Editorial Director Sacha Strebe’s Unique LA Home Is Layered With Meaning
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Los Angeles, where editorial director and consultant Sacha Strebe lives in Silverlake in a totally unique family home.
There’s a little bit of everything in Sacha Strebe’s Los Angeles home. The apartment, in the trendy neighbourhood of Silverlake in the city’s east, is a glorious mix of all of Strebe and her husband’s individual tastes. There’s a little California cool (Mid Century Modern chairs, crystals galore), a little of the relaxed, beachy Australian vibe (pale wood, lots of greenery), and there’s even a touch of Europe – courtesy of an antique painting in a stunning gilt frame, Diptyque candles and one big, show-stopping timber column in the bedroom.
“We are travellers at heart,” says Strebe, the former editorial director at interiors website MyDomaine and Create & Cultivate, now editorial director and creative consultant for several businesses. The Australian-born Strebe met her husband while backpacking in Nice almost 20 years ago, and together they’ve brought that love of adventure all the way from Melbourne, where they were previously based, to their current home in Los Angeles. “I really wanted to bring that European sentiment into the space, too,” she says. “Who wouldn’t want to feel like they’re in Italy while they’re working from home in Los Angeles?”
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Strebe first moved into the apartment six years ago. Securing the place was a stroke of good fortune: the couple had spent a week searching for places without much luck. This apartment popped up on Craigslist and Strebe’s husband went for a tour. “My husband is never early, but he turned up at the open house way before the set time and was the first person at the door,” Strebe recalls. They fell in love with the building and the neighbourhood, particularly the school across the road that was perfect for their young son. Strebe, ever the storyteller and editorial wizard, prepared a stellar renters’ pitch – soon, the keys were theirs.
Because they’re just renting, the couple haven’t made any major changes. “Although I’d love to gut the kitchen and bathrooms,” Strebe admits. Instead, they’ve focused on the decorative, collaborating and working with local makers to create personal and unique touches for their home. Strebe commissioned her friend Omar (he goes by @nymphobrainiac on Instagram) to make a “beautiful birch timber” bedroom suite, including a bed frame and bookshelf. Then there’s Strebe’s “mild obsession” with clay, pottery and terracotta vessels, which she searches for in antique stores.
Strebe loves to spend time designing and redesigning her space, creating Pinterest moodboards and looking online for inspiration. Her biggest tip for anyone trying to make their home feel as individual, specialised and unique as Strebe’s apartment? “Make it personal,” she says. “Really think about what you love and clearly define what you don’t – that part is just as important!”
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Hi Sacha! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I’m in the business of making stories come to life. Storytelling is really at the heart of everything I do whether it’s in the literal sense of putting words down on a page or it’s in the physical realm telling stories through design.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I am a recovering perfectionist, well at least, that’s what I tell myself anyway. My personality is generally optimist leaning, but that silver lining mentality ends when it comes to the act of “making.” I like to have control and the creative process is the act of relinquishing that control or the end result will feel stifled and posed, not natural and organic.
I love the creative process, but it can be painful and torturous to get to the beautiful images you see or compilation of words you read. The part you're not exposed to is the personal anguish, turmoil, and insane pressure most creatives experience in their quest for beauty. It’s not an easy path. I go through several emotional stages before a story is complete, an interior is designed, or a creative project is finalised. It starts off with excitement and hope which quickly turns into fear and distress.
It’s very normal for me to experience an “I’m a failure” moment or “why am I even doing this?” right before I have a creative breakthrough which then leads me to the final emotion of overall elation and pride for the end result. It’s a crazy ride but I do it over and over and over again. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, haha.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I started out as a journalist in Australia working at a newspaper. Seeing my byline in print was always a thrill and something every journalist felt great pride about. I started out in the newsroom listening to the police scanner and chasing front page headlines, but the paper quickly realised that it wasn’t the right fit for me. They moved me to the features department and I eventually landed the gig of editing their weekly fashion and beauty insert. It was a dream come true. I would fly to Australian fashion week and report on the shows from the front row.
But a year or so in, my husband landed a head denim designer role in Melbourne so I had to leave my dream job behind and start again. But it was all for the best because it pushed me into digital which was only just starting to gain traction – it was 2011! I wrote for several fashion and design blogs and managed the social media accounts for an international trade show company and even though it wasn’t my dream job, I gained vital experience that helped prepare me for my next role.
We moved to the U.S at the beginning of 2015 and I landed the Lifestyle Editor role at MyDomaine within the first month. I credit my wide range of digital and social experience for securing the gig! It was a big lesson for me and for anyone reading this: Every job sets you up with new skills that are vital for the next step in your career. You can’t always see it at the time, but believe me, no experience is ever wasted. I always knew I loved to write but my path has been a curvy one and it certainly hasn’t been predictable. I also consider myself a late bloomer. I’m only really feeling “successful” in my career now – I turned 40 this year – and I’m super excited about this next stage.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
Hard work, discipline, and being kind. There is a great line from a Tom Sachs video on Instagram called “Artist as Athlete” that says “the reward for good work is more work” and it’s so true. I had an incredibly disciplined father growing up and you could say it rubbed off on me. I have always worked hard, I see every task through to the end whether that’s in my work or in my personal life. I have a tendency to be too disciplined though and I have to force myself to rest which doesn’t come easy. Having family helps. My son reminds me to be still, to pause, to take a breathe.
Being kind is so simple, but it’s so crucial especially when it comes to nurturing key relationships throughout your career. People remember kindness which means you’ll also be the first person they recommend or hire for a job.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
To trust the process. I’ve been so hungry for success that I often forget you have to chew slowly or you’ll get indigestion. I’m sure a lot of people reading this can relate, but like I mentioned earlier, there is an important skill to be learned at every stage of your career even if you don’t realise it then. I have often felt frustrated, mad, and sad that my career isn’t what I dreamed up yet or isn’t happening fast enough but, as the old adage goes, all good things come to those who wait. And they really do. Besides, if you’re always looking ahead, you’re never living in the moment and there is so much beauty in the “now.” Honestly, blink and you’ll miss it.
So, if you’re not in your dream job right now, don’t wish your current job away, look around you and see what you can improve upon, can you start a side hustle or do some freelance projects to test out your passion to see if you love it enough to be a full-time job. It’s okay to be ambitious, in fact, that’s more than okay, just be sure to enjoy each step of the way up because they’re all necessary ingredients for making that victory pie.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
Landing the role at MyDomaine was a game changer for me not just professionally, but personally too. It instilled a deep confidence in me and honed my eye both visually and linguistically. I trust my decisions to make big calls, to lead strategy, and execute. That takes experience but it also takes good leadership paving a path, leaving room for expansion, and cheering you on.
That person for me was the co-founder and chief content officer of Who What Wear, Hillary Kerr. She embraced me with open arms the first week I arrived and then continued to mentor me and encourage me every step of the way but it was also her sense of whimsy and optimism that inspired me, too. She was proof that you can be incredibly kind and ambitious all at once! In fact, that was her superpower.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Work hard, but know when to rest, too. Be bold and ambitious, say yes to opportunity but when it doesn’t light you up, know when to say “no” too. But my biggest lesson (I’m only just learning this one now) is to understand how to set clear boundaries both personally and professionally, and preserve them at all costs.
Now, the home stuff. How did you initially know this was the space for you?
After a week of searching across LA and being turned down (when we first moved here from Australia we didn’t have any credit) my husband found the listing on Craigslist and he just knew instantly that it had to be ours.
We prepared our renters pitch and I even wrote a letter with photos of our family about how we can envision our young son playing on the front lawn and going to the local school down the road. He struck a chord with the landlord’s daughter because she showed him through the house and offered it to him on the spot. He couldn’t believe it. We are so grateful for this amazing home.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
As a storyteller at heart, I really wanted every piece in this space to weave a narrative about our lives and who we are as people, and as a family right now. My husband is also really big on bringing in pieces that have meaning or add context to the space. They have to have a reason for being there and marry with the existing decor. So, this meant spending our weekends searching local antique stores or hours diving into Etsy and eBay keyword holes!
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
We were looking for vintage vessels in this tiny antique store that was crammed with trinkets both good and bad when I spotted this incredible painting. It had flaking paint from age, a tiny hole, and the gilded ornate frame had seen better days with cracks and chips but we both took one look at it and agreed unanimously that it had to come home with us (it’s rare for us to both agree on something like that!). When we hung it up in the dining room it changed everything about the space. It was truly transformative. I felt like it was the missing piece that really tied all of the others together.
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Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
We aren’t looking for anything right now because our apartment is quite small so I don’t want to overfill it. But if I was to add anything new it would be old clay, pottery, or terracotta vessels – I have developed a mild obsession. And lighting! Whether it be candles like our Diptyque floor candle or lamps. We also replaced the lamp on our credenza in the living room with a more textural option from Troy Lighting and it brought so much warmth which is greatly needed with our concrete floors!
Which is your favourite room in the house?
Well, it would have to be our bedroom! We spent so much time designing this space and it was truly a collaborative process from start to finish. I knew I wanted a large scale painting above our bed for that Alice in Wonderland effect (similar to the Holly Addi painting in our living room) so my husband and I decided to split it into two canvases and we’d each paint a side. The end result is a yin and yang effect with mine being very neutral and textural, while his is deep and mysterious.
My second favourite room is definitely our dining room. Since I’ve started working from home this year in quarantine I spend all day at my dining table. So, when we redesigned the space, I really thought about how I use this area and how much it inspires my creative process so I chose very sculptural hand made pieces like the Consort design table with knotted base (which is sadly no longer in business) and the porcelain pendant lamp by Crosland Emmons.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Make it personal. Really think about what you love and clearly define what you don’t -- that part is just as important! I also like to create mood boards on Pinterest or Instagram and collect as many images as possible. I am hugely inspired by Athena Calderone of EyeSwoon. She marries so many differing textures, tones, eras, and moods together with an effortless ease and comfortability while being open about the process there.
Like Athena, I love creating tension in a room with juxtaposition. Don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown and explore the unfamiliar because it’s in those moments when you feel uncomfortable that you are truly pushed to explore something new. It’s not easy but inevitably you’ll tap into the magic and stumble upon something unexpected. I love those moments, even if it’s a painful process of push and pull to get there, that creative chasm is where everything happens.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I recently made the decision to move on as senior editorial director at Create & Cultivate to return to the world of design. I’m now working on several exciting projects which includes collaborating with the talented Camille Styles as deputy editor on her incredible lifestyle platform, contributing to Athena’s EyeSwoon, writing original home tours for Lonny, and so much more!
It’s an exciting time of creative pursuit and experimentation. I am finally putting my years of experience to the real test by partnering with truly talented creatives who push me to the next stage of my artistic development as much as I hope I do them. Here’s to new beginnings, opening doors, and challenging ourselves to keep growing even when it hurts!
Shop Sacha's look with Oatmeal and White in our Build Your Own Bundle.
For more from Sacha, follow her at @sacha.strebe
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