Friday, April 10

Jessica Fleischmann, Echo Park

Graphic designer and typographer Jessica Fleischmann lives in the hills of Echo Park, Los Angeles, where, behind her house, a converted garage serves as a playroom for her creative projects and the home base of her design firm still room. I think it's a little piece of heaven, and I want to move in...

Jessica and I worked together at Western Interiors & Design magazine a few years ago, where I was an editor and she was the art director. Many an afternoon we spent behind her artfully cluttered desk, making the sure her visual presentation of a story was complementary to the words I was smithing. We scrutinized the width of columns, and we ragged each and every line for uniformity and to the best effect, so line breaks didn't give the paragraph a funny shape. We paused frequently to discuss her metallic-pink clogs. And almost always, we reached agreement with smiles and exhalations. Oh, how I miss those afternoons. I also miss her eagle eye and design tutelage, though getting her feedback on these blog pics felt almost like the old days. She'll probably wince looking at this post due to its lack of proper design. Working on it, Jess!

Jessica left WID three years ago and is now working on all sorts of cool projects, including the design of a book about houses by Frank Gehry, coming this fall from Rizzoli. She recently designed the posters and ads for her playwright-sister's Red Fly/Blue Bottle, a dark musical theater extravaganza that opened this week at HERE in NYC. Literary publications like the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest 6 also have her touch. Last but not least, she teaches typography and graphic design at Otis College of Art and Design and USC.

I drove up and down and up and down some big LA hills to reach her home. Surrounded by her wonderful collection of art, quirky objects, design books, a blooming garden, and some freshly baked orange-nutmeg muffins, I allowed myself the ultimate dwelling fantasy--that I would never leave.

A former garage, the building behind the house wasn't accessible by car, anyway, so Jessica upgraded it into a studio. Shelves of books line one wall; along the other, a work table extends the length of the room. Interior walls are raw Homasote, a "low impact, low budget, old-school wall surface made out of pressed recycled paper and has insulating properties," she explains. (Jessica apologizes for what she calls "a mess." I think she's crazy. It looks great--and it's a work space! Can you trust an artist with a perfectly neat studio?) A flowering tree stands just outside. Stacked orange chairs from IKEA, the pink-and-black print above is by Jessica's former student Cheryl Humphreys. Inspiration in objects, print, everyday, everything.

Below, on the shelves, a curated mini-gallery of books with a stack of Jessica's work on the left. The pic with the purple poster is an aerial shot of some of her designs. The magnifying glass, she says, is for looking at bugs. Or maybe it's for soldering small things. Lanterns hang from an old camellia tree, views of Echo Park beyond.


Jessica's house, with a pretty blue door. On the window, "YES, YES WE CAN"--an Obama moment. At the entry, Jessica built a light box. "Oh, it's just some fluorescent tubes in the wall," she says. "Then I put Plexiglas over it instead of drywall." Fun!

Jessica's well-worn "Dallas-cowboy-cheerleader-meets-pimp" silver boots near the door are by n.d.c. from Barneys, and I love them. The little painting is not of a bird--it's a lovely portrait of Jessica by a disabled elderly man named Willy who had the development of 4-year-old. He was in an art workshop she led in Luxembourg years ago. On the wall, framed works by artists Cynthia Madansky, Olga Koumoundouros and others.

Jessica loves her avocado-green stove. I love her orange-nutmeg muffins! The green-plastic rug was a $5-steal from a Chinese store in L.A. 
Jessica, reflected and reflecting, with a cup of green tea. Pink walls, loads of shelves, and two more light boxes--don't you LOVE these??? Her desk. "My monkey!"

Living Area
Beautiful light! Tord Boontje's garlands wrap around bare bulbs. On the wall, a poster by Tuan Phan, a former classmate at CalArts: "I have no idea of what's going on."
Below, prints on the wall are by Felix Gonzales-Torres. Framed print and rolled-newspaper piece by Olga Koumoundours, a friend with whom she sometimes collaborates. The stone walrus is an old family piece, and the colorful feathers are from a Zero + Maria Cornejo sample sale last year. "25 cents each," she says. "Wish I'd gotten more." The "fuck" plate is by James Victore, a gift from the artist after a Sahre, Victore, Wilker workshop last summer. Close-up of a basket-weave lampshade--it's actually plastic--bought at a garage sale. She put a string of lights inside and uses it as a lamp.
She says the wall is "tomato-soup-with-a-splash-of-milk" red. On the other wall, the watercolor of a gate in the Cornwall countryside is by Jessica's mom, Elsa Leviseur. Artistic family, no? (WHAT?! Jessica, I just Googled her; you never told me your garden-loving mother was an accomplished architect! All those afternoons I spent at your side, practically in your armpit, and we didn't discuss her work on the Hollywood Bowl?) Another print by Olga Koumoundouros. More inspirations on the table. Jessica loves that the battered clay African warrior figurine is "so beautifully detailed." It's from her South African mom.
An IKEA sink sits in a "custom stand," says Jessica. "Designed by moi." A mirror fragment is bandaged with neon tape. Cool. Also, more feathers. Sharp and soft, I like.
A blue table and white chairs mirror the colors of the sky—the best place in the house to sit and think about your next creative endeavor.


  1. Brilliant,Love that house and studio, That's exactly the kind of thing you want to see and read when your looking at other peoples homes and work spaces, There is so much to read and look at in that posting that I'm going to come back to it and dedicate an hour to having a really good nose around. Well done

  2. i think this is your best yet liz! and not just because jessica absolutely lives in my dream house. it's as awesome as i remember it and makes me miss LA and the good old days. Jessica - i still kick myself for not moving into your momma's spot when i had the chance. your home is incredible. can we all get together the next time you are in NY? xo

  3. Wow - Jessica's studio, gardens, and balconies in particular are just dreamy. I would never want to leave home!

  4. I really enjoy reading this blog. You have an interesting perspective. I feel like I'm getting an education on how the home reflects the people who live there... You seem to always capture their uniqueness.

    Love to be added to your blogroll!

  5. This is wonderful... Very cozy and unique. Your photos capture the "realness" of each home... it makes me feel like I'm there.

  6. your's is truly one of my absolute favorite blogs. i'd like to thank your subjects for letting us into their lives! everyone has so much personality, and they surround themselves with things they love. they make their spaces *homes* you rock!

  7. Gorgeous, yet again! It's such a beautiful idea for a blog. How can you go wrong with such gorgeous living and working spaces?

  8. Great post, super interesting and inspiring.
    I love your attitude, great photos!!
    I'm a fan!


  9. I agree with all of you--this house makes me wonder how on earth I could have ever left LA! It truly embodies the California lifestyle and arts scene. More LA homes to come!

  10. This house looks remarkably similar to a house used in the movie "The Kids Are Alright".

    Mark Ruffalo's character lived in a similar home, perhaps it's the same house?

  11. Ha! You are correct! Jessica told me she was contacted by location spotters -- and so it is! Good eye. :)