LOS ANGELES - With the sale of just one of his Ten Pound cashmere blankets, which do in fact weigh 10 pounds, clothing-and-accessories designer Greg Chait can pretty much cover his monthly expenses. That's because each blanket sells for $2,000 or more - and because he lives in a 600-square-foot Los Angeles-area Venice Beach surf shack.
Chait's spare, casually decorated cottage may not seem a likely setting for the designer of handmade cashmere goods sold through 15 upscale fashion retailers from Los Angeles to New York. But this place, which easily could be the bachelor pad of a musician or filmmaker, exudes a low-key cool that fits Chait as snugly as one of his sweaters.
Chait, 31, parlayed his experience working at a talent agency to launch the cult denim label Ksubi and, more recently, his own line, the Elder Statesman. He began the latter with a simple goal: to produce the ideal cashmere blanket. Today, the collection features two dozen items, including the Baja sweater, a Mongolian goat-wool interpretation of the old Guatemalan surfer hoodie. (You can see Chait's version at barneys.com, where the sweater is on sale for a mere $1,299.)
He runs the business from his home because of the creative vibe. Because Chait travels to New York, Europe, Mexico and Central America frequently, he wanted a low-maintenance home.
"Not having to keep up a certain lifestyle allows you to make creative decisions," he says. "I don't have a lot of the worries that some people do. I like being able to lock the front door and just bail."
For a man who once lived in a 4,000-square-foot hillside Los Angeles home where he used only three rooms, downsizing was a lifestyle choice, not a financial imperative.
"I've never been into sitting rooms that people never sit in," Chait says. "I like the smell and feel of things that are lived in."
At about 600 square feet, his living space must be used to its fullest. The living room is off a galley kitchen with a cast concrete breakfast bar; the bathroom is large enough to fit an old tub, and a queen mattress is squeezed into the bedroom niche.
"It's quite a lot of cozy corners, nooks to put a chair and light," he says, pointing to his morning reading area on the glass-enclosed front porch. "I don't dream of anything bigger and I don't lack for anything."
He did perform a little carpentry, adding teak-edged birch shelves in the living room and solid cherry planks for storage in the bedroom.
"The biggest downfall to a small space is you can't leave things lying around," he says. "And it helps if you can move things."
Toward that end, his coffee table is an industrial cart with a slate top, flanked by kilim-covered ottomans. In the bedroom, open shelves keep clothing organized, and a retro metal-pole lamp serves as a display rack for Chait's collection of scarves from around the world. An Amish bench from the L.A. store Nickey Kehoe serves as an easel for framed art by Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente and Chait's grandmother.
In such a small space, Chait derives maximum impact with lighting, including an old railroad lantern and industrial glass fixtures dangling from plain cords. Colorful fabrics add their textures: On the bed, Chait mixes flannel sheets from Target with cashmere shams and throws from his own line. The bedspread is made from a richly patched indigo Japanese futon cover bought at www.ichiroya.com
Despite its size, the cottage works well for entertaining, Chait says. Equipped with bamboo plates, stainless-steel bowls, plain white dishes from Surfas and Fiesta ware mugs, he hosts six to eight people easily for a smorgasbord. Soon, he'll be able to throw the windows open and savor "that 6 o'clock summer smell, when everyone has had a nice day."
A second living room with a rustic wooden daybed, coffee table and portable fire pit beckons visitors outside, where Chait's surfboards rest on a wall above a tiny flower garden.
"It's calm. It's comfortable," he says of his home.
"I feel like I've figured out how I need to live to make me happy."