Text: Erika Heet
Photography: Meghan Bob
It is a gift in the design industry for a designer and client to have a long and trusting relationship, through all that life hands us. For designer Erica Islas and her client Judith Ang, this relationship helped smooth the way for a delicate Los Angeles home renovation that followed the loss of Ang’s husband, Alex. Islas and Ang were already in a good design rhythm, having worked together for a few years already on some updates for the home, and Alex’s passing led Ang to need a healing refresh that she would embark upon with her trusted designer.
This began with reworking the guest room in which Alex died. “Judith wanted to brighten the room, to make it a happy space,” Islas says. “So my initial instinct was to bring in some pattern and artistic vibes to make the space inviting and cheerful. Bringing in the right scale, furnishings and also finding the right balance of texture and contrast was just the start.” To establish the tone and feel, she found a lively fabric from Gaston y Daniela that she says felt “whimsical, artsy and light.” This single find, she says, “set the stage for color, pattern, contrast and vibe. This brought in the sunshine and balanced the space, and from there everything else fell into place.” Islas placed Armani lamps with pyramidal shades atop large, white-lacquered nightstands with circular handles to bring in an interplay of shapes. Fabrics on the bed added a textural element and contrast. They integrated an antique oversize mirror, which had belonged to Alex’s mother and had been in the family for decades. “It was important to update the space, to make it uplifting—without erasing the past,” Islas says. “It’s a balancing act. Sophisticated, fun and fresh was the end result.”
Ang was so thrilled with the results, more rooms followed, from the primary bedroom to the den, powder room, dining room and exterior facade updates and backyard furnishings. “It made Judith happy to bring in some new life into these spaces, so she kept adding new projects,” Islas says. “I think it was a form of therapy for her in her grieving process—design made her invigorated and excited.”
The projects allowed Ang’s incredible art collection, which includes works from Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenberg, Jean Dubuffet, Robert Indiana, Deborah Butterfield, among others, to shine. Islas added her own form of artwork in rugs from her collection with Mehraban, including Schema for the dining room and the multicolored Muros in the hall. “The curved arches of Schema juxtaposed with the straight lines of the Dan Flavin light sculpture is poetic, while Schema gently balances with the textural horse sculpture by Deborah Butterfield—it is the perfect rug for any art filled room,” notes Islas. As for Muros, “The color blocks adds life to a basic long over 30-foot hallway. The contemporary multi colorway lends itself to be another piece of art playing beautifully with the Lichtenstein at the end of the hall.”
“I really understand and connect with Judith,” Islas continues. “Integrating her art collection was simple for me. I chose furnishings that were equally sophisticated and classic; my design aesthetic is clean and timeless with an element of surprise. Keeping true to my design and letting my artistic instinct and design training flow is how I was able to incorporate such wonderful works of art without them overpowering one another.”
As such an emotional, and intensely rewarding, project for designer and client, the results are that much more heightened. “There is nothing more gratifying to me than helping someone—transforming someone’s space and seeing the joy it brings them fulfills me,” Islas says. “There were many moments we sat and talked about how much Alex would have loved certain design details and it would choke me up, so yes, it was quite emotional, but we also had some very fun moments that ended in laughter and inside jokes. Working on this project with Judith was truly a gift for me as well. I loved being able to infuse my design stamp on a classic art filled home for a very special sophisticated woman, who is about to embark a new chapter in her life.” Erica Islas, emiinteriordesign.com