danielle nagel

A Desert Dazey

An L.A. clothing designer turns her William Krisel fun house into an Instagram sensation that pays the mortgage and promotes her business.

Lisa Marie Hart Current Digital, Home & Design, Real Estate

danielle nagel
When Danielle Nagel encouraged her Instagram followers to vote on a wallpaper pattern for the bedroom, more than 350 people chimed in. The winner was Cosmic Desert in Teal by Hygge & West.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIELLE NAGEL

There’s a wall in entrepreneur Danielle Nagel’s second home that is much more than a basic room divider — at least to her. Easily recognizable by her thousands of followers who have liked it on Instagram, it’s a red kaleidoscope of patterned wallpaper punctuated by eight works of art. To Nagel, the wall tells a bold tale of who she is, what she does, and why her clothing company has become her purpose in life.

For six years, Nagel worked in the T-shirt industry, designing for corporations such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, and Hot Topic, all the while dreaming of branching out on her own. “I spent so long designing silly shirts that say things like, ‘Spring Break,’ ” she says. “You’re put in a box, and you don’t own your artwork. I wanted to be in control of my creative direction and design things that meant something to me.” After a year of helping another startup, Nagel was ready to launch her own brand.

Dazey LA is, on the surface, an indie T-shirt and apparel company that hitches empowering, often feminist, phrases to 1960s- and ’70s-inspired designs. But more than that, it’s Nagel’s personal vehicle to uplift, encourage, and support fellow women in their endeavors. Combining her passions for art, fashion, and photography, this legit lady-boss draws every tee by hand, shoots her own promotional photography, and oversees quality control; each piece is made in L.A. She also models ensembles from her own line in addition to the third-party collections sold in Dazey LA’s online shop that are made by other women in her fashion circle.

danielle nagel tshirts

A pair of orange walls extend from the entry to the exterior, setting the tangerine tone for accents in the open living, dining, and kitchen areas.

“We couldn’t believe it was priced well below those in Palm Springs proper,” Nagel recalls. “We fell in love with it right away.”
danielle nagel instagram

The gallery wall features Nagel’s grandmother’s art and self-portrait.

dazey LA Tshirt

Nagel in one of her Dazey LA T-shirts.

The red statement wall symbolizes the roots of her immense talent and her unwavering drive. “It’s special to me because all of the artwork was done by my grandmother, who passed away a month after we got the house,” she says. “I didn’t get to see her as much as I would have liked, then she ended up passing around the time I would have had a chance to. She was an artist for all of her life. She was a director, too, and produced plays about artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí, which she would put on at a playhouse in Palm Springs.”

The largest painting on the wall was used as a prop in one of her plays. Her grandmother’s self-portrait hangs in the bottom right corner. “She experimented with different styles, and she was so talented,” Nagel shares. “She is one of my biggest inspirations for going into art and design.”

danielle nagel house
william krisel house

Danielle Nagel in the living room with her dog, Franklin. Couch by Joybird. Art by Modern Retrograde.

Decorated in a high-energy explosion of orange, blue, and red, the home, designed by William Krisel in 1959, sits six minutes north of the Uptown Design District in a tranquil, albeit windy, pocket. The property was well-priced enough for Nagel and her boyfriend, Phillip Butler, to risk going into homeownership blindly yet close enough to town to hit up Ernest Coffee in the morning, hang out at home in the afternoon, then head into Palm Springs for dinner. But a desert getaway was never their goal. Their first purchase/second home was the serendipitous byproduct of being priced out of L.A.’s real estate market. Only a year ago, the couple was attending Modernism Week 2018 as influencers when they spied the listing on Zillow. While Nagel’s family is from Palm Springs, the couple rents in Los Feliz and had been house hunting across the city for years.

“It’s a tough market,” she laments. “Prices in L.A. were inching toward a million dollars for a two-bedroom starter home in an up-and-coming neighborhood.” Discouragement from putting in high offers and still being edged out led them to take a break from even trying to buy a home — until they found the 984-square-foot, two-bedroom Krisel. It needed remarkably little work and made a strong showing of its original elements, down to the chestnut-brown wall oven and pegboard kitchen cabinets. “We couldn’t believe it was priced well below those in Palm Springs proper,” Nagel recalls. “We fell in love with it right away.”

danielle nagel living room

Nagel has already changed up the fluffy stool for a vintage rattan pouf in her ever-evolving living room. Retro Wave rug by AllModern.

The pair was shocked to learn that bidding wars are an urban phenomenon that seldom rear their ugly head in this more laid-back real estate sphere. They put in an offer below listing price and tacked on a graphic design presentation that expressed their core values, including photos of them and their dog. This time, they outbid the other would-be buyer. “Before we knew it, we owned a house in a city we didn’t live in,” Nagel says.

Without hesitation, they grabbed the keys and decorated within a week so they could host a Dazey LA event in their new digs to coincide with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. “The whole house is on brand with the company, and everything seamlessly ties together,” she adds. Now that the home is available on Airbnb, her apparel company and the rental help to cross-promote one another. Followers of one take interest in the other, and women who have long been fans of Nagel’s T-shirts periodically book the home.

In the true spirit of an enterprising influencer, Nagel collaborated with Joybird modern furnishings on a social media trade. This afforded the couple the unusual chance to enhance a house filled with free furniture with their own vintage finds of lamps, rugs, and accessories. Nagel later traded T-shirts for lively rolls of Hygge & West wallpaper. And fellow female entrepreneurs whom she promotes via Dazey LA made several of the textiles throughout the interior.

danielle nagel midcentury

Low-maintenance cactuses sit in bright pots around the house.

danielle nagel oven

The diminutive original wall oven is fully functioning.

Through the summer, Airbnb bookings covered their mortgage payments. Butler also works for her company, so the couple would tackle their Dazey LA projects remotely and stay there for a week each month when it wasn’t occupied. Come January, however, the property booked up for the entire month, leaving them in L.A. while renters enjoyed their new home. “It’s a trade-off,” Nagel acknowledges. “In the busy season, it’s a moneymaker we did not intend for it to be, but it has incidentally become a really good investment.” Carrying a mortgage that is less than $2,000 a month leaves them with quite a surplus when a good month nets more than $7,000. “It’s been a godsend. If we were to get another Airbnb, we could be living off of it.”

The home’s success is no fluke. Those beautiful walls? Designed with intention. Nagel realizes that in order to rent the home, especially for photo shoots, it needs to come equipped with a variety of dynamic spaces and backgrounds. “People want to take pictures,” she says. “They will spend more money if they know they’re going to get a cute Instagram of their vacation. Like it or not, that’s a huge thing millennials consider when renting a property.”

“The home is truly a piece of midcentury history with an all-original kitchen the way William Krisel intended,” Nagel says.

danielle nagel design

“The home is truly a piece of midcentury history with an all-original kitchen the way William Krisel intended,” Nagel says. 

What homeowners like this couple have to consider is potential damage to a dream. “Wear and tear has been an issue,” she admits. “At first, we wanted this to be a luxury rental. We got Parachute bedding and made it super beautiful. Until we discovered they had totally bleached our towels and bedding, and guests had thrown up in our bed and backed a car into our gate.” Airbnb stepped up to cover the costs of the more extreme cases. Not so when an electro-house music artist rented it for a music video and had to “fake trash” the place. Months later the couple is still picking glitter out of the rugs.

Good thing millennials can be a forgiving lot. “We’re very pro-rental property after this experience,” Nagel affirms. They talk about adding a casita out back, buying the lot behind them to build on, or purchasing a second rental property. “In our heart of hearts, we’re dying to get a home in L.A. We love the culture, the people, the art scene. We love our little apartment, too. But after staying in our beautiful Palm Springs place, it can be disheartening to go back and have no yard for our dog.”

hygge and west wallpaper
golden horizon art

Golden Horizon art print by Circa 78 Designs.

So, in the meantime, they’re putting the word out and urging their friends to pick up some Palm Springs real estate for themselves. “A lot of young people who are ready to buy a house in L.A. are finding they can’t afford it and that it makes more sense to buy outside the city,” Nagel says. “We’re seeing it time and time again in our friend group. We’re all young professionals who do well, but we can’t afford houses where we live. So it’s been an amazing way to experience homeownership. Get that notch on our belt in a way that’s responsible and profitable. It just makes so much sense.”

Nagel and Butler have been conscious not to sequester themselves inside their cheerful abode out in the wild, windy hinterlands. She’s actively involved with Modernism Week and is getting to know people in the community. Her highly creative grandmother, if she could see through the eyes of that vibrant self-portrait, would be happy to discover her artistic legacy has a new Palm Springs resident to carry the torch.