Funk, Glam, and Grit Collide in TV Couple’s Lively LA Home
When talking “at home” with writer and director Mara Brock Akil, you’re not necessarily going to discuss paint swatches, sconces, and square footage. I mean, you should. As well as being the creative engine behind TV shows such as girlfriends and To be Mary Janethe writer and producer also happens to be a design expert who masterfully renovated the Los Angeles home she shares with her husband, Black Lightning director Salim Akil, and their sons, Yasin and Nasir. It’s full of exquisite original details, vintage Murano chandeliers, and a solid collection of works by black artists, including Lorna Simpson and Noah Davis.
But for Brock Akil, design isn’t just about the details: it’s about the kind of lifelong aspirations that have touched you and inspired you to moodboard since you were a teenager. “We are truly our heart’s desires,” she said. “And I want my house to reflect that.”
“We are truly the desires of our hearts. I want my house to reflect that. —Mara Brock Akil
Brock Akil’s career – she runs her own production studio in Los Angeles and has a development deal with Netflix – is booming. But in recent years, she’s realized she craves a sanctuary as a source of inspiration and restoration. That need became even more immediate following the 2016 murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two unarmed black men shot and killed by police that summer within weeks of each other. A generally optimistic person, Brock Akil found herself paralyzed by fear in a country that consistently undermined and devalued black lives. “The joy is deserved,” she said. “We don’t have to keep waiting. And that’s what this house is.
She had always loved Hancock Park, a historic enclave in the Wilshire section of LA. A Zillow listing for a late 1920s Italian Renaissance Revival style home stopped her in her tracks. The 10,400 square foot home had beautifully preserved architectural details and amenities such as a gym, swimming pool, and movie theater. Yet she wondered, “Can we live there?” Can we get to this “dream state”? »
She called on designer Tiffany Howell of LA Night Palm Studio and explained her goal of creating a home that reflects her own family’s history while maintaining the home’s history. It was their third project together, the first two linked after Brock Akil saw Howell’s work on actress Laura Harrier’s Silver Lake home. She hired Howell to design the creative suite in her production offices and was impressed when it was completed in just three months.
Like Brock Akil, the designer believes that a space is first defined by a “feeling”. A former music video director, Howell begins with a soundtrack for each client; Brock Akil’s was heavy on Sade, John Coltrane, Solange, Phyllis Hyman, Prince and Anita Baker. This is followed by a survey of favorite scents, places to travel and other design preferences. “I do a deep dive,” says Howell. With Brock Akil, she discovered the writer’s love of 70s Italian and French interiors, accented with a bit of “funk and grit”.
Former music video director, designer Tiffany Howell starts with a soundtrack for each client.
At Hancock Park, the mood is immediately evident in the entrance, which features a majestic staircase, archways and a skylight recessed into a silver-blue painted ceiling. Reminiscent of Morocco, where the Akils honeymooned, it feels less like a home than a courtyard. Howell furnished it sparingly with a black olive tree in a terracotta pot and a 1960s Murano chandelier cascading from the high ceiling above. Equally dramatic is the family’s dining room, where the paneled walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone, a creamy color that Howell describes as “candlelit”, creating a soft glow around a vintage oblong covered table. of parchment.
Howell was tasked with honoring each family member’s unique personality and taste while creating a bridge to the overall style of the house. Salim got a study full of books with a low brown velvet sofa perfect for reading. In their own living room, the boys spread out on vintage leather Togo sofas that Howell sourced from a dealer in Prague. And of course, Brock Akil enjoys several pieces of her own. One, aptly named the Rosé Room, is painted in a soft blush. It’s where Brock Akil entertains friends like legendary model and activist Bethann Hardison, who recently stopped by to admire his Vladimir Kagan sofa and pool view.
Upstairs, the master bedroom features a custom floating bed upholstered in blue velvet; artwork by Kara Walker hangs above. And across the hall is Brock Akil’s dressing room, where his well-edited wardrobe hangs from custom powder-coated uppers, his shoes lined perfectly underneath. Walls are covered in Scalamandré wallpaper, and a seating area features a curved vintage sofa and an Italian mohair lounge chair salvaged from a Barneys department store in New York.
The boutique space is also a lovely homage to the shopping sprees she took as a child with her grandmother, mother and aunt at Saks Fifth Avenue. As black women shopped for knitwear for St. John in 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles, she was always aware of the racial barrier and how her own family insisted on taking up space. And now in her own home in Hancock Park, she continues the tradition.
Stylized by Baby Howorth
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE