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Artisans achieve the perfect balance in their live-work rental in Watts

It's 11 o'clock, and the Metro Blue Line train is speeding past the Watts apartment of Sean Dougall and Andrew Paulson.  

The designers are busy on the second floor of the former light bulb factory, however, and don’t notice the racket. You get the sense, in fact, that the designers revel in their unusual live-work digs.  

“Living parallel to a train gives you an entirely new experience with Los Angeles,” says Dougall, 38, one half of the design partnership known as Dougall Paulson.

That awareness is ingrained in their custom furniture, lighting, ceramics and weavings, which blur the lines between function and art.

The pieces they make tend to be both minimal and grand: 3-D cast porcelain objects, ceramic flowers for a Las Vegas casino or a curving, sweeping staircase designed for the new restaurant Giulia.  

“I want to explore weavings in new ways,” says Paulson, 36, who creates shimmering textiles woven with jewelry-grade wires, copper and wool. “We want to elevate our work to fine art.”

The couple were living in a garage loft in West Adams in 2011 when Dougall spotted the rental on Craigslist.

Upon arrival at the 2,300-square-foot space, he was blown away by 12-foot ceilings, solar panels, skylights and a 4,500-square-foot rooftop deck. Despite the building’s industrial roots, the interiors felt warm and rustic with weathered wood floors and exposed wood beams.

Today, the loft-like space reflects the couple’s domestic life and artistic activity. A clay extruder used for their pottery work is mounted to a beam not far from a tall dining table. Shelves are loaded with clay, glazes, tools and spools of thread. An electric potter’s wheel is tucked next to a window overlooking the Metro while an elegant velvet sofa and kilim rug create a traditional living room. Props from production sets add a sense of fun (Dougall is a former art director who worked on five Super Bowl halftime shows) along with an enormous illuminated red arrow sign from the architectural salvage store Olde Good Things.    

On a typical day, you’ll find Paulson working on one of three wooden looms with dogs Parker and Lou close at hand while Dougall handles clay in an ad hoc pottery studio.

Their first few collections have focused on space and sea. Next, they will design the furniture and interiors for the Italian restaurant Giulia, spearheaded by chef Jason Francisco in downtown L.A. In the spring, they plan to release a collection of furnishings and accessories at noted Los Angeles design showroom Blackman Cruz called Ocean of Emptiness. Dougall says the first chapter, called Auraform, “will reawaken ancient, fossilized light.”  

“Dougall Paulson’s vision on design is free of trends,” Adam Blackman and David Cruz said in a statement. “Their work is always a surprise.”

From simple craft to futuristic Art Nouveau-inspired design concepts, it all starts here in Watts.

Their loft is a statement on successfully mixing work and home life in a city that has left many desperate to find affordable studios.  

“Our work is an extension of our home, and the two are rarely separate for us,” Dougall says. 

But is it ever too much?    

“Why take a day off?” Paulson says. “We love what we do.”

lisa.boone@latimes.com

Twitter: @lisaboone19

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