The saying goes that “good things come in small packages,” and that’s obvious with one glance at Ali LaBelle’s tiny apartment. As creative director at ban.do, Ali knows a thing or two about fun design, and she incorporates this quirkiness throughout her living space in LA. Her fun personality is reflected in so many ways, from amazing vintage finds to her colorful matchbook collection, and she manages to keep the small space looking its best by only filling it with stuff that she genuinely loves. What makes Ali even cooler in our opinion (besides that she regularly practices self-care, which we think is awesome)? She’s a self-proclaimed pasta enthusiast (yes, you read that correctly), and she even has an Instagram account just for this reason. There’s so much more to learn about Ali and her apartment in this home tour below, so read on, and be sure to take notes on the tips she offers for scoring amazing flea market finds. Step inside and enjoy!
Tell us about your space! What do you love most about your home?
I moved into my little apartment here in Hancock Park about a year and a half ago and I really love it. When I say ‘little’ I really mean it—it’s so small. Not New York City small, but like, my-bedroom-literally-just-fits-my-bed kinda small. It’s perfect for me at this stage in my life. I’m the homebodiest homebody there is and nothing makes me happier than sitting in my apartment surrounded by my favorite things. I had to get rid of a bunch of stuff when I moved out of my last apartment (which was surprisingly big for a one bedroom) and it was a total blessing in disguise—I sort of accidentally Marie Kondo’d away a bunch of things that didn’t bring me joy by necessity. So I guess the thing I love most about my home is that it’s filled with a bunch of stuff that I genuinely love.
You are the creative director and in charge of art + design for one of our favorite brands, ban.do. How does working in the creative industry influence your life at home?
When I first started working at ban.do, I really embraced the brand’s aesthetic into my personal style wholeheartedly. It was as if a curtain was pulled back and my eyes were opened to the world of vintage and weird color combinations and found objects and maximalism! I was 22, and I think being exposed to so much creativity throughout a formative time was really important in the process of figuring out who I am and what I love. As I’ve grown both as a creative and as an actual adult human being (I’ve been working at ban.do for a while!), my vibe’s shifted in response. I’ve found balance between the ‘more is more’ attitude ban.do embodies and something a little more restrained. It’s like, half fancy grandma, half Scandinavian minimalist.
What goals did you have for your space when starting the design process?
The only real rule or idea I had when I moved into this spot was that, because my bedroom is so small, I wanted it to be exactly what it was meant to be—a room for my bed. No clothes on the floor, no books piled up, just a bed and a nightstand and a couple things to make it the perfect little dream zone. There isn’t a closet in my bedroom or space for shelves or anything. It feels super clean and cozy and sleep-centric. I don’t really even bring my computer in there! It’s great.
What’s the story behind the matchbooks?
It started just as a habit. I’d grab a matchbook on the way out of a restaurant or in a hotel lobby when I’d see one. I’d also pick one with a font I liked at a flea market and throw it into the bowl with the rest when I got home. But now that I think about, I have total collector tendencies. I’ve got stacks of magazines just about everywhere (I save every Vogue and Bon Appétit I get). And if a restaurant uses a Bic pen with its logo printed on it, there’s no way I’m not slipping it into my bag to add to the pile back home. I like to collect ephemera—stuff that most people would probably throw away, but because it’s meaningful or beautiful to me, I keep it. Wait, am I a hoarder? I promise I don’t have old pizza and dead cats anywhere in this apartment.
You have so many fun odds + ends in your home. Where are your favorite places online to shop for unique pieces?
I do have a lot of weird stuff. Vintage shopping online is my favorite because it’s easy to dig through pages of curated goods from the comfort of your home rather than wait for a monthly market and hope the vintage gods bless you with a cool find. Some of my favorites you can shop online are Homestead Seattle, Coming Soon, Forage Modern Workshop, Adaptations NY and Casa Shop. Also, pro-tip: Museum gift shops have the best art books, prints and even things like vases and towels. MoMA has a great online store!
Next home décor purchase you’re planning?
Either new chairs for my dining table (the ones I’ve got are falling apart) or a new rug for my living room.
Your living room has such a bright and airy feel to it. Any tips for picking décor that creates that breezy feeling?
Cloud life, you guys. It’s great. My walls are painted bright white and most of my furniture is white or cream, so that makes it pretty easy. To be totally honest, it was starting to look like an insane asylum in here after a while—a white sofa, a white rug, white cabinets, white bedding, a white kitchen table—it’s a lot of neutrals. I’ve just started adding color back into my life after a long hiatus in very small ways. However, it’s a work in progress. If you’re trying to open up a room a little more, furniture made of acrylic or something that bounces light (like brass or chrome) can really help lighten up a space.
Where is your favorite place to shop for bigger home items like furniture?
CB2, hands down, no question. I have a tough time spending money on furniture because it’s expensive and I’d rather buy a pair of shoes or something, but CB2 does a great job of replicating classic shapes (like my Saarinen table knock off) or taking a fresh approach to something classic (like my acrylic bench). I don’t feel guilty investing in pieces from there because they’re well-made and reflect my style well.
What’s your formula for a perfectly styled surface?
That’s a tough question. Texture is important when styling anything, really. Whether that’s achieved through bowls of things (like matchbooks) or books of varying sizes, having some texture in your piles of stuff creates dimension and keeps things from looking too flat. But also, just don’t think too hard about it. Put the things you love together on your table and call it a day. When things are too perfect, it can look kind of stuffy and planned, you know? I move things around a lot, too—the books on my coffee table and my credenza switch out all the time.
Which area of your home was the hardest to design?
My kitchen is a lost cause. Because I am renting and not a homeowner, there’s very little I can do about ‘90s cabinetry and weird tan tile. To make myself feel a little better about it, I installed a little floating shelf that holds stuff like art, spices, books and cooking tools, and I hung a plant above my sink, and really, that’s about all I can do. Oh well!
How do you unwind after a busy week?
This is my specialty—I am the queen of the unwind! The first thing I always do before I power down is I clean up the messes I’ve made throughout the week—little things, like picking up my gym clothes from their pile on the floor or tossing opened mail I’ve got stacked on the kitchen table. I don’t like, CLEAN clean, I just tidy enough so that everything’s in its place. If I don’t go through this process, the anxiety of having stuff to put away while I’m trying to relax with a face mask takes over the relaxation process and I just can’t mellow out!
Also, self-care is like, my number-one priority. I’m so glad to see the trend of taking care of ourselves become a thing because it really is so important—not just the idea of self improvement, but celebrating who you are when you’re alone. For me, that means going through my skincare routine, eating a too-big bowl of pasta and going to bed at like, 8:30 p.m. Speaking of pasta, I run a pasta enthusiast Instagram account called Pasta Girlfriend. I started it because I needed something to curate that wasn’t ban.do related and was pretty low-stakes, which I think is a sort of self-care I needed. I guess that’s probably why a lot of people start blogs or side projects, right? To do something that’s just for them?
If you could only keep one thing in your home, what would it be?
I have to break the rules and take two things. I have two original paintings of my grandpas in my apartment. They are each endlessly more valuable to me than everything else combined.
You love shopping at the flea market. Do you go with a list in mind of just pick things as you find them? What are the five tips for scoring things when shopping at a flea market?
I do love shopping the flea markets and I’m lucky to live in a city with lots of them. The Rose Bowl is my favorite (surprise, surprise). I’m lucky to know some real flea market pros that lead the charge on navigating it because it is HUGE. Left to my own devices, I’ll get hot and tired and bail halfway through. However, thanks to some real treasure hunters, I’ve learned to stay hydrated, wear good shoes and persevere. The thing you didn’t know you’ve always wanted is at the booth around the corner!
However, some of the best things I’ve stumbled upon have been on solo trips to the smaller markets or vintage shops. For those times, I have some tips for you!
- Go early and do a lap if I really want to leave with a big ticket piece. I’d rather pay the higher entrance fee and have time to see what’s out there before the rest of the world does. This is especially helpful if you are looking for something specific, like a rug or furniture.
- I’ll usually pick my category to focus on—either home or clothes/accessories—before I get there. Last time I went to the Melrose Trading Post, I knew I wanted to focus on things for my home. I skipped the booths filled with denim cutoffs and shoes and went straight for the ones with piles of books, planters and art. I ended up finding my gold mirror right away!
- Despite my hoarding tendencies, I don’t like to collect junk around my house. Sometimes I’ll find something that makes me laugh or that would be good visual inspiration for a project, but I don’t necessarily need to OWN it, I just want to remember it. So I take a picture. Done!
- One time I saw Diane Keaton at the Rose Bowl and watched her buy a swim cap covered in black and white flowers. This is less of a tip and more of a brag, sorry.
- Keep an open mind. Even if you’re on the hunt for vintage tees and are absolutely not allowing yourself to buy any more things for your house, you might find the crystal glassware of your dreams. Just buy what makes you happy.
If you live in LA or are visiting, I have a map of a bunch of vintage home stores, record stores, flea markets, etc. that I’m continuously adding to. Feel free to check it out and let me know if I’ve missed anything cool!
What are a few ways you get inspired?
Weirdly enough, I have a hard time with this question. I think there’s such a thing as too much inspiration. With the internet in our palms and the whole world on the other side of a screen, it can be really hindering to see how many iterations of the same ideas there are out there. And there’s the whole thing about comparing yourself to people on the internet—it can be really damaging.
For me, creativity is about clarity. What am I ultimately trying to create? Is it for me, for the ban.do customer or someone else? What types of things bring me the feeling I want to convey, and how can I recreate that?
The way I find answers to those questions is through a variety of different ways—traveling, driving, listening to podcasts, watching a LOT of tv, cooking, staring off into space, and yes, scrolling and scrolling. But I try to feed my brain with not just visual content, but things that bring me happiness, comfort or peace. The more in tune with how I interact with the world, the more connected I’ll feel to what I’m making. Does that even make sense?
Favorite show or movie to watch for a cozy night in?
Have you seen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”? I’ve watched it twice now, and I really love it. Two old faves are “Father of the Bride” and “You’ve Got Mail”—I’ll never ever get sick of either of them.
Shop her home:
Vintage rug: from here – they’ve got tons of great rugs!
Vintage end tables: similar here, here, and here
Wooden end table: similar here and here
Vintage dresser: similar here and here
Photography by Marisa Vitale