Designer Kim Gordon admits carrying some elitist East Coast baggage with her when she moved to Los Angeles almost 30 years ago.
“Being from New York, it’s always like New York hates L.A., the whole Woody Allen thing. I kind of had a little bit of that when I first got here,” she recalls.
That was especially true when it came to walking through neighborhoods and looking at houses, where one style of home juxtaposes the one next door —
a Spanish-style bungalow, say, next to a super modern manse.
“At first, I thought it was a disaster,” she says. Gordon later realized that eclecticism was part of the Angeleno real estate DNA: “It’s a little like, ‘This is what I like. F- you.’ There’s something very L.A. about that.”
As principal designer of Kim Gordon Designs, she has become known for an aesthetic that some would call “very L.A.”: her work includes designing interiors, ground-up home builds and renovations that seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor spaces to take full advantage of sunshine and sea breezes, replete with plants and patterned textiles. Projects can range in budget from $100,000 to well into the millions.
An artist by trade, Gordon usually mixes bold pops of color, contrasting textures and quirky flourishes into her work. When staging a home before it goes to market, for example, she refuses to adhere to the “blank canvas” philosophy many home stagers and real estate agents do.
“There is a lot of pressure to keep everything white. I keep thinking, “Who wants to live in a sterile, hotel-looking thing?’ So, I layer it and make it quirky, throw in things, like a weird pig sculpture,” she says.
Her goal for any space no matter the budget, she says, is to make something unique, interesting and warm. The Westside is particularly suited to that vibe.
“It feels to me more like you could be on a vacation, and I think design is moving towards [that]. When I open up the door to my house, the gate to my house, I have water fountains, plants are happy, there’s ocean around us. It’s very resort-like,” she says.
A longtime Venice resident (her first project was a home on 28th Street behind the Venice Canals), Gordon remembers when the neighborhood was a hub for off-beat artists and misfits, where her dates didn’t want to drive to because it was too far, and where a post-dinner party drum circle was a nightly treat.
Even as the neighborhood has become one of the most expensive in the country, Gordon still sees a creative spirit peeking through.
“It’s a different type of artist moving in. I’m one of the old artists,” she says. “I hear people say, ‘These people are rich and terrible.’ But I’m like, ‘Dude, they are in the tech industry. They are creatives. What is art now is different.’”
— Audrey Cleo Yap
Photo by Shilah Montiel