In June 2010, just one year after Courtney Lake launched his home interiors blog, Courtney Out Loud, celebrity designer Nate Berkus asked him to appear on his (now-defunct) television talk show. Martha Stewart followed suit with another hangout request. Suddenly, Lake, a Stanford alum, found himself in an industry that, he says, “black boys from Detroit would never dream of being part of.” Though the 38-year-old is on the brink of stardom, his ego shows no signs of inflation. Lake defuses crises with doses of reality (“There has never been an armoire apocalypse”), and his stories are always pleasantly self-deprecating—he candidly recounts the time he strayed from the pack while marching in his first Pride parade and wandered the city aimlessly, attired in nothing more than skimpy, chafing overalls. (Now he wanders the city in much chicer Sandro shirts and Antonio Luna jackets.) Lake, who opened his design studio, Monogram Décor, in January, is the go-to interioristo for the One Hawthorne condo complex, HD Buttercup, and Home Depot. A TV deal seems imminent, but in the meantime, he’s on track to start production on a wallpaper line, which features tribal and midcentury patterns, this fall.
As a kid, I had a poster of Albert Einstein captioned with his quote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It dared me to dream big.
I go through two or three pairs of Chuck Taylors a year because I wear them with everything from jeans to suits.
Anything from Black Fleece, Thom Browne’s collaboration with Brooks Brothers
I play out a lot of worst-case scenarios in my head. I’ve learned to take a step back and say, “Shit happens.”
Light bulb moment
I’m gobsmacked by the well-executed simplicity of the Crystal Bulb by Lee Broom. They’d be amazing kitchen pendants.
Start a conversation with a genuine compliment.
My mother was Tina Turner, Lauren Hutton, and Clair Huxtable rolled into one. To me, she was magical.
Favorite classic SF experience?
I still get excited crossing the Golden Gate from the North Bay (Marine, Sausalito) and seeing the bridge rise up from behind the hills. The red structure against the grey fog and the outline of the city is forever etched into my mind. If is one of the most beautiful (and at times frustrating thanks to traffic) scenes I can imagine.
Favorite SF street to stroll and why?
As much as I love San Francisco, one of my favorite strolls is in Oakland around Lake Merritt. Lake Merritt is a beautiful microcosm of Oakland from the Grand Theater to little shops to the Oakland Museum and federal/government buildings in Jeffersonian architecture. At under 50 minutes to walk the entire lake, you can see history, meet local and grab a really good snack if the Farmer's Market is going on.
Favorite public artwork in the Bay Area?
My favorite artwork are the graffiti murals in the Mission. They each tell a story that I think deserves to be seen, understood and appreciated.
Go-to spot in the Bay Area for a culture fix?
It may sound cliche, but I honest do love the De Young Museum. I remember being so excited when it first reopened and standing in line for hour plus to get inside. The team at the museum have done an amazing job at bring high caliber exhibits to SF and I am truly thankful for it!
You assume I actually get days off. But if I was going to spend a leisurely day, then I would do the following: Visit Temescal Alley for some donuts from Doughnut Dolly and stroll the shops in the two cute alleys that comprise this hidden gem. I may pop into Standard & Strange to see their new denim and chat with the always friendly staff. If I am feeling peckish, I would wander down the street to either Bakesale Betty for a fried chicken sandwich (ummm amaze balls) or if I am trying to pretend I am a touch healthy, go down to Barkada for one of their kale salad or burgers. The rest of the day may be spent napping, catching a movie or yoga at Innerstellar Yoga. As evening rolls around, you would definitely catch me at my favorite bar in Oakland, Adesso, for their grapefruit gimlet, their Adesso Pizza with cracked green olives and their duck liver pate. I seriously could eat it 3 times a week if I wasn't worried about a coronary!
One word to describe the Bay Area:
If you could bring one Bay Area eat to a deserted island to subsist on for the rest of your days, what would it be?
The bread pudding from Tartine. It was the first place I had bread pudding and it has been my gold standard since.
This article was published in 7x7's September 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe.