Bryce Dallas Howard and Claire Thomas are both incredible storytellers. Following the actor and director's recent return to Los Angeles from upstate New York, she and her husband Seth partnered with long-time friend Thomas to design the family's new home. The interior designer, director, and food writer began their collaborative process by asking, "What's the story you want to tell about your family?" That question centered the entire Howard-Gabel household, allowing their creativity and playfulness to shine through in every space. The result is a stunning, pastel-hued, and retro-futurist home that, in Bryce's own words, is a "redhead's utopia, a film lover's paradise, an ode to California dreams… and a shrine to our pets." Each room is singularly unique, its own character in the family's story—from Bryce's dinosaur wallpapered vanity to a blush-and-brick kitchen to the couple's pastel pink and cozy primary bedroom. A few Lulu and Georgia exclusives take center stage in the bedroom, including our velvet Solene Bed, whitewashed and curved nightstands, and a boucle chaise sofa. We briefly sat with Bryce and Claire to discuss how their decade-long friendship helped their process, how the designer uses emotion to influence her spaces, and how all the colors of the house capture the stories Bryce, Seth, and their kids want to tell. Read on for more.
Tell us how you came to partner with Bryce and your creative process for designing this home.
I've known Bryce for over a decade, and we first met when I was working as a personal chef for her parents. We've followed each other's careers since, and she's been such a wonderful mentor and encouragement in everything I do. We both approach the world through the lens of storytelling, so collaborating on this space was so much fun.
What qualities do you like to always be present in your designs?
It's funny because my work is so informed by production design. I always operate from a place of what does the story demand? So if I'm creating a space meant to evoke desert minimalism, that will have a completely different look than a 1930s-inspired boudoir with luxe finishes. However, I've learned that I have a few throughlines unequivocally "Claire"—color and the unexpected. I like spaces to be idiosyncratic and specific, reflecting personality and character rather than being a broad and vague space. In design, I tend to work with friends, so I can specifically draw out peoples' personalities into their spaces.
Colorful and vibrant tiles are hallmarks of your style; how did you choose the perfect type for Bryce's home?
I love working with color, and Bryce and Seth made it so easy! They both gravitate towards pastels, like soft pinks and greens, and really love the 80s does-deco-retro-future aesthetic. So I took those ideas and softened them to make them appropriate for a busy family home.
How did you balance function and aesthetics in your living room, bedroom, and dining spaces?
Because of my background in production design, I'm always an "aesthetics first" person, so I always have to sanity-check my impulses, haha. The good news is that the purpose of a space immediately defines its expectations. I know there will be a bed, two nightstands, and a chest of some kind in the bedroom. So, I usually start with the general geography of the space, making sure all the pieces I need are accounted for and in the right location and then have a lot of fun selecting those pieces.
A big part of my design work is the emotion of a space—how do you want it to make you feel?—so that will influence the function and the aesthetic. For the main bedroom, we wanted it to be a calm, soft oasis from Bryce's hectic life.
From connecting with the client to bringing the design to life, what are your favorite moments throughout the design process?
I love mood-boarding and treasure hunting! My set decorator and stylist, Emily Vallely, is my favorite treasure hunter. I love digging through auctions and antique shops for unexpected pieces. So many of the styling elements in the bedroom were found in odd corners and literal sidewalks.
Any advice for those looking to update their home with tons of warm colors—including maybe a couple of people wanting to recreate your space's look?
Focus on layering textures when playing with color. The more color I use, the more texture I try to include—it softens the overall look and gives it a lived-in feel.
This move marks you and your family's return to Los Angeles; tell us a bit about your new home and how you came to work with Claire on the project.
If I had to encapsulate our new home, I would say it's a redhead's utopia, a film lover's paradise, an ode to California dreams… and a shrine to our pets. When we bought the house, it was pretty much a blank slate, and now that we've gotten to bring life and color to the home, it's truly a reflection of our personality as a family and our taste as storytellers—all thanks to Claire Thomas.
And forgive me, but I must gush about Claire for a moment. She's an extraordinary multi-hyphenate creative and collaborator. Over the years, I've been fortunate to call upon her skills as a commercial director, an entrepreneur, blogger, the co-founder of the delicious Sweet Laurel Bakery, and now as an interior designer! Because no matter what she's doing, Claire is ultimately an aesthetically visionary storyteller across mediums. And our shared love of telling stories is why we get along so well.
When I approached Claire about partnering in the design for this home, her first question was, "What's the story you want to tell about your family?" In that instant, I knew collaborating with her in this capacity would be a dream come true. I never considered designing a home that way, and once we did, working on the house became like working on any other film. We had the mood boards and comps to draw inspiration from, the "big picture" meetings to hone our point of view, the "production" setbacks, and the quick thinking to improvise or reinvent.
We love the bold spaces throughout your space, from the deco boudoir to the blush-and-brick kitchen to the brass-ceilinged dining room. Was the intention to have a different feel in each room?
I would say that the intention was for each room to have a different story, and of course, what emerges from those stories are different memories, images, emotions, and all-around vibes. I think there's also an overall story that we're trying to tell with our home—the story of the Howard-Gabels, you could say—and each room wants to distinguish itself as its own chapter or character in that story.
You know those "Objects of Affection" videos from Vogue? I love how much the simplest objects can imbue a space with such meaning and purpose. I've always wanted that for myself, and I feel like we got to do our own version in every choice that went into designing the house.
It's also noticeable how liveable and comfortable all of these spaces feel. Was that a top priority during this project?
Without a doubt. I've never been a fan of living spaces that make people afraid to live in them—what's the point in those? And if we're talking practically, our family has two kids and five pets, so comfort also brings a level of durability, which is crucial for us.
I'll also add that throughout this pandemic, what's come to the surface is a mindfulness about the environments we spend a lot of time in. And if we're privileged enough to have the ability to shift those environments to our needs, it can make all the difference in how we experience working from home.
If I'm not on set, I'm at home working. So if I'm going to be spending long hours writing stories, editing the latest episode of The Mandalorian, or having zoom meetings, I might as well make it as enjoyable as possible. For me, that means an environment that is comfortable, soothing, and inspiring.
With your family moving from upstate New York, were there touches of the Hudson Modern style you asked Claire to layer in?
You can see hints of a Hudson Modern color palette in some rooms, but other than that, this home has a California soul through and through. Claire and I are both California filmmaking kids, and it comes out most clearly in the Palm Springs-esque guest house (it's essentially pink furniture and succulents everywhere) and the Art Deco office space.
What's the feeling you want to evoke in people when they walk into your home?
Delight and ease.
I like the thought of living in a space that makes a person smile to visit or come home. Because when so much of our lives is about operating at maximum capacity, it's a joy to have my home be an oasis from that mentality and demand.
A few Lulu and Georgia pieces are styled throughout your home—is there one statement maker you are still fawning over?
The chaise in my bedroom. It's like working from a bed without being in my bed—it's modern and beautiful and so comfortable. That is where I lounge.
Where did the inspiration to create this wonderfully playful, elevated, and colorful aesthetic come from?
Bryce: From being a redhead! As natural redheads, Claire and I wanted to maximize the redhead experience inside this home and took every opportunity. But aside from the redhead representation, my husband Seth and I are big fans of Star Trek: Next Generation, so that retro-futurist color palette also emerged.
I think the instinct to make the house playful and colorful came from the genre of movies we love to watch as a family: action-adventure and science fiction. Stories where the world is aspirational and pops off the screen. Stories that show us a world that is brighter and filled with wonder, awe, and possibility. All the colors of our house—and the little tributes and treasures—are our way of capturing that.
I find it absolutely hilarious that both of my kids (ages 10 and 15) were so clear about wanting a black and white, minimalistic design, and here come Seth and I, spewing color in every possible corner of this home.
Claire: The space is a reflection of how I see them. It's like a character study or a grown-up way of playing with my dolls—if I had to create a space that felt like Bryce and Seth, what would that be? And this is where we went.
If you had to pick, what is your favorite space in the home?
Bryce: The vanity in my bedroom—I can't help it! The lighting is so good (thank you to The Makeup Light), and the walls are covered in my favorite pink dinosaur wallpaper. In an alternate universe where I didn't go into acting and directing, I'm definitely a makeup artist, and my vanity helps me live out that dream.
Claire: Ahhh, don't make a mother name a favorite child! For me, I try to ensure that every corner has a wow moment. I'd have to say that Bryce's vanity area is especially fabulous—the dinosaur wallpaper, the custom vanity, the 1940s upholstered stool. It's all too good.
Now that you both have had time to reflect, is there one note you have for homeowners and designers to keep in mind when partnering together for a redesign?
Bryce: What's the story you want to tell about your family?
Claire: Communication and trust are everything! What I love about Bryce and Seth is that they're very clear about what they like and dislike. In the beginning, when we were brainstorming, they'd point at a mood board and be able to articulate exactly what they were drawn to and why. I then set off to make it happen. We all love creating and existing in this playful "let's put on a show" space like an Andy Hardy movie. So, when I'm saying, "Outdoor mural!" Bryce and Seth are saying, "But make it, Tatooine!"