At Home With: Tessa Neustadt

woman in yellow dress sat on outdoor sofa with dog at her feet

The interiors photographer lets us into her tranquil Eagle Rock home

By Jess Kelham-Hohler   Tuesday 23 July, 2019

Photographer and avid antiques collector Tessa Neustadt has always harboured a love for design. ‘When I was a kid, I wanted to be an interior designer,’ she says. ‘My parents would leave me home alone and come back to find that I’d completely rearranged the furniture.’ 

As an adult, a career in photography came to the forefront, but after an internship with designer Emily Henderson, Neustadt was able to combine the two interests into work as an interiors photographer.

When her boyfriend bought an Eagle Rock bungalow three and a half years ago, Neustadt, after first covering the bright yellow paint inside and outside the house, had a blank canvas on which to stretch her interior design muscles. Here, the Californian native shares how her love of antiques, photographer’s eye and adventures abroad have informed her design aesthetic.
an armchair next to sideboard with art and lamp
a coffee table with books and objects
What do you love about your neighbourhood?
‘The view of the mountains is probably the thing I love most. We redid the front door so that I can sit on the couch and look out at them. I also like that Eagle Rock is quieter than other parts of Los Angeles, but close enough to the freeway that I can get to other places easily. It has a small-town feeling to it — I go to the grocery store and run into friends and I know the people who own the coffee shops.’

What are your favourite spots in the house?
‘The corner of the living room is one of my favourites. I play with it a lot – I’m always changing what lamp, painting and books are there. I like that it’s constantly evolving, especially since it’s what I see whenever I’m sitting on the couch. I also like how our dining room is coming together, especially the cabinet that’s full of so many curiosities.’

Where does your love of antiques and vintage come from?
‘My mom was always taking me to antique shops growing up. I didn’t love those trips so much as a kid, but now it’s my favourite thing to do with her. She’s who I get my love of antiques from.’
living room corner sofa with coffee table, big window and art
Do you think your work as an interiors photographer affects how you approached designing this home?
‘I definitely think about how the room is going to be photographed – not so much in buying pieces, but more so in deciding how to arrange the objects. Any time I’m shooting someone’s house, I also get inspired. It’s fun to pick little details from different styles that I love and combine them in my own home.’

Where do you find your pieces?
‘Whenever I’m out and about, I’ll always try to stop at a new antique shop. The Rose Bowl, the huge monthly vintage fair here in LA is great; I try to go at 5.30am to get the best stuff.  I also use Etsy and eBay – they’re good if you know exactly what you’re looking for.’

Do you bring pieces back from your travels?
‘My suitcase is often packed with little pieces I’ve acquired on a trip. My boyfriend and I went to Italy recently and we visited Matera, a town made out of sandstone. It was so magical. We found this little shop in a cave, lit entirely by candles, where the owner made miniature versions of the town’s houses out of the same sandstone. I bought one of those and it’s a beautiful reminder of that trip.’
chair, table and fire pit on a los angeles deck
dinner table laid with food and drink outdoora
What do you splurge on and what do you save on?
‘When it comes to vintage, I’m more willing to splurge on something one of a kind or very rare, like my HMV dog statue. If it’s something new I want, I’ll go away and think about it. If it’s still at the top of my mind a week later, I know that it’s worth the cost.’

Tell us about your outdoor space.
‘I love interiors but being outside as much as possible during the day is a priority for me, so having a usable deck was essential. We made the daybed ourselves with a full-size mattress. It’s where I take naps, watch Netflix on my computer and have my breakfast when I don’t have a shoot to get to. The deck is where we do most of our entertaining – we have our vegetable garden out there, plus lemon, apple, kumquat and orange trees. There’s something so special about being able to use homegrown herbs in your scrambled eggs in the morning.’
side of a double bed with bedside table and lamp
sideboard with vase of flowers and art
What about the art in your home?
‘The plan was never to have my work in the living room, but I have a really hard time finding art, so this is a temporary solution. I have collected a lot of vintage paintings, but I’ve found that they’re quite hard to place together, whereas photos or sketches work more cohesively when decorating a space. I love this picture of my grandparents on their wedding day and this Cy Twombly print I actually cut out of a book.’

What are your most treasured possessions?
‘Probably my wooden link chains and a really old silver jewellery box with someone else’s initials on it.’

What’s a piece here with a great story?
‘During our Italy trip, it was raining so hard in the town we were in that we decided to drive to another one to see if we could catch the sunshine. Everything was closed, but we finally found a pottery studio that belonged to this older gentleman who paints ceramics every day and in a whole range of styles. We bought those tiles from him, and they’ve very special to me.’ 

Images by Tessa Neustadt

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