Photographer and rug dealer Mikael Kennedy and musician Melaena Cadiz live with their daughter Mila Rose in a beauty of a house nestled on a hill in Glassell Park. Their home serves as a succulent garden, rug collection and gathering place, and if you swing by there’s a very good chance there’ll be music playing. Here’s a peek inside…
What was it like searching for a home?
Mikael: I came from New York to L.A. for two weeks to house hunt. As soon as I saw the garden, I told the real estate agent that we’d take it before even seeing the house.
Melaena: Mikael sent me photos and I couldn’t believe how perfect it was. I was six months pregnant and could already imagine our daughter taking her first steps in the living room.
Rug: antique from King Kennedy Rugs. Sofa: Innovation. Coffee table: similar. Leather armchair: vintage. Floor lamp: BBDW. TV stand and bookshelves: handmade by Mikael. Floor cushions: Made by Mikael, who cut and stuffed an old quilt with scrap fabric.
Did you make any changes to the place?
Mikael: Our landlord told us that everyone else had all these things they wanted her to change. I told her that the house was perfect the way it was.
Malaena: When we moved in, the floors were dark green, so we painted them white. I also really love the white beams on the ceiling. It feels like a big whale belly.
Painting: Hannah Secord Wade. Shelves and window covering: handmade.
Mikael, how did you get into the rug business?
Mikael: I started collecting rugs five years ago; I was obsessed with them. I would post pictures online and people would ask me to get them rugs, too, so it exploded into a business — King Kennedy Rugs. The name came from my friend who was making fun of me like I was a mattress salesman, like the king of rugs.
What’s your music writing process like, Melaena?
Melaena: I love this music nook, but I kind of have to hide to get anything done. I’ll grab a guitar and write all over the garden. I get so much inspiration from books and poetry, like Bright Dead Things, Mrs. Dalloway and Invisible Cities.
Rock salt lamp: similar.
How did this record collection begin?
Mikael: I was helping my mom move years ago and found her old records in the basement — including every Dylan record, every Joni Mitchell record, every Neil Young record. She hadn’t even had a record player in 20 years. I told her I was taking them and she could have them back when she gets a record player!
How did you make this place your own?
Mikael: The longer you’re in a house, the more you understand it. I joke that I want to get into interior design, but I would need to live in each place for a year. I built all our bookshelves to fit the space. These wooden boards have actually been in four different places we’ve lived; I just take them apart and cut them to fit.
Do you have family rituals?
Melaena: I remember my mom making simple activities feel special, like picnic dinners on the living room floor. With Mila, at the end of each day, we walk around and say goodnight to everything. And when it’s nice out, we give her a bath outside while the sun sets. Those moments always make me grateful for this time we have — it’s so fleeting.
What do you love about the kitchen?
Melaena: It was always my dream to have a kitchen that opened into the living room. The cabinets are wonky and not everything closes properly, but there’s a real charm.
Can you tell us about the art over the window?
Mikael: The piece of stained glass is from our friend’s parents. I was at their house in Ohio once and I commented on it, and a few weeks later it showed up in the mail!
How do you decorate with rugs?
Mikael: To me, rugs feel like paintings. Occasionally I hang them on the walls to highlight the design. We’re constantly rotating rugs around the house; it’s such an easy way to refresh a space.
What’s Mila’s favorite doll?
Melaena: She likes this creepy one that was mine as a little girl. I don’t get it — the doll isn’t cuddly at all, her head is really hard and her hands are pointy and kind of dangerous.
What about her go-to toy?
Mikael: The remote control. Any remote control.
Can you tell us about this mobile?
Melaena: We used to have friends over for craft nights. Mikael made a whole series where he sewed a circle, stuffed it and then improvised it into something. He made some weird stuff, like an oversized deer tick, but the jellyfish was the best. We made a bunch and turned them into a mobile before Mila was born.
How did you guys first meet?
Mikael: We met at a bar on the Lower East Side — I threw a party by just telling everyone I knew to come by and Melaena showed up with an old friend of mine. My roommate told me that she looked like trouble, that she’d break my heart. Melaena has her own version of this story — that I had a gold tooth (true) and was wearing a burlap suit (untrue) and it took six months until she was willing to date me.
Melaena: He kept showing up at my work with smoothies and healthy snacks. I decided to give him a chance.
What’s the most important thing about a bedroom to you guys?
Melaena: I love when a bedroom is super minimal. Ours is still a work in progress.
Mikael: And it has to have light. I’ve slept in closets before — literally — so I really need windows and air.
Do you have any furniture shopping tips?
Mikael: My friend Molly is an interior designer and told us a little secret for finding great dressers: IKEA. I’m serious — just don’t put the knobs on them and they look great.
You basically have an outdoor living room.
Mikael: When we moved in, there was debris everywhere — lots of stumps and broken furniture. I spent the first year cleaning it up. Now, I work under the theme “West Coast Grey Gardens” — and only cut things back when they get to be a problem. There’s lots of carving tunnels through things.
Melaena: Most days we have all the doors open, so there’s no real delineation between indoors and outdoors. Birds fly in and we have to guide them back out. We had a baby possum wander in one day.
What do you love about your garden?
Melaena: When we first moved here we only knew a few people, but our garden suddenly became a gathering place.
Mikael: We’d invite a friend or two, and they’d bring more friends. Musicians on tour would stay in our backyard tent for a few days; it was like a little commune.
Melaena: As a baby, Mila would be passed around between friends.
Outdoor furniture: handmade. Rugs: King Kennedy Rugs.
Do you have any entertaining tips?
Mikael: Fire pits bring everyone together; they build community.
Melaena: There’s never an awkward silence when you have a fire. Everyone just watches the flames until the next part of the conversation starts.
Where did you find your outdoor furniture?
Melaena: I love that Mikael will never just order patio furniture. The daybed is actually two reclining chairs he found rotting on the property. He nailed them together and sided them with scrap wood, so you can’t tell. You definitely need your tetanus shot before visiting.
Do you see any larger wildlife?
Mikael: When we first moved in, I made the “Beware of Coyotes” sign from some scrap wood because we had a cat and had seen some coyotes on the property. We had to keep the gate shut. But, also, it was just a funny sign because there’s no way that a chicken wire fence was going to stop a coyote.
What is this incredible tent situation?
Mikael: A friend of mine gave us this Shelter Co tent. It lasted through the crazy wet winter and didn’t leak at all.
Melaena: We buried an extension cord out to the tent, so our guests can have power and light.
Is there anything you wish were different about the house?
Mikael: That we owned it.
(Photos by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo.)