Blogger Joy Cho Spent Six Years Building This L.A. Home—Here’s What She Learned

Scrolling through listings online seems to be the first step these days. But when Joy Cho set out to find her family’s dream home, she landed somewhere else: Google Earth.

It was 2014, and Cho, the graphic designer behind blog-turned-lifestyle-brand Oh Joy!, was looking to trade the apartment she shared with her surgeon husband and young daughter for a full-fledged house in Los Angeles that checked all the boxes—good school district, outdoor space, reasonable price. It wasn’t going well. “We were about to give up when a friend suggested that we basically look for patches of land from the sky,” says Cho.


Joy Cho at home with her husband, Bob, and daughters Coco, 6, and Ruby, 9.

Bethany Nauert

They struck gold with an adjacent pair of hillside lots, and with the help of Project M Plus (aka husband-and-wife duo McShane and Cleo Murnane—he’s an architect, she’s a designer) began drawing up plans. Inspired by the neighborhood’s architecture (it’s dotted with homes by the likes of Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler) and constrained by the steep slope of the land, they designed a U-shaped house around a central outdoor courtyard. “We wanted a big, flat yard, which meant giving up some square footage,” says Cho. For the interior, “modern but not cold” was the mandate, with Cho and Murnane using materials like brass and lush, colorful velvets to warm up the clean-lined, Scandinavian-tinged rooms.

joy cho los angeles home tour

Bethany Nauert

Between securing permits, excavation, and building (luckily, their builder, Boswell Construction, specializes in hillside development), the house took six years to complete. The upside of such a lengthy process? “We were able to make changes as our family evolved,” says Cho, who gave birth to their second daughter in 2014. “That time actually allowed us to design a house better suited to us.” The original locations of the dining room and kitchen were swapped to make it easier to unload groceries from the detached garage; a large soaking tub in the main bath was nixed in favor of a double shower that would doubtless get more use. “At first we were thinking about resale, but then we realized we didn’t need to plan this house for someone who might buy it in 20 years,” explains Cho. “It’s our forever home!”

Living Room

green sofa, purple rug

Bethany Nauert

The Interior Define sectional pulls out into a queen-size bed. Pillows: Proba (patterned), Lulu and Georgia (purple and yellow), Anthropologie (rust). Coffee table: Sunbeam Vintage. Side table: Lulu and Georgia. Desk lamp: Schoolhouse. Rug: Block Shop.


white cabinets, pink stools

Bethany Nauert

Brass accents warm up the all-white kitchen—even the backsplash (by Tabarka) and floor tile (by Concrete Collaborative) feature inlays. Cabinets: Reform. Countertops: Caesarstone. Faucet: Newport Brass. Range and hood: KitchenAid. Sconce: Mitzi. Pendants: Hudson Valley Lighting. Stools: Fyrn.

Dining Room

dining room, wallpaper, leather chair

Bethany Nauert

Prefab lower cabinets (by Reform) combined with custom uppers and a Caesarstone countertop create a one-of-a-kind storage piece. Cabinet hardware: Schaub. Pendant: Elegant Lighting. Table: Modshop, with Justina Blakeney vase and Oyoy tray. Dining chairs: Calligaris. Wallpaper: Drop It Modern. Rug: HD Buttercup.


stairs, hallway

Bethany Nauert

A custom blue-gray paint gives the built-in cabinets visual impact. Ceiling lights: Cedar and Moss. Sconce: Windsor Smith for Arteriors. Art: Kitty McCall.

Craft Room

craft room, peg board

Bethany Nauert

“Labeled storage makes life easier—your kids are more likely to know where to put things when they clean up!” says Cho. Pegboard and wall shelves: Peg & Board. Shelves and bins: IKEA.

craft room, kids room, colorful chairs

Bethany Nauert

Furniture: Nico & Yeye. Wallpaper: Studio Cope. Rug: Block Shop. Art: clockwise from top left, Casey Brodley (portrait), Ruby Cho (large painting), Lindsey Burwell (black-and-white painting), Kindah Khalidy (abstract painting), Jennifer Young (photo).

Main Bedroom

bedroom, pink sheets

Bethany Nauert

The India Mahdavi–inspired custom headboard is upholstered in three different shades of blue. Wallcovering: Calico. Paint: Arrow by Portola. Sconces: Cedar & Moss. Painting: Carolyn Gavin. Nightstand: Lulu and Georgia. Sheets: Block Shop. Rug: Calvin Klein.

closet, walk in

Bethany Nauert

Skylights make this space ideal for snapping outfit selfies, says Murnane. Closets: California Closets. Mirror: West Elm. Wallcovering: Drop It Modern. Rug: Sarah Sherman Samuel for Lulu and Georgia.

Main Bathroom

bathroom, tile

Bethany Nauert

Cleo Murnane fell in love with zellige tile (like this one from Clé Tile) during a trip to Marrakech. Mirror: Ebern Designs for Wayfair. Sconces: George Kovacs. Faucet: Newport Brass. Countertop: Caesarstone.

Girls’ Bedroom

kid's room, bedroom, wallpaper

Bethany Nauert

The Oeuf bunk beds can be separated into two twins when the girls are older. Bedding: Castle. Reading lights: Cedar & Moss. Wallcoverings: Calico (walls) and Eleanor Bowmer (ceiling). Rug: vintage from DeMarco Home.

Contractor/Builder: Boswell Construction

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Senior Features Editor Emma Bazilian is a writer and editor covering interior design, market trends and culture.

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