Maybe we’re busybodies, but we’re endlessly fascinated by the spaces where strangers live and work. Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung, the co-creators of POKETO, understand our urges–and in their new book, Creative Spaces, give us an intimate glimpse inside the private homes, studios, and workplaces of 23 intriguing people. The profile subjects include designers, architects, artists, musicians, and cooks, with a particular emphasis on L.A. creatives.
Husband-and-wife business partners Vadakan and Myung learned a lot about the importance of having spaces conducive to working and living creatively as they built their own design and retail empire. The business incubated in a room in Vadakan’s parents house, moving next to the couple’s first house in Echo Park–but as sales picked up, things got complicated.
“The living room was full of boxes, our life-life and work-life blurred,” Myung recalls. “It was overwhelming. It eventually became hard for us to have our personal and business life 24/7.”
Figuring out how to control the chaos that comes along with working on creative pursuits and running a small business–while also filling your space with details that inspire and reflect a personal style–is at the heart of Creative Spaces. Vadakan and Myung, along with photographer Ye Rin Mok, explore how different individuals, couples, and families pull it off.
You live in Mount Washington and write in the book that your own home decor can come as a surprise to people who know you and your style from the POKETO shops.
Angie Myung: POKETO stores are full of color, full of beautiful objects, decor, and things that inspire an artful and creative life. One of my favorite things I hear when people come to visit POKETO is a gasp and then, “I love this world, I want to live here!” It’s the biggest compliment. So, people always assume our home is like our POKETO stores. But in fact, our home is different than our POKETO spaces.
Our home is fairly minimal. The palette is neutral, the walls are all white, the flooring is bleached white bamboo, we have very little art on the walls, we don’t collect too many things except for decor or art pieces from our friends, objects from our travels, every piece of furniture has its place. At POKETO, we are surrounded by things, color, stimuli…. We love it, but it’s nice to have a home to cleanse our palette of that daily stimuli.
Many of the spaces featured in the book are in the L.A. area. Do you think there’s something about spaces here that encourage creative work and people?
Ted Vadakan: Los Angeles has incredible creative energy. It’s so collaborative and people want to create things together. I think, historically, art and commerce in Los Angeles go hand in hand, and the lines are blurred. Perhaps because of our rich film and entertainment industry. There is such an appreciation for art and design. The homes and spaces are conducive to creativity.
Generally, there is more room compared to other major cities like New York and San Francisco. Some of the artists featured in the book have their home and studio in one place. Being able to have space to expand life and work, combined with the near year-round sun… Homes and studios in L.A. definitely encourage a creative lifestyle.
Through working on this book, did you develop any new insights into the relationship between creative people and the spaces they inhabit?
Angie Myung: The people featured in Creative Spaces are all independent artists and entrepreneurs–designers, artists, musicians, cooks, and more. One common thread we saw is that the relationship between us and our spaces is constantly in flux, always changing and growing.
People’s homes were never “finished,” there was always something more they wanted to do. The spaces become a reflection of themselves in time. Something I think about is David Irvin’s space. The facade of his modern home is made of Corten steel, a material that oxidizes and changes color over time. His house is a mix of several woods. Things aren’t “perfect”–and David really embraces that imperfection.
As you spent time in the homes and studios featured in the book, was there anything you saw that you felt like you wanted to replicate back at your own house?
Ted Vadakan: Oh my gosh, all of the time! All of it! We had so many ideas as we visited each space. But, each space is also so personal to the inhabitant. You can try to replicate decor, but it may never have the same feeling. Space is personal and unique experience.
In our home, we highlight personal objects from our artist friends and travels. They are personal to us, full of memory. In the home of Sonoko Sakai, she has stunning sculptures and artworks from her husband, artist Katsuhisa Sakai. Designer Brendan Ravenhill had furniture, art, and objects from the personal collection of his father, a former curator at the Smithsonian, that he inherited when his father passed. All these spaces are a combination of work and personal experiences.
Lily and Hopie Stockman of L.A.’s Block Shop in Creative Spaces
Reprinted from Creative Spaces by Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019
BLOCK SHOP IS A DECEPTIVELY SMALL OPERATION, a brand producing some of the most beautiful woodblock-printed textiles today, with a team of just five working from a studio in the Los Angeles suburban enclave of Atwater Village. Their hand-printed products have become more popular and ubiquitous with every passing day, no doubt due to the fact they’re consummate collaborators who’ve teamed up with a diverse cast of influential hoteliers, dressmakers, chocolatiers, and retailers, each drawn to Block Shop’s inimitable organic, geometric motifs. It’s really just two sisters—Lily and Hopie—there steering the ship. But they’ve diligently and strategically built a global company, one with its own dedicated team of artisans working in coordination with the sisters from a world away in Bagru, India.
It’s easy working with Lily and Hopie. They represent our ideal, the type of small and socially minded business we most enjoy collaborating with. They’re a company whose founders have made great efforts to integrate principles of community and sustainability into their business model that we strongly identify with at POKETO. The sisters adhere to paying wages 30 to 100 percent above local market piece rates and invest in numerous women’s empowerment programs benefitting their workers; they’re a company committed to investing in people more than anything else.
In forming friendships, there’s a tendency to project our own hopes and values onto newfound friends. But in the case of Lily and Hopie, the similarities between us seem genuinely numerous. In these two we recognize our own perpetual state of hustling—the entrepreneurial efforts required to realize whatever it is we’re envisioning, to scratch that creative itch—while also, hopefully, positively impacting the world in the process. Sitting in their Los Angeles studio, surrounded by the splattered paint of past projects and neatly stacked piles of block-printed paper and fabric, the sisters tell us how they rely on a back-and-forth dialogue unique to their close kinship as sisters; they admit sometimes they’re unable to recollect who was responsible for which decision, unbothered with being properly credited, an awesome example of the synchronicity and humility of their partnership. After all, the love between sisters doesn’t always extend to a professional relationship, but these two have organically coordinated their individual skills into a concerted effort that sometimes makes them seem like a single entity. But they’re not. Lily is an artist, a trained painter with a career distinct from Block Shop and her own separate studio; Hopie graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School and empowered the business to become a community changemaker. Block Shop permits the sisters to collaborate on an equal footing creatively, approaching challenges from different but complementary perspectives.
The sisters founded Block Shop while still in grad school, a time when the pair plotted a business model before launching. They’d eventually borrow money from their mom to get things started, but also gave themselves a six-month goal to keep focused. Hopie would proudly share, “We’ve since paid it all back!”
So much of this book is dedicated to people who were formerly strangers, but who’ve became friends—sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly—through the transformative process of collaboration. The seeds of mutual admiration are usually already planted before any first exchange, especially here in Los Angeles, where word of mouth (and the algorithms of Instagram) can ignite connections with surprising immediacy. Block Shop is what happens when talent meets purpose, and working with them has given us a deeper appreciation of how to utilize strategized entrepreneurial efforts to enrich the lives of everyone working with and for us. Block Shop began as an art project more than eight years ago, one sparked by a move to India. Today, it’s a thriving business, selling in more than sixty stores around the globe, providing jobs to three different families of master printers and two family-run weaving organizations in Jaipur and Panipat, and helping fund a plethora of social projects and services as beautiful as anything Block Shop designs. They’ve become our definition of the art and business of community.
Our collaborative history with Block Shop spans from product to workshop. Our Block Shop x POKETO exclusive textile scarf proved a rather challenging project, with the translation of our digital design into a handcrafted textile presenting unforeseen complications. But if there’s anything true about Lily and Hopie, it’s that they love a challenge. With the aid of their collaborative counterpart in Bagru—a master printer—the sisters were able to eventually turn a digital design into a beautiful handcrafted scarf we were proud to be associated with.