Carly Jo Morgan

Conversation with Carly Jo Morgan

From passion projects to motherhood to furniture design, Carly Jo Morgan is one of those inspiring individuals with multiple talents that we just couldn’t wait to get to know better. Her eclectic, bohemian-chic home has been featured in many magazines and is also one of Boutique Homes’ most creative Topanga vacation home rental.  Walking into her cactus and succulent garden past a stone path over dinging lights is as enchanting as getting inside the house. As we find a cozy spot to chat by the sun, Carly opens up about her work, life, and travels.

Thank you for having me in your lovely home. Topanga feels like an ideal place to create. Tell us about what you do here. 

I’m an artist and I’ve lived here for 11 years. That’s what I do. I used to run a gallery in Venice and my art studio was down there. Then I became pregnant and I was like, I really wanna just be up here with her for the first year. So I closed the gallery. And when she (Cookie) was born, I kind of did not have any idea of how I could have a regular art practice. But that came back fast.

Are you trained as an artist? Did you study it? 

No, I haven’t studied it. Yeah, I just started — I used to have a wallpaper company, silk-screening. I started that in college. And then from there I was always interested in interiors. But from there when I met my husband, he was a sculptor, and we moved to Phoenicia, upstate New York. And I just started messing around with wax, and casting into bronze, and then I started a jewelry line. It just keeps evolving. I feel like my whole adult life is art camp, in a way.

What kind of art are you creating now? I saw some of your jewelry.

I make jewelry, but I haven’t in a while. I’ve been making furniture for the past two years. The stuff that’s inside my home was almost all made by me and my husband. I can show you! The pink chairs over there is one of them that we made (points to chair in the garden). We have a whole collection– the website is madebythemorgans.com.

I see that the interiors of your home are being redone now. What are you changing?

Kind of everything. I’m just, I don’t know, just updating it.  I’ve been making furniture for a while with my husband, but now  I started my own furniture line.  In the meantime I’m just trying to do interior design projects. And through that find ways to pitch some of my new pieces so that I can pay to prototype them. So in the process I’m like, I should just do my house. ‘Cause I just finished landscaping and it’s almost done.

The garden is a gem. 

Mm-hmm. It’s not done yet. We still have to pour the concrete pillars and do the roof. But that eventually it will also be an outdoor studio, like an indoor/outdoor. It was gonna be an art studio, but I’ve been doing a lot of events and small concerts through Mercado Sagrado.

Tell us about Mercado Sagrado. It became quickly known in LA as a go-to for unique finds and great experiences. 

I’ve traveled a lot. I lived in Barcelona for a year. I lived in Peru for a long time, probably like six months.

Okay. That’s where Mercado Sagrado comes from?

Kind of. The name, it’s funny, I love speaking Spanish, I always have.  And everything I do has a sacred component to it. I wrote a kids book called The Sacred Door. My gallery was called The Sacred Door. And it’s like this idea of building a portal, anything that you want. And like when you go through it you can create any life you want. And it’s just this metaphor… So everyone associates me with the word sacred. I just like to attach it to everything. It’s just what I believe. It’s like my positive feeling about everything should be sacred. So there was something about when we came up with the name Mercado Sagrado, and since it was a market, and mercado rhymes with sagrado, it was just a kind of a funny name. So but I think people who hear the name, they assume that it’s this really kind of hippie festival, which it’s not. It’s really  about community and it’s about health and wellness. And also really promoting high craft and makers that are actually artists making what they make. But in a really elevated way. So it’s not like a craft fair where there’s dreamcatchers and things like that.

And nowadays when you travel, where do you like to go?

It’s hard. I haven’t traveled much since having a child. The last place we went was Orcas Island, which was amazing. It’s near Seattle. You take a ferry out to the Puget Sound Islands. And they’re so magical.

Do you feel like you have a special relationship to this part of the country (west coast) a little bit?

Yeah. I do. I mean I grew up in LA and thought I would never move back after living in NY. I didn’t connect with the culture here at all. But now that I’m back, I realize it’s really what you make of it. And the people are really amazing here. All my friends from New York are slowly moving here. That was the part that was hardest for me to leave, but everyone’s moving here. So that’s great. You can drive for eight hours north and the whole way up is just magical. All the way up, all the way up to Canada.

Where do you stay when you go up there?

Usually with friends or rent a house. We rented the cutest place in Inverness that was really magical through BoutiqueHomes. You guys have the most amazing places all over the world. I don’t understand how you find them all.

Curation, curation! There’s definitely been a shift in the way people travel, it used to be such a luxurious thing. And nowadays it’s kind of changed with the economy and just the way the people are getting along with each other. It’s less and less about luxury hotels, and more and more about just authenticity.

Definitely. I really feel like having my house as a vacation rental really changed the way I believe in humanity and trust people. Because when you are forced to interact with strangers all the time and trust them in your space or be in their spaces, you end up just making friends. And everyone’s amazing. And you attract the right energy usually.

So that’s why I’m so excited about renting my place, you meet people from all over the world that feel connected to your aesthetic for a reason. And then you have a place to stay when you go traveling. And it’s all — it’s really ultimately all about community.

When you travel you prefer to stay mostly with friends or home rentals. Why not hotels?

I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel. They’re too expensive. I like to camp. I haven’t camped much recently but I gotta start that ritual, ’cause now my daughter’s two and a half, so it’s time to get that going. I’m gonna go to Mexico, I’m hosting a retreat at Verana actually.

What do you think about the concept of luxury, especially doing the work that you do with interiors? People have certain concepts of what things are supposed to look like from a luxury point of view. 

For me luxury is about freedom. And even in design, we never try to cater to what people want. So much energy goes into creating what we create. It’s just about what we want, and really trying to stay true to the crazy aesthetic that we love, and just trusting that the right people will see it, and that there will be someone that can afford it, that will want us to create these realms. And they’re really kind of like psychedelic realms that we’ve done.

And so I don’t know, I guess luxury for me is like — I would never think of using the word luxury. But when you frame it in that way, it is about freedom. It’s about doing whatever you want because you can. And unfortunately we’re in a really weird capitalistic society where you need resources to do those things. I just want to have experiences. And now that I’ve created this home, it’s not about just having a fancy place to live. It’s about using it as an art project, continually evolving with new projects. And the living room has changed — it’s had 10 different incarnations since we’ve moved here, because we make furniture, and then hopefully it sells, and then we have new ideas. And I love that. And I hope that it’s forever.

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