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Swing Low, Word Hard

Decorating tips and mantras courtesy of LA interior designer Sally Breer

No matter how many kooky objects you put on your desk, at the end of the day (which seems to get later and later these days) , it’s still your damn desk! Interior designer Sally Breer has the right idea, she put a swing next to her desk. Her office in Highland Park, LA is the stuff productive dreams are made of—it’s the perfect balance between business and party. Our west coast photo babe, Bethany Nauert, dropped by her space to catch Sally in action.

So Sally, what do you do? I’m an interior designer and 1/3 of SHOPCLASS

Of course you are! And where are we right now? Is this your home, office, or both?
It’s just my office, though lately it feels like my home too.

And how long have you worked here?
We took over the space in January but there was some work to do in the space before we could actually move in—like building the walls for the bathroom

How many people work here? What do they do?
On the daily it’s usually just me and my design assistant (Abby Pendergrast) and about once a week an intern and my bookkeeper. But it’s really more like a revolving door at the studio, meetings with my subcontractors, clients, other creative friends that we kick around ideas with. Which is sort of why I wanted that huge modernica table in the space—it acts as a good pow-wowing station.

What was it formerly? When do you think it was built?
I actually christened the space!

Oh amazing! How long did it take to construct?
The building itself took about 4 months, but when I got the keys it was essentially a raw space. It feels quite a bit bigger than it actually is because of the lofted ceilings, I wanted to capitalize on the space without losing the open feeling, so I designed and built the bathroom to be a compact and multi-functional cube. It houses the bathroom/mini kitchen and then a lofted bed on top of it. The space on top of the bathroom was something I toyed back and forth with: It could of been a really killer storage space and in my business (basically a paid hoarder) storage space is precious. But where’s the fun in storage? A quiet lofted cozy spot to work or read or nap quickly won the vote (and lets be real, I have a storage unit and a 2,000 sq/ft shop so it’s healthier for me not to have another stash spot)

Were you met with any design or construction surprises along the way?
The only interesting part was the ladder—building a ladder is trickier than one might think. I can be quite obsessive so I endlessly researched design ideas for the ladder but ultimately threw everything out the window and went with the simple and functional one we now have.

Who are the female nudes by? Is there a story behind them?
I wish I knew! I picked them up at a flea market, they were sold together but they’re unsigned so I can only assume they’re by the same artist. I have an affinity towards nudes and just generally painted portraits. I inherited a bunch that my dad did for his art classes at Standford in the 1940s. He used to tell me stories about the different people that would come in to his class for the sittings. I think I’ve romanticized the idea of them but I also love the human shape and the study of it. Especially next to modern furnishings. I think they add this sense of history that balances out the space.

Where did you pull the wallpaper from? Link us!
Here! The Beverly Hills Hotel circa 1970 is where I’d like to be right now.

Tell us about your pottery:
My Nemadji pottery collection is also becoming another problem of mine. I have this weird fascination with it, both because they’re beautiful and almost onyx-like but also because of their story. Most people assume they’re Native American because of their colors and shapes but really they were manufactured out of a tile company in Minnesota 1929 and it was a Danish employee that came up with the marbleized design. The company just happily perpetuated the assumption that it was Native American made and later added an image of a Native American man to the stamp at the bottom of the vases. Basically, it was just a genius marketing scheme.

How did you come across most of the furniture in the space? Do you have secret shopping spot we should know of?
If I told you then it wouldn’t be so secret 😉 Truthfully the furniture in our office was all on a pretty tight budget—the knoll desk chairs were a total score from Revival Downtown. The Modernica conference table was also a very lucky draw from Craigslist. I had envisioned a giant work table, but my requirements were that it had to have a surface we could draw on, wipe down easily (I’m slightly OCD), and also be on casters so it was easily movable. I found a couple of surgical stools on Craigslist that were nothing particularly interesting to look at but they were on casters and also adjustable in height. I ran with the idea and tracked down 4 more on eBay the next day. To make them feel a bit less “sterile” I had them upholstered in some Ikea curtains that I had experimented on a while ago with fabric dye. Now they feel almost like black ink blood spatter to me and I dig it.

Who painted the piece next to the You Are Here piece?
YES! It’s a piece from my friend Sean Woolsey. He’s an insanely talented artist and furniture-maker. This piece is actually the table top that he made paintings on for the last two years. It’s all the resin and paint run off that amassed over years of use. There’s a popsicle stick and a hand print hidden in it.

Favorite, most valued object in the room?
I can’t pick one. Don’t you get three in the “if there was a fire” scenario?

OK, OK. Hey Sally, which three items would you take with you in case of a fire?!
1. A photo of my parents that I have on my bulletin board—taken just after they met, standing on a corner in NY and looking head over heels.
2. There are a couple of pieces of petrified dinosaur bones in my studio that were given to me as a gift by this rad collector. They’re not much to look at because they’re unpolished but when you get them wet you can see the cell structure of the dinosaur. Not to totally geek out, but there’s something so magical when you look at them, they’re this reminder of how small and young we really are in the scheme of things.
3. My Nemadji collection. I only buy a piece at a time. It’s also largely grown because now friends and family pick up pieces for me when they see them. It’s become this bigger thing.

Tell us everything about the swing! Why, how, how often do you use it?
ALL THE TIME. Probably like most kids, I always wanted a swing in my house. This was the first space I’ve had that could actually accommodate this dream. I have Isabel, at DEKOR for making my dream a reality. She sells them, and they’re completely affordable and completely beautiful. I highly recommend everyone own one if they can.

Same goes with the bed! Who sleeps up there?
Well I hope no one sleeps up there, though my assistant might be sometimes (just kidding, Abby). It’s sort of the brain break spot; more of a getaway from the day-to-day office views.

How do you organize the chaos of the office? How do you keep it so neat and tidy?
It’s still evolving since we moved into this space. The peg board from Home Depot was MAJOR addition to the space, it let me organize things vertically and in the open so it’s easy to see where things are and effortless to put things back where they need to be.

Photography by Bethany Nauert

So many hot tips! How do you keep your office ish together? We need all the help we can get over here! Comment below or catch me at pippa@sousstyle.com xx