Tamara Honey of House of Honey discusses design, community, and the beauty of collaboration.
By Abigail Stone
“My first big break as an interior designer came when I was getting my roots done,” Los Angeles and Montecito-based interior designer Tamara Honey of House of Honey remembers, “The owner said, ‘We’ve hired this big design firm to redo the space. What do you think?” Honey wasn’t impressed with the plan and shared her own suggestions and was consequently hired on the spot.
Since then the Canadian-born Honey, who had gotten her feet wet in the design world as a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman in New York, has parlayed her impeccable eye and unerring sense of style into a career that has seen regular appearances on decor hot lists and in magazine and newspaper spreads. “I learned pretty quickly that I needed to work for myself,” she laughs.
And she doesn’t mind being the boss. With a firm that’s now grown to ten women spread between two studios, she’s increasingly focused on commercial work. “I love commercial work,” she says. “Public space gives you so much room to do what you want to do as a designer, which is play.”
Restaurants from Crossings in Pasadena, Providence in Hollywood, Red in Napa, and Otium at The Broad Museum have been brushed with her brand of approachable glamor; “My husband loves to travel and we both love food and wine and so design felt like a natural extension and progression of my passions,” she says. Mixed-use properties, hotels and developments, including DTLA’s 950 3rd, Hotel Milo in Montecito, 3221 La Cienega in West Adams, Hollywood’s Ava and the Colony Palms in Palm Springs, rely on Honey to balance an awareness of history with a fresh and exciting approach to interiors.
“The architecture is the springboard from which everything unfolds,” she shares. She combines it with a strong sense of story and a profound understanding of the construction process. The resulting spaces are timeless, soulful and rooted in authenticity, while never being too serious.
While her style might have originally been pegged as new vintage glamor, it’s since evolved past the references to the sensual styles of the 40s and the 70s into something very much of her own making that while rooted in the past, celebrates the present. “I think I still do a blend of vintage with modern,” says Honey, “Like I love pairing a gallery wall with old painted portraits with a beautiful modern chair I discovered in Mexico. I’m always blending the old with the new.”
Southern California’s vibrant community of artists and artisans figure prominently in Honey’s work. Ceramicist Rami Kim, furniture designers Cuff Studios and Whorehaus Studios, the talented surface painters of Londubh Studios, lighting designers Jason Koharik and Brendan Ravenhill, glass designer Uri Davillier of Neptune Glassworks, and Judson Studios (who recently created a custom stained glass window for a client’s cool goth-inspired office) are just a handful of the many artists and vendors she delights in pulling into her designs. “Los Angeles is a melting pot of talented artists,” Honey raves, “We are very spoiled here!” It’s part of what excites her about the city. “It's about a whole experience,” she explains “So it’s not about me and about putting my stamp on a project with my style, It’s about the collaboration. It’s about trying to create something that is thoughtful, that has purpose and meaning and is not just a trend.”
In 2020, she launched Honey House Calls, a virtual and contactless design service which channels her philosophy into the private realm, guiding the client towards creating homes that are at once inviting and comfortable but still bold and invigorating. “As an interior designer I’m always considering the client’s absolute needs — now more than ever,” she shares, “On the residential side the focus has shifted over the last years towards creating home-school-nooks and working-from-home havens. The challenge is balancing the calmness these areas need for focusing with just the right amount of energy to keep people creative and happy. On the commercial side, our team is now looking ahead at creating safe social spaces; like how to make a cute distanced marker on the floor with fun tiles, rethinking how desks will be arranged in an office. It’s like a game of Tetris!”
Heaven, someone once said, is where you can’t tell the difference between work and play. “Design is experiential,” Honey says, “It’s not just about how the room looks but how it feels, how it smells, how it moves, how everything kind of comes together. You don't know how it’s going to go but you let it play out.” She pauses. “That’s where the fun happens.”
Follow Tamara Honey on Instagram at @houseofhoney