We’re both writers (he writes songs; I write books, among other things), so our process began with jotting down words that kept our intentions in focus: more space, more sunlight, more serenity. The dream was to go from the top floor of a Bed-Stuy brownstone to a chic hideaway in the Hollywood hills. But we were halfway up a particularly perilous, winding single-lane road when I said aloud to our real estate broker, Ikem Chukumerije: “I don’t care what this next house looks like; there is no way I’m doing this drive every day.” Of course, the moment I walked through the doors I just knew: This was our home.
The 13-foot pitched ceilings, the spacious, sun-drenched patios, the artful views, wood beams, and airy, open spaces—it instantly delivered on wow factor. It also possessed a certain creative soul we both immediately tapped into. Later we learned the contemporary Spanish-style dwelling, built in 1977, was previously owned by the prolific film director and actor Robert Townsend. We loved that there was enough space to grow into the 2.0 versions of ourselves. Little did we know then that less than a year later we would be designing the space with a new member of the family on the way.
In NYC you invest in what you put on to leave your house. In L.A. you invest in the things that make you never want to leave your house. As a first-time home buyer eager to redesign every aspect of our lives with intention, I Marie Kondo’d the hell out of my existence and refused to purchase anything I couldn’t envision sparking joy for years to come. This over- zealous plan inevitably backfired when six months later we were still living like college kids in an abandoned frat house, sleeping on oversized beanbags and eating pizza by the fire on a card table from Home Depot. It was sort of romantic for a while, but the charm quickly wore off and we were ready to feel like actual adults. With a burgeoning TV career requiring me to be bicoastal, we knew it was time to enlist help from professionals.
Enter Night Palm’s Tiffany Howell, an in-demand interior designer who brings a moody, cinematic flair to her projects. We met serendipitously over our mutual love affair with a sofa at Pop Up Home, a vintage-furniture store and gallery for underrepresented artists. I eventually pursued her after seeing her work in my dear friend Mara Brock Akil’s stunning office space. Luckily, the stars aligned, as well as our taste in sofas, and she signed on to help us get our act together. I knew it was a match made in design heaven when she scored us an even better version of that sofa at a fraction of the price (saving money is the ultimate joy!).
Howell’s love of music and fashion overlapped with our creative backgrounds; we spoke the same language. “I want the house to feel like a Stan Getz song,” she said, noticing we were having a bossa nova moment. We were all drawn to the home’s bones and Spanish soul, so it was important to pre- serve them at all costs. With the expansive rounded fireplace as our muse, we landed on the idea of creating a zen, modern sanctuary that gives Brazilian tree house vibes.