – thank you so much!

    Sylvie – are you on Pinterest? I can upload some of my balcony shots there for you to see.

  • Oh, my goodness. One of my favourites. I love what she did with this place – just perfect. Beautiful, cosy, warm and personal. I particularly love the kitchen splashback and exposed shelves and that she’s kept the exposed wood beam ceilings. I want….

  • I have become a lover of small clever spaces since moving into a share house recently. What people can do with less floor space while still keeping the air and light in a room is amazing and really where we should all be aspiring to.
    Live with less for less and have less of a damaging impact on the world.

    Beautiful! and the Japanese wicker chairs are gorgeous!.

  • Lovely, but, um, I think you mean the wooden floors are parquet – parkay seems to be a brand of margarine…

  • OMG — you have the French kitchen island that I want from Crate and Barrel! Love your style!

  • Miss Heliotrope – you are correct. I must have been thinking about lunch when I submitted my responses. :)

    Lia – it took me about 2 months from start to finish.

  • You have some amazing ebay finds. I never have such luck. How do you find all these amazing items?

  • Danny – I’ve had a good run with putting ‘Mid-Century Modern objects’. I also look through pages of lists. I also got some interesting leads with ‘Hollywood Glam’, ‘Industrial lights’, and ‘Steampunk lighting’.