Girl Friday: Isabelle Dahlin
Photography by: Kristen Honey
With blonde hair and dewy skin, Isabelle Dahlin may look like a stereotypical L.A. girl, but she’s far from it. She’s a direct import from Sweden, in fact. While she’s bold, confident, and unapologetically outspoken, her flair for design, art and visual aesthetics is what defines her most accurately. Beyond her tough exterior lies a nurturing, imaginative and creative soul whose greatest joy is art. Isabelle is the endlessly talented owner of DeKor LA, a boutique located in the hip neighborhood of Echo Park, that offers eclectic furnishings, whimsical textiles and unique housewares, as well as interior design services. A truer representation of Isabelle is her home: warm, inviting, and playful, with a reclaimed wooden swing dangling in the living room. In her backyard cottage studio, she’s a focused sculptor with hands as skilled as a surgeon’s. Her thumbs, however are green as they come, as evidenced by her lush and expansive gardens where she cultivates vegetables, herbs and other lovely blooms. And yes, she does raise chickens.
You were born and raised in Sweden. What was your childhood like?
I had a great childhood. My mom is an artist and my dad works in cancer research, so I had an interesting blend of influences in both arts and science. You get so much support from the government when you have a child in Sweden; since school is free, parents have less stress, which I think in turn benefits the kids. It’s a really great place to grow up, but of course, all I dreamed about was living in the States. The winter months of oppressive darkness and cold were ultimately the catalyst in making my move to the States a reality, and I haven’t looked back since! I love living here! I do miss my parents though… They still live in Sweden.
Are there any major cultural differences you notice between Sweden and the United States?
Oh, Jesus, I could write a thesis on that. I think one the biggest differences is that contrary to popular belief, we Swedes do not run around naked ALL the time. (There is a quite a difference between how Americans feel about nudity versus the Swedes.) Another thing I’ve noticed is how much more informed the Swedes are on worldly news. But for that, I blame the media here!
How did your passion for interior design come about?
I believe it started before I was 9, somewhat subconsciously, and fully developed into a passion by the time I was 15.
Unbeknownst to many, interior design is a very emotional process. Sometimes it’s challenging for the client to let go of old ideas and take risks, which often ultimately turns out to be just what they were looking for
I remember re-arranging my room at least twice a month, and always begging my parents for the latest trends in wallpaper. I also wanted to be an actress, but at the same time I have always been interested in art and space and how they affect our moods.
You’re the owner and curator of DeKor, a furniture and interior design boutique in Echo Park. What do you enjoy most about interior design? What do you find challenging?
I really enjoy making people happy. I absolutely believe that someone’s surroundings have a huge impact on their well-being. Sourcing and finding one-of-a-kind vintage and antique pieces from all over the world is the most fun and fulfilling part of my work. Unbeknownst to many, interior design is a very emotional process. Sometimes it’s challenging for the client to let go of old ideas and take risks, which often ultimately turns out to be just what they were looking for.
How did you finally decide to open your own store?
I was always seeing these amazing pieces when I was sourcing for my clients and one day I thought, why don’t I just open a store so I can share all these cool things with everyone? It came together pretty quickly after I decided to do it. When I decide to do something I get crazy focused and can’t stop until its done.
You and longtime boyfriend, Brandon Boudet have been together for over a decade, and have built a beautiful home together. What has influenced your joint decision to not marry?
I don’t think it’s a concious decision but it’s never something I dreamt about, and I know Brandon feels the same. Culturally, we just don’t feel we need that piece of paper.
With Brandon the chef-owner of several LA restaurants, and you an independant business owner, you both must be extremely busy. How to you keep your relationship strong?
It definitely takes work and patience, but we do make an effort to schedule time out for just us.
Your home and garden were just featured in Sunset Magazine. When did you develop your green thumb?
My parents are avid gardeners, and so both my brother and I were taught how to grow and take care of plants when we were very young. I remember we both had four rows in the vegetable garden where we could plant whatever we liked. It was so great! Nothing makes me happier than being in nature and helping things grow.
You’re an avid traveler. What are some of your essential travel tips?
Pack light, bring Zanex, have patience.
In the middle of this wild place with such beautiful creatures, I was struck with a deep sense of belonging. It really felt like this was where life began.
What has been the most transformative travel experience you’ve had?
My favorite trip was to Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. In the midst of so much poverty and struggle, I was still able to feel a great sense of happiness and of ‘coming home’. In the middle of this wild place with such beautiful creatures, I was struck with a deep sense of belonging. It really felt like this was where life began. I guess I have a deep connection with Africa– I just returned from Morocco, and I’m in love! I also want to mention the Greek Islands! I have been going there since I was a teenager and love them. The Aegean Sea is by far my favorite ocean!
How would you describe your style ?
My design style is eclectic modern with a dash of Scandia, sprinkled with ethnic patterns and surprising details. I love breaking the rules. My fashion style is edgy with a touch of sophistication.
What are some of your go-to items in your closet?
Knee-high lace-up army boots, black skinny jeans, my DVF wrap dress.
Are you harboring any beauty secrets from Sweden you want to share?
Well, it’s not a secret, but in Sweden exercise is a part of life–for the entire country. I am a firm believer in diet and exercise. And vitamin E oil! I use that on my face at night.
Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce.