Interiorssneak peeks

In West Hollywood, a Nature-Inspired Bungalow

by Garrett Fleming

I was intrigued when interior designer Joyce Downing Pickens told me that her West Hollywood, CA home reminds her of Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda. Growing up, my sisters and I would watch that movie over and over again. Now that I think of it, I’m surprised we didn’t wear out the VHS. In the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, takes Matilda under her wing, bringing the magical girl to her cottage in the forest for afternoon tea. Miss Honey’s home is cozy, warm, inviting and nestled within nature – all of which perfectly describe Joyce’s apartment.

The 2-bedroom house’s back porch “wraps around to reveal a romantic hammock” amongst vines and in the shade of a tree. An outdoor dining set and fire pit give Joyce the perfect spot for entertaining – a “must” when she began her apartment hunt a year ago. Even Joyce’s pup, Mouse, has a dedicated place to kick back. His dog-sized teepee seamlessly blends with the backyard’s bohemian vibe. While Joyce loves nothing more than spending an evening on the porch with friends, she doesn’t have to be outside to enjoy the oasis. Overlooking the bungalow’s yard is her bathroom, where she gets ready every morning to the sounds of birds chirping and little critters zipping around her “wild kingdom.” All she has to do is open up the window and she is embraced by nature.

When the designer tackled tweaking the inside of her bungalow, she chose a neutral palette in order to create a simple, textural and spa-like feel. Joyce loves color, but knew that if she utilized too many bold hues, she would quickly grow restless with the design. That being said, she has strategically peppered in decor that feeds her need for color but can easily be adjusted when some new accessory catches her eye.

Joyce’s time as an interior designer has taught her the importance of planning. The home’s cohesive color story and fluid layout are proof that none of her decorating choices were made on a whim. She moved in with a full floor plan, ready to place each piece of furniture and art in the perfect spot. Joyce isn’t married to the layout, though. “I feel like it is constantly evolving, and I am constantly changing and adding to [my design],” she says. “That’s the fun part!” It’ll be difficult to top the look she has going right now, but I am sure Joyce is up for the challenge of making her Earth-toned bungalow even more fabulous in the years to come. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Monica Wang and Joyce Downing

In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Joyce's family calls the tree in the photo "Grandfather Tree." It's several hundred years old and lives on her family's ranch. "The table was a hand-me-down from my godparents. I love the old wood naturally antiqued from years of use," she says.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Joyce loves mud cloth, so she made this piece the focal point of the dining room. The CB2 console is accompanied by a West Elm lamp and vintage accessories.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
High ceilings give the bedroom an abundance of airiness. The rug is vintage, Joyce found the bench at CB2, and the canopy is made by World Market.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Joyce calls the Sealy Posturepedic bed with Laura Ashley featherbed topper "the cloud" because it's "the most comfortable bed ever." The sconces are from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Having a fireplace in your bedroom is something I doubt anyone would turn down! "Even if we are in California and it’s rarely needed, it’s a great focal point and gives a certain aesthetic to the space," Joyce says.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
The bedroom's camera – circa 1898 – was a gift from Joyce's dad. It sits next to a Pottery Barn dresser.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
When Joyce isn't designing interiors, chances are she is pursuing one of her other passions – photography. The piece you see here, as well as the tree photo in the dining room, are her work. She wasn't sure what to do with this "awkward" wall until she went into Scout. The store's wide range of succulents and cacti inspired her to make her own garden inside the bedroom.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
It's not uncommon to find close friends cozying up to a fire in Joyce's gorgeous backyard. She uses it so often, it's pretty much just an extension of the dining room. The sofa is from Pier 1, and the fire pit is from One Kings Lane.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
"The hammock (from Etsy) is always a crowd-pleaser. This is my happy place and a great Saturday morning reading nook! I bought the French sack pillows from the Round Top Flea Market in Texas and handmade the terrarium wall hanging," Joyce says.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
The bathroom's unique corner-sink and window overlook the garden and sit under a large oak tree. Joyce says she loves, "to look out the windows at the birds while brushing [her] teeth!"
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Joyce searched high and low for the perfect ladder. Crate & Barrel ended up having the best option for her.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Kelly Wearstler fabric covers the throw pillows. Joyce wanted the living room to be "...simple, full of texture with a comfortable, practical couch." She found this one at Elite Leather. Its textured linen is fantastic for pet owners since it masks dust. She's paired it with a West Elm coffee table.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Joyce uses photos she took in Positano, Italy to don the living room walls.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Interior Designer Joyce Downing Pickens and her pup Mouse sit in a rattan chair from Two's Company.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
This is one of Joyce's favorite nooks in her home. She found this bench at a local flea market for $40 and paired it with a cute pen-drawing of a zebra she found on ebay.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Having stylish, original details in a rental property is such a rarity. Luckily for Joyce, the kitchen's tile from the 1920s still shines to this day. According to Joyce, "the ceramics on the kitchen shelves are some of [her] favorite things in the house. The bowl is called the 'Moon Bowl' by ANK Ceramics, and the four teacups are by an up-and-coming ceramicist named Takashi Endo from Japan." They all sit on some fantastic shelves she found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
An olive Utility Canvas throw helps tie the guest bedroom's color scheme to the rest of the home's Earth tones. Joyce says, "I have traveled all over the world and have collected items from each place that has meant something to me and from different countries that have made an impact on who I am. The decorative piece above the bed is original and came directly from African artisans. A continent that I have spent time traveling around and has greatly impacted me and my design sense."
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
Roost leather chairs offer seating for guests in the extra bedroom.
In West Hollywood, a Jungle-Inspired Bungalow, Design*Sponge
The 670-square-foot home's floor plan.

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  • This home is absolutely gorgeous – I love all of the natural elements and the treehouse feel.

    I’m wondering about the cultural appropriation of the teepee. In recent years in the design world, there’s been so much productive discussion about cultural appropriation and what it means, how to avoid it, etc. But I often see the teepee being considered an exception. On D*S (and many other sites), I see them being used in children’s rooms and as dog/cat houses. For me, it feels just as insensitive as a Native American headdress used as decor would be. I would love to know your thoughts on this, Grace.

    • Jessica

      Thanks for your thoughts on this- appropriation is something our entire team thinks about and talks about on a regular basis. We take it very seriously and are constantly working to avoid anything that would make any group (or individual) feel disrespected.

      Currently what we’re trying to avoid is anyone using an object/idea/term that has significant cultural or religious meaning to a community different than the person using it- especially when it’s for purely decorative purposes. I follow and read the prominent blogs covering appropriation, and when it comes to teepees, it seems to be a gray area. Some NA blogs I follow seem to be ok with non NA people using them, but some don’t. They do have religious and ceremonial significance, so I agree that they should not be used as a decorative object without any context or connection to the culture that created it.

      All that said, I personally find them too much in a grey area to feature and have removed this image from the tour. I missed it in my initial read of the article and apologize for that oversight.


  • Grace,
    Thank you so, so much for the thoughtful response. This is one of the many reasons that D*S stands out among the rest.

    • Jessica

      Thank you again for catching that, bringing it to my attention and having a constructive conversation. I deeply regret not paying more attention to issues of cultural appropriation in the past and want to make sure not to continue that mistake as we move forward.


  • I’m curious (and this is real curiosity, not snarkiness) why the Cameroonean style headdress over the guest bed isn’t considered similarly? It makes me wonder what really are the variables between a culturally symbolic object and “a design trend” ?

    Again, I’m coming at this from the interest of discussion and is no reflection on the homeowner featured (whom I think has made a lovely home) or DS’s editorial choices.

    • Margot and Lara

      First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I don’t think that I, as a white person, get to formally draw “the” line for objects or goods created by indigenous people. But as a publisher, I try my best to listen, learn and draw our own internal lines of what we feel is respectful to those people. But I always defer to what I’ve read and heard from people of these respective cultures about what they feel is respectful use of their work.

      For me (and based on what I’ve read from various writers of these indigenous groups), if something is purchased directly from an indigenous artisan (at a price the artisan sets) and that artisan receives 100% of the profit and is aware of who they are selling their work to, I think that is a fair exchange of goods and the purchaser should feel comfortable displaying it in their home. The next step in that process is for that piece to be contextualized when shared in something like an online home tour. We try to get information from every home owner on the purchase of pieces like this (we’re awaiting details on the headdress) so these objects are not stripped of their cultural significance or meaning.

      So many fabrics, rugs, objects, etc. have significant meaning to their cultures, but that doesn’t inherently mean they can never be used, displayed or appreciated by other cultures. Some would disagree with that, but as someone who appreciates and studies design history, I feel strongly that the exchange of ideas and inspiration is what the art and design world is founded on. When it gets difficult is when people a) don’t bother to learn or appreciate the significance of these objects b) don’t buy directly from the sources of these objects (where they can ensure they’re being willingly sold and sold at a fair price to the seller) c) or when people ignore what these indigenous cultures are readily saying about their goods being used (ie: Native American people and scholars have frequently written about the use of war bonnets being disrespectful).

      I think my job is to continue to listen to what these indigenous groups say and respect and understand their thoughts on these objects being used by other cultures respectfully. These rules may change and grow over time and my goal is to continue to stay abreast of the latest conversations and reflect those ideas here.

      As always, I’m happy to talk more about any of these ideas on and offline.


  • What about using items such as textiles, juju hats, sculptures and art from indigenous peoples from various countries? Where does one draw a line?

    • She’s a chiweenie! (Dachsund chihuahua mix) They are amazing dogs! Rescue one! :)

  • I’ve been following D*S for years now. And check the posts before I go to bed in India (which is almost immediately after they are posted). But I must make an exception today, and stay awake a while longer to add my two bits to this discussion.

    You see, although we’ve had a largely liberal, if somewhat chequered history of artistic expression in my vast and culturally complex country, artists, writers and musicians must often walk the tightrope of appropriation relevant to the time/circumstances. Hurting the religious sentiments of a community (or its self-appointed flag bearers), for instance, can easily snowball into a national crisis.

    At an individual level too, in cities where one’s friends’ circle includes people from across a country as large as ours, some basic rules apply with regard to decor, food, idle banter even… It’s not always about political correctness or over compensation, but merely about cultural sensitivity. And it is this that guides my design choices as well.

    There is a wealth of objects/motifs beyond those that have religious or ritual significance. Not everything that looks spectacular is meant to hang on a wall. And that’s alright. If you actually bother to ask the artisan who made it — and from whom you hopefully bought it at a fair price, as Grace says (hello, Grace!) — he or she will tell you what it’s used for, or how it’s used. You don’t have to light incense every day if you buy a small papier mâché Ganesha idol for the house. But find a respectful place to display it. Really, how long does it take to Google and learn a little more about something? Much like I’d read about a country and its customs before I make a trip there — knowing fully well that no amount of reading can prepare me for everything — I’d read about the design souvenirs I bring back with me. In fact, I find textile and pottery are safer bets in most places (as long as there are no prints of religious script or idols).

    Having said that, if one does make an honest mistake, I don’t see why he/she must be shamed or forced to defend himself/herself. Not everyone is flippant or rude. One should take it as a compliment that someone loved and admired a piece of your culture enough to make it their own. In their own way.

    And while you hold on to that thought, I must hit the bed.

  • I could move in to this apartment!

    As far as cultural appropriation with textiles and juju hats etc, I have plenty of textiles – batiks, ikats from my home country (Malaysia) and I love when I see it in other people’s homes. When I bring them back it reminds me so much of when I was there, my culture and good times.

  • I was wondering about the quote below the photo of the guest bedroom with the amazing piece above the bed. The piece is described as created by African artisans and the next sentence says a country that the individual has spent a great deal of time in. Did the editor miss which country Joyce visited? Africa is a diverse continent not a monolithic country.