Mandy Graham prides herself on never repeating what she’s already done. She loves the challenge of designing in fresh ways with each project she takes on. Although she has redesigned homes in a variety of styles—including Scandinavian, mid-century modern and Spanish—her designs share the common thread of being both timeless and sophisticated.
“Since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with homes,” she shares. “I would draw out the floor plan of my future home. When The Sunday Post came in the mail, I would go to the real estate section and rip out pages to study the floor plans. My mom would come home from work, and I would have moved the furniture around.”
Mandy notes how she became intrigued by the structure of things around her. Visiting museums, she was more fascinated by the stone beneath her feet, the molding on the walls and the height of the ceilings than the paintings on the walls.
The blonde, green-eyed beauty grew up in Walnut Creek in Northern California. Mandy made a bold move to London when she was 18 with a plan to study there. As fate would have it, she fell in love with a California boy and made the move to Los Angeles. It was here that she attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising to study design.
“I want every corner of the home to have a moment.”
Once married, she bought a postage-stamp house in the Sand Section of Manhattan Beach, living there for seven years with her husband and twin boys, Kai and Jude. When the boys were napping, Mandy mapped out the floor plan of the home she envisioned for her family.
While she had never designed a home herself, Mandy was determined to do it her own way. She spent hours learning the city code requirements for building on their small lot. She then submitted the plan to her architect father-in-law, who converted it into a workable, digital format. She hired a local architect to get them through the design-planning stage and secure city approval.
“Because the house had such a small footprint, I really tried to minimize textures as much as possible because they tend to close a space in,” she says. “I also omitted all the molding and created floor-to-ceiling doors and windows to help open the space up.”
As a centerpiece of the home, Mandy designed a prominent staircase. “When you live in a three-level home, you are constantly moving up and down all day long. I spent more time on those stairs than I did in my bedroom, so I wanted it to feel like an experience.” Mandy also designed the furniture to fill the home.
Soon she procured more design jobs in her South Bay community. Searching for new ways to further explore her creativity, she decided to pursue a new path designing furniture. Through a connection, she received a call from a high-profile agent in the Hollywood Hills seeking her talents.
When Mandy first entered the home, she immediately knew this was her next project. The new client gave her full creative freedom and an ample budget—a designer’s dream come true. “She really pushed my creativity,” Mandy says. “I designed all the furniture for that home with her style in mind.”
Through this client, a door opened to another—this time an avid art collector. “His personality is full of humor, and his wit and charm are reflected throughout his home and in his art pieces,” Mandy notes.
Hired to remodel his screening room, she was again given total authority and rose to the challenge—all without even meeting her client in person. After she completed the design, they finally met … and he gave her the rest of the home to complete. The two have been best friends ever since.
Pivotal to her career, these two design projects inspired Mandy to create full furniture design collections. “The furniture I design doesn’t exist anywhere. It’s very unique,” she says. “It’s not for every consumer, but being able to feature these pieces in the homes I designed tells a nice story and gave them life.”
Design gallery and home goods store Garde, in Los Angeles and Montecito, carry Mandy’s furniture collections as well as a “Basics” sofa she designed specifically for the store. She also received the rare opportunity to launch on 1stdibs, one of the most successful international e-commerce platforms in the world. Once they reviewed her collection, Mandy was able to bypass the one-year wait list—a huge honor and a path to representation at high-end boutiques around the world.
Mandy recently designed her own exquisite Spanish-style home in Palos Verdes. The process proved very therapeutic for her. “I love antiques and vintage pieces because they bring a depth and soul to a space,” she says. “I tend to like really old art that has a story. In a clean minimal space, that contrast is beautiful.”
The project also sparked the creation of both a stool design and new lighting collection, both coming to 1stdibs.
For Mandy, even the most unassuming space has the potential for a personality and style of its own. “I want every corner of the home to have a moment,” Mandy says. “My least favorite room in a home will become my favorite room once I remodel it.”