Jason Ortiz first moved into his San Luis Obispo condo at 31. A young designer in his second year with San Luis Traditions, he had more ideas than cash at his disposal to create a personal space out of a generic rental.
Flash forward six years and Ortiz’s career is more established, as is his personal style. A recent revamp of the 900-square-foot condo reflects that evolution.
The interior redesign took place gradually, over the course of a year, as his budget and time permitted. As a renter, changes were limited to new furniture, lighting, art and accessories — but that would prove to be enough to meet his goals.
“I was tired of the same cookie-cutter, neutral-toned traditional interior,” he said. “I wanted to spice things up, add some color, not be so style-specific.”
He started his redesign with the sofa, and one rule.
“I wanted minimal brown this time, which of course meant getting rid of the brown sofa,” he said. “Once I swapped it out for a more cheerful color, it kind of got my creative juices flowing.”
The new sofa is a modern, block-armed piece, upholstered in champagne fabric with a subtle herringbone pattern. Like the other furniture in his condo, it is full-size.
“People are really fearful of using full-scale furniture in a small space, but full-size pieces give you more — more seating, more function,” he said. “Instead of lots of little things which make a space feel cluttered and cramped, I use fewer, larger pieces.”
Ortiz conjured up a number of tricks for making his space feel larger. Among them was swapping out a generic, wood-veneer coffee table for a glass-topped table that is a replica of a piece by modern designer Isamu Noguchi. Although the table is a generous size, its transparency gives the illusion of more space.
The condo was originally decorated in safe earth tones with red accents. Ortiz now has the confidence to mix colors and patterns in more daring combinations. He began with a sapphire blue rug in the living room, which inspired pillows of the same hue. He then pulled a deep purple from a favorite painting and used it on an ottoman and other accessories.
“I like deep, saturated colors,” he said. “In my opinion, red, blue and purple are from the same family of colors, so they work together.”
Ortiz’s yen for modern design shows up in a new lamp, which replaced a simple glass pendant in the dining area. Sculptural and sinuous, it is an orb made of many plastic pieces that hook together like a puzzle. The modern motif continues in the upstairs loft, which Ortiz transformed from an unremarkable office space into a sophisticated sitting area with the addition of a modern sofa, coffee table and display case.
Art brings a new, personal element to the space. In the beginning, Ortiz simply bought generic prints from a poster store.
“It was just something to get on the wall,” he said. “Now I want things to have more meaning.”
His new collection includes photos taken by his aunt, and a painting of Lucille Ball by artist friend Witney Kline.
Accessories also tell a personal story. The coral displayed on his coffee table is from a favorite shop in Morro Bay. On the shelving unit in the loft are gifts from family and friends, favorite photos, and a display box filled with seashells gleaned during morning strolls on the beach.
Ortiz has plans to move in an even more modern direction. He hopes to change out his generic, red parsons dining chairs with low, white modern ones. He also is in the process of buying more original art.
“It’s what we’ve been saying to clients all along,” he said. “Don’t just decorate a room to follow a trend. Follow your personal style. You should live with what makes your heart happy.”