Mr Gray Malin
We visit the West Hollywood home of the photographer who makes a living from capturing – and living – the good life.
There’s something strangely inviting about the photography of Mr Gray Malin, whose vibrant aerial shots of sunseekers on beaches almost seem to beckon you into the frame. “Come on in,” they whisper. “The water’s fine.” In colour and composition they’re reminiscent of the work of Mr Slim Aarons, a photographer who made his name capturing the rich and famous at play – “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places”, as he put it. But there’s no such elitism in Mr Malin’s work, no velvet rope. It’s aspirational in its depictions of beautiful places and people at leisure, but there’s an inclusive feel to it, too. “We all work hard so that we can go on vacation. We all strive for that moment on the beach or by the pool. It’s something we all aspire towards, and that’s what I try to capture,” he explains. “A moment that you want to live in.”
Mr Malin, 28, lives in West Hollywood with Jeff, his husband of two years, and Stella, their dog, in a recently renovated 1930s bungalow that’s every bit as charming and colourful as his photography. Their home also functions as a showroom of sorts for the Gray Malin “brand” – something that began with photographic prints but has expanded to incorporate everything from iPhone covers and wallpaper to deck shoes and surfboards. Swim shorts by Orlebar Brown printed with Mr Malin’s glamorous beach scenes have recently featured on MR PORTER.
Mr Malin's bright, airy living space. His dog Stella can be seen on the right
The colours predominant in Mr Malin's photography are echoed in the features of the room – such as in the teal of this dresser
Coffee table books and souvenirs line the shelves that he purchased from One Kings Lane in San Francisco
Of course, he isn’t the only one shooting the good life aquatic these days – other names such as Mr Massimo Vitali spring to mind. But Mr Malin’s “À La Plage” series seems especially well made for prints. There’s a striking, near-mathematical geometry to the way that sunbathers arrange themselves on busy beaches that’s only fully apparent when seen from above. When combined with the vibrant colours of the beach towels and parasols, it makes for an eye-catching pattern. But his expansion into other media wasn’t just about that. It also gave him a way of widening his scope, and allowing a greater number of people to buy into what he increasingly sees as an all-encompassing lifestyle brand.
“With little things such as iPhone cases, I love that we’re giving younger people the chance to buy into this idea of a ‘Gray Malin’ moment,” he says. “When they’re a little older and they move into their first apartment, maybe they can buy a framed print to put on the wall.” This idea now underpins his brand, but only came to him after he had been working for a few years and had a chance to look back at a few of the places that he had been: the Hamptons, the Amalfi Coast, the Greek isles, Aspen. “At first I felt naturally drawn to these places. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to Positano? It was only later that I realised the theme that runs through all of my work: it’s the good life.”
The home's location in West Hollywood is referenced in this black and white image
Porcupine spines from South Africa
An iPhone with a Gray Malin cover lies on a pile of coffee table books
Explain the design philosophy of your home.
My personal philosophy is that I like to keep the foundation of the room very neutral. The furniture, the seagrass rug, even the colour of the walls – it’s all in white, cream or grey. I can then dictate the colour scheme of the room by rotating out the art on the walls and changing little things such as the pillows and the throws to match.
How often do you rotate it?
There’s no schedule – I just change it when it feels right. But I’m constantly evolving as a photographer and as an artist, and I want the living space to reflect that. You can see how I really want to live within the image on a daily basis.
Do you keep anyone else’s artworks?
We have a few pieces from other artists and photographers that we love. But I have so much more of an emotional connection to my own photography – it really takes me back to those moments.
Do you and your husband have similar tastes?
I’m from Texas but my style is more east-coast preppy. Jeff’s from the east coast – we met in Boston, where we both went to college. So we share that in common. We have our differences, of course. Jeff works in tech – he’s left-brained, I’m right-brained. But we complement each other well.
How does this east-coast feel come through in your home?
There’s a nautical influence in the home – but we don’t live by the sea and we didn’t want it to look like a beach shack, so we kept it subtle. There’s a navy blue detail on the window blinds, for instance, that just gives a little hint. I really do love that colour.
"Viareggio Pool", one of the pieces from Mr Malin's series "La Dolce Vita"
What other themes run through your home?
There’s a lightness to the room, what with all the neutral colours and soft furnishings, so we balanced this out with a few pieces of Art-Deco furniture. The shelving units introduce some height to the room and give it a lot of power and masculinity.
How have your travels influenced your design philosophy?
The home is full of little pieces that remind me of my travels. I keep some porcupine spines from a trip to South Africa – my mother used to have them in the house I grew up in, so they remind me of South Africa and of growing up. And I’ve received a lot of gifts from my equally well-travelled relatives. The magnifying glasses are from an aunt in Belgium, and my grandparents gave me a huge collection of antique boxes, many of which you can see on the shelves.
You seem have a lot of coffee table books…
Oh, I buy coffee table books like I buy coffee! That’s not to suggest that I think I have too many of them, though.
Where do you shop for your furniture?
A lot of the pieces you can see here are from a wonderful store called One Kings Lane. It’s based in San Francisco but there’s a branch here in LA. The staff were instrumental in helping to bring our new house together.
Follow Mr Gray Malin @graymalin