A Japanese Inspired Remodel with Stephani Gan

Discover the unique journey of interior designer Stephani Gan and her latest Japanese-inspired remodel in Pasadena.
A Japanese Inspired Remodel with Stephani Gan

Andrew Livingston’s New York Loft

05 01 24
Interviewing an individual whose journey has taken them from the glamor of the modeling and acting world to the nuanced realm of interior design offers a unique perspective. From beginnings as a homeowner tackling renovations out of necessity to embracing a newfound passion, Stephani Gan’s path to becoming an interior designer is as inspiring as it is unexpected. We reminisced with Stephani about her latest project – a beautiful mid-century home surrounded by Oak and Eucalyptus trees, offering a respite from the hustle and bustle of Pasadena, California.


You have a unique journey to becoming an interior designer, can you share the story?

I used to work as a model and an actor. When you’re just getting started in that industry, there are a lot of auditions and casting calls, but not a lot of income! My husband and I bought our first family house. It needed a lot of work, and since we were very limited on resources we were forced to do everything ourselves. From design, to architecture, permitting, etc. I was doing all of the design myself and found that I really loved it!

We ended up selling that house for a profit, and realized this is something we were really good at and both loved. So, we bought another one! Eventually, I decided to just focus on this one thing, and I let go of modeling and acting. At this point, I’m not looking back, because I feel like I’ve really found my passion in design.


Tell me a little bit about your design work, aesthetic and inspirations.

This is the fourth house my husband and I have renovated and sold. I work on the design side, while he handles logistics and permitting, and works with contractors.

This might be the actor in me talking, but I feel like asking a designer what their aesthetic is, is like asking what kind of music you like. I want people to capture my work with feelings. To find a sense of calm, relaxed, warm minimalism. But, I don’t feel like I have one particular aesthetic. I find a lot of inspiration from traveling, reading, and appreciating the design that came before me. I blend ideas together, and then try to put my own unique stamp on it.


What initially drew you to the Pasadena house?

We were so mesmerized by the view and the architecture. The house is filled with these huge, beautiful windows, and it was so serene and calm. It feels so different from standard LA, where everything is so compact. The house is technically in a subdivision, but it’s surrounded by oak trees and eucalyptus. And you can hear nature, which is weird! You don't feel like you're in Pasadena or LA. It really draws you in.

What we didn’t know at the time was that the house wasn’t actually livable!


Originally tan, with an orange door, the home received an updated deep brown exterior.

Oh no! What did you find when you actually went into the house?

Nothing worked! Only one burner on the stove functioned, the dishwasher didn’t work. All of the storage was moldy. And then we find out that the bathroom was temporarily caulked and every time you flush or take a shower, the basement would flood. It needed way more work than we originally imagined.


Bathroom before and after


So, how long did this project take?

It's a bit hard to say! We started during COVID, so there was a lot of starting and stopping. We were also living in the house at the same time, so it slowed the process down. But I think if you combine all of the time together, it was probably one year.


Tell us about your favorite transformation in the home!

Opportunities to be an observer in general are inspiring to me. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories of how they got to be where they are, old buildings you find while traveling, and landscapes. For that reason I love traveling alone sometimes - so I can take time to appreciate small details I would have overlooked while on someone else’s schedule. I can revisit and photograph something after thinking about it all day and watching the light.


Kitchen before and after


And what about your least favorite? Which project gave you the most headache?

The funny part is that our first renovation was a mid-century home. After we sold that one, we were like “No more mid-century please. Too many windows!” But, the natural light just draws you in, and this house has even more windows than our first one. There are 51 of them. They’re all custom and they all needed to be replaced! It was very important to me to keep that connection the house has with the outdoors through those windows, so we kept their original form. When you see it finished, you’re like, “whoa, I can't believe the accomplishment.” But, when you're in the moment, it's so repetitive and stressful. It was definitely worth it in the end though.


Do you have any advice for someone just starting a renovation project?

Don't take things too seriously! You know, you can have a plan and a vision, but don't get too attached to that. If something doesn't work out, or if you have to shift, be okay with it!


Is there anything you feel was left unfinished in the house? Or what would you still be tinkering with if you were there?

Definitely the landscaping and outdoors! Since we were doing a lot of this work ourselves, the majority of our time was spent on the interior. ​​I would have done a lot more with the landscaping if I was still there. We did install 66 hedges! But, I would put in a pool and maybe some type of outdoor Japanese hot tub structure. It’s just so beautiful and relaxing out there, with the birds chirping and the breeze flowing through the trees.

I was also just learning to do landscaping with this home. But now, after all of those hedge, I feel like I’m a pro. I know I’d be doing so much planting!



To see more of Stephani Gan’s work, visit her instagram.

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