When Chris Willcox and Caitlin Jones got married in the spring of last year, they knew two things: they wanted to start a vintage brand together, and they wanted to do it in Los Angeles. They were longtime New Yorkers (Caitlin for fourteen years, Chris for nine) who’d sworn they would never leave. But then, while engaged, they went on a road trip through the West, fell deeply in love with it, and knew it was the right place to start their life together. “When we got back to Brooklyn, it didn’t seem feasible to live in New York anymore,” says Chris.
Soon after arriving in L.A., they found a space that felt perfect. It’s a former ’80s dance club and current Lincoln Heights loft apartment in a building owned by architect Joseph Giovannini (and featured in the pages of AD!), who grew up there and used the space as a personal playground of sorts. “There’s a lot of magical energy here,” says Caitlin. “The stove that we cook on was the stove our architect’s mother cooked on, and that he grew up with, from the 1940s.”
Both Chris and Caitlin are artists; Chris is a painter, and Caitlin works with painting and collage. She has been collecting and buying in the vintage world since middle school, and has a background in luxury retail to boot. L.A. felt like the natural place to start building their business, which they named Asparagus, after the 1979 Suzan Pitt-directed short film they both love. It continues to inspire them both and is integral to their brand’s aesthetic sensibility, as is their great Western road trip.
As they were buying for the shop, “We decided to keep a lot of the pieces for ourselves,” says Caitlin, “to get to know what we were building better—to really live what we wanted to build at the shop.” They’re always their own first clients, and because they approach this home as a permanent work in progress, it lends itself well to experimentation. Asparagus operates under an attitude of “maximalist inclusivity,” says Chris—items from different time periods or schools of design can still go together. “It’s very playful,” says Caitlin. “I think with a lot of design, it can get a little serious—people don’t want to make mistakes in purchasing. But there’s so much fun to be had, especially with vintage.”
Humor is foundational for Caitlin and Chris, and is a guiding perspective in everything they do. They delight in the mixing of high and low: silly, kitschy objects placed in nonhierarchical community with beautiful, well-designed ones. “I think Americans have this tendency that everything they do has to be a big statement about who they are, and get really moral about the objects they own and the things they display, and that just leads to this debilitating cautiousness that is boring for everyone,” says Chris.
The love they have for the space they’ve created is tangible. “I think there’s a lot of desire to conform to this millennial aesthetic that everyone is doing,” says Chris. “And it’s great, and it looks great—but it’s a lot of the same. I think, right now, a lot of people want to be surprised.” In fact, they surprised themselves. When they first moved in, they had a color story they wanted to tell. In the living room, the plan was to mainly use primary colors. Instead, they ended up with a consistent meeting of teal and pink. “It really emerged without our intention,” says Chris. “It’s like, Okay, this is what’s happening. Better get used to it.”
🛠Do It Yourself
Put it on wheels. Chris and Caitlin like to buy wheeled furniture when they can. “We’re constantly acquiring—the space is in a state of flux, always a work in progress,” says Chris. Wheels make moving the furniture around much easier, of course, and allow you to play with your space and switch things up in a way you might not if it required a lot of lifting and hauling.
Repeat patterns. Originally, the plan was to buy just one rug for the living room area. But the space is so vast that Caitlin decided to order four of the same IKEA rug and create a grid pattern for the whole room to rest on.
Designate boundaries. One challenge for Caitlin and Chris was that their space has very few walls—it’s basically a big, well-lit box. So it was important for them to divide up the space, using literal dividing screens, of course, but also rugs, bookshelves, tables, and more.
There are no rules. Open-mindedness is essential to Chris and Caitlin’s shopping method; they recently found a plexiglass cowboy hat, bought it, and…turned it into a planter. Think big, and allow yourself to be guided by possibility. “Buy things that bring you joy, that make you laugh and surprise you,” says Caitlin.
🛍Shop It Out
Resin, chrome, and fiberglass floor lamp by Steve Zoller, $2,631.68, 1stdibs.com
Scenario salt & pepper shakers by Barbara Brenner for Rosenthal, $56.17, etsy.com
SIMESTED rug by IKEA, $149.00, ikea.com
Serape duvet by El Cosmico, $250, ecprovisionco.com
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest