Sometimes, you need to be prepared to shop around before you find your dream home. Similar to securing the perfect pair of winter boots or investing in a designer handbag — both exercises that Courtney Madison is well-versed in.
"My husband and I love open houses, I would even call it a hobby of ours," the Los Angeles-based stylist begins. "We both appreciate how many different styles of living L.A. has to offer and how many magical places are tucked away behind the hedges. We weren’t necessarily serious about buying when we found this place, but rather interested in learning about the market and escaping to somewhere that had functioning AC on a hot day. My husband Mike started talking to the agent, asking about different neighborhoods, and what he thought was interesting. The agent shared the listing of a blue house with a white trim and a red driveway. To call it 'ugly' would be putting it generously but we poured over the pictures and later realized that the place had a lot of potential, underneath the blue veil."
What followed was a handful of walkthroughs, deep contemplation, and the decision to buy. A month or so later, renovations were in full swing.
Nowadays, the little blue house in Atwater Village — a space the stylist shares with her husband, Mike, and cat Hermès — is barely recognizable. A crisp white exterior leads to a fresh, contemporary L.A. remodel, complete with vintage furniture and pine needle green walls. Madison's own approach to decor and trends lean distinctly '70s and her home fits the mold. Plush upholstered headboards and vintage gold table lamps decorate the 1,200-square-foot space, complete with assorted artwork plucked from the Long Beach Flea Market or sourced during trips abroad.
"We went down to the studs in most rooms and changed almost the entire the layout of the house," Madison begins, when asked about the couple's approach to renovation."The main bedroom used to be at the front of the house and the bedroom that we have now was three separate rooms that we connected. I think the changes that had the greatest effect on our space were removing the wall that separated the living room and the kitchen and adding the door that leads out to the backyard. Being able to have the backyard in your sightline when you enter the house draws you in and lightens the space overall."
Upon entry, a modern kitchen sets the tone for a light, bright interior. With a clarity of style, Madison doesn't shy away from personalizing her spaces, tackling many of the repurposed vintage projects herself. The headboard in the main bedroom — formerly a set of old church doors — were refinished and bolted to the wall. It would be fair to say that Madison approaches styling her home in a similar vein to that of her wardrobe — substantial-yet-stylish, accented but not overwhelmed by pops of color. With a run-sheet of clients that includes everyone from Beyoncé to Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Katy Perry, and Kendrick Lamar — Madison isn't afraid to tailor to fit.
"Like so many people, I’ve had to pivot during this time," she explains. "My work days have changed. I used be out in the world, on set, in showrooms, or traveling with an artist almost everyday. Lately, I have been working with brands, styling e-comm shoots. Outside of that, I’ve had a few socially distanced photo shoots. Beyond fashion — and with some newfound time up my sleeve — I’ve utilized my creative skills by designing gardens, sprucing up backyard spaces, and helping people make their homes a little cozier."
"Since I was young, I’ve always appreciated the same things," the stylist muses. "I thrifted a lot so I look for quality and want to be excited about the pieces I’m investing in. With designing a home, you have to work with what you’ve got. There were pieces that suited our initial Spanish-style apartment that we didn’t carry into our renovated home. As for color, I like using a warm palette because I always want a room to feel inviting. I tend to limit really colorful pieces to accent items — like pillows or throws. When investing in larger pieces, I think it’s wise to keep to neutral tones and opt for furniture that wears well over time — or even improves with age — so that you can cherish it for years to come."
Adhering to a "one size does not fit all" school of thought, Madison's favorite pieces speak to her story, seamlessly blending with the leafy L.A. surrounds. A Turkish rug and traditional kilim collection, artfully framed and displayed throughout her home, are among the pieces that Madison treasures most.
"We were fortunate to travel to Turkey four years ago and I purchased them with the hopes of having a home to one day display them in," she begins. "I remember thinking that we shouldn’t buy anything too big because we knew we’d be moving sometime in the near future, but had no idea where. The rugs ended up fitting perfectly in small hallways and we have one prayer rug framed in our bedroom. I have so much respect for tapestry — the old world craftsmanship, the colors, so rich and inspiring."
In the open living and dining space, neighboring the kitchen, a well-worn leather sofa — sourced via Restoration Hardware — anchors the room, accented with Missoni Home throw pillows, a Balinese throw sourced on honeymoon, and a coffee table found on Craigslist. In the main bedroom space, a framed prayer rug holds pride of place, leading the eye into Madison's walk-in closet, a colorful shrine dedicated to more of her favorite finds. Outside, a landscaped courtyard leads to a hidden pool house, awash in Behr Paint's Down to Earth and boasting everything from vintage vinyl to custom bench seating.
"I converted it last year as a birthday present to myself," explains Madison, when asked about the bonus room. "I wanted to be able to enjoy the best of Californian indoor-outdoor living, so I brought the rich greens inside to make it feel like you’re in the garden during the day and a romantic candlelit lounge late at night. I now work in there during the day and it's where we have Friday night movie nights. It’s where we one day would love to gather friends and family, but for now, I’m happy to update the gallery wall with memories and hope that eventually, we will have new pictures to add."
Adjacent is the pool, decorated with thrifted furniture and oversized planters from the Long Beach Flea Market, Sunset Boulevard Nursery, and Jackalope Pottery, pieces that speak to the couple's relaxed Cali lifestyle. A burst of purple bougainvillea is testament to the stylist's own green thumb.
It becomes apparent that for Madison, building a home — like curating a wardrobe — is about so much more than aesthetics. Each piece holds sentimental value and has been well-considered when it comes to aging gracefully. Styling a home is seldom something you complete overnight, instead, it's a labor of love that grows with you. A passion project to quietly chip away it.
"I've never felt luckier to live in the home that we do," Madison emphatically admits. "When we bought the house we did a major renovation, but over the last three years I have taken my time to fill our home with pieces from our travels and items sourced at flea markets. The past few months have made me thankful for all of the little things — having a kitchen to learn how to cook in, an outdoor space to watch things grow, and actually using the spaces that I didn’t fully use before. Thankfully, with a little patience, the L.A. sunshine, and some elbow grease, I was able to grow a garden that I'm proud of."