Review: New book peers inside the real-life homes of L.A.’s creative maestros


Readers of interior design books are typically met with slick, saturated images of highly styled rooms conveniently free of the people who live within them.

But Los Angeles-based photographer Ye Rin Mok shot “Creative Spaces” — a new book about creative people and the unconventional spaces they inhabit — in an unconventional way. She took the book’s 258 airy, sun-washed photos on the fly, with no stylist, no assistant, no hair and makeup pro, and, significantly, no special lighting.

The book, from the founders of Poketo, the design accessories and housewares store that’s become a mainstay in the DTLA creative community, leads readers inside the homes and studios of ceramists, architects, authors, textile artists, designers and entrepreneurs, not to mention a DJ, a woman who works with knots and an artisan soba noodle maker.

Photographing primarily in L.A. (with a smattering of Vancouver and Brooklyn locales) allowed Mok to use available light, which gives “Creative Spaces” a casual, accessible feel that embraces Poketo’s “art for every day” approach.


“Nothing was preplanned or directed,” says Ted Vadakan, who founded Poketo 16 years ago with his wife, Angie Myung. They collaborated on the book. “We’d walk into a space and while I’d be doing the interview, Ye Rin would cruise around and explore the house and capture these little moments.”

The enormously talented Mok offers plenty of “little moments” — unexpected materials, interesting juxtapositions, surprising color combinations — that can inspire those of us who tend to borrow design ideas rather than create them.

A few examples: A dozen wooden cutting boards of different shapes and sizes look spectacular when stacked alongside each other. Repurposed military-issue windsocks make jaw-dropping lampshades. A jar of colorful origami cranes perks up a side table. A chair wedged into a fireplace induces double takes. Tall, skinny houseplants make a room look less cluttered, more spacious.

It must also be noted that these creatives keep almost nothing on their kitchen counters.

Poketo’s four L.A. stores serve as community gathering spots, exhibition spaces, workshop sites and networking hubs, so it’s not surprising that “Creative Spaces” is as much a book about relationships as it is about straight-up interiors. Nearly everyone featured in the brightly designed pages has collaborated with Poketo, and the text often recounts how they were swept into Poketo’s orbit.

The book also explores the relationship these people have with the spaces they live in and with the objects they make, as well as those they treasure. And that, of course, will likely inspire readers to do the same.


Creative Spaces: People, Homes, and Studios to Inspire

Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung with Gregory Han

Photographs by Ye Rin Mok

Chronicle Books: 272 pages; $35

Shapiro is the former editor in chief of Life magazine and the author of “What We Keep.”