Girl-power entrepreneur Danielle Nagel on
finding her architectural doppelgänger—
and bringing the positive vibes outside
Graphic tee magnate Danielle Nagel is no stranger to digital accolades. As the visionary creator of the “empowering apparel” and lifestyle brand DazeyLA, Dani’s painterly designs, and pretty palettes—along with her signature blunt bob, often in a matching shade—are all over the internet. But then it was an unexpected side-hustle that seemed to get all the attention: the Palm Springs home she transformed into one of Airbnb’s most coveted rentals.
When Dani and her boyfriend Philip first started looking for a home in Los Angeles, they experienced all the heartbreaking first-time-buyer clichés one might expect in a city famous for fierce competition and sticker shock. Aiming for the eclectic charm of neighborhoods like Los Feliz and Silverlake—long favored by the creative class—virtually guaranteed bidding wars and way-over-asking prices. It was exhausting, disheartening, and ultimately unsuccessful. “We had just been burned SO many times,” Nagel said.
Miracle, or Mirage?
If you’ve spent any time scrolling through DazeyLA’s Instagram account, you already know that her personal aesthetic skews graphic, quirky and colorful. So it won’t be much of a surprise to learn that a single trip to Palm Springs Modernism Week sparked something in Dani who is a decidedly visual thinker. After a few days of mingling, meeting homeowners and touring spaces, Dani and Philip were intrigued and inspired by the desert modern scene.
Dani says, “On a whim, I sort of popped onto Zillow and basically stopped dead when I saw the house. I showed Phillip, and we were both surprised that this amazing piece of art was for sale.” The house was comfortably in the couple’s price range, and they were thrilled to learn that Palm Springs home buyers are largely exempt from the over-asking nonsense that plagues Angelenos. There was just one small problem: their jobs were in LA.
“The house was 100% on-brand for me,” Dani continues. “We couldn’t stop thinking about it.” Eventually, the couple hit on the idea of keeping a rental in Los Angeles, making their first home a vacation home—and listing it on Airbnb to offset the cost of their two-residence life. It’s a classic millennial solution: crafty, creative and just a little bit risky. Dazey Desert House would turn out to be a risk worth taking…and ultimately, a tangerine dream come true.
As an idealist in a city known for its cynicism, Dani is no stranger to calculated risks. A self-taught illustrator, graphic designer, and photographer, she obtained her degree in fashion design before she turned 20—and set out styling her own career as an apparel graphics artist. What would she say to young creative women struggling to put food on the table while trying to stay true to their art? “Put in your time!” she says.
“I spent about six years designing for large companies like Anthropologie, Neiman Marcus, and Current/Elliot before striking out on my own,” Dani continues. “It’s the most practical advice I can give: work hard, get the experience and save your money, so you can actually fund your creativity when you’re ready to pursue your daydream.”
And the strategy paid off—as the founder of DazeyLA, Dani is able to enjoy total creative freedom while sprinkling support and positivity over anyone who needs it. Her hand-painted graphic tee designs sport empowering messages like Do the Damn Dream, No Validation Needed and Be Bizarre—Be Who You Are. Most designs are made to order (to eliminate waste), and many are constructed from deadstock fabric. All are ethically made.
Sunshine by Design
Dani’s long-term career strategy (along with her fierce female attitude) helped her Palm Springs plan go off without a hitch. So when the couple closed on their new home with just a week to go until the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, it was “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.” Dani’s aesthetic is clearly defined, and the house already had a strong point of view as well. Starting with the punchy pop of orange in the exterior entryway, she says, “we let the house dictate how we were going to design it, and just tried to stay true to the vibe.”
And the accelerated timeline was a benefit, in a way; it left no time for second-guessing and also forced the couple to work with off-the-shelf commercial designers rather than spend a year (and a fortune) sourcing the perfect vintage pieces. “Joybird was great to work with!” Dani says. “Their pieces look great and really hold up to the wear and tear of a rental property. The leather actually ages really authentically, so the couches are taking on a vintage feel anyway.”
Like Nagel, mid-century modern is definitely having its moment in the sun—particularly with Millennials. “MCM is really a great time for architecture,” she says. “It’s so clean and stylish, and there’s a timelessness about it that almost anyone can appreciate.” But while she let the property’s dramatic angles and lightplay dictate the general direction of her design choices, in many ways the house served up a perfectly primed blank canvas for Dani’s vision.
Surprisingly, Nagel’s favorite moment in the Dazey Desert House interior features not her own designs, but the work of another artist: her grandmother. “She was an amazing artist, and it’s her work that inspired me to follow my own muse.” When she passed away about a month after the couple bought their house, they found that she’d left behind a colorful legacy: hundreds of vibrant paintings that matched the house’s bright, hopeful energy.
As a tribute, Nagel created an unforgettable gallery wall in the living room: eight of her grandmother’s original paintings, anchored by an arresting, tile-inspired wallpaper from Hygge & West. Perhaps more than any other view of the house, this wall had become the house’s bold signature piece—until, that is, she decided to take the sunny vibes outside.
Going to Extremes
After the Coachella quick-turn, Dani and Phillip were at a loss with what to do about the house’s spacious backyard. “We had hardly touched it. There was a table-and-chair set that came with the house; I basically spray-painted it and called it a day. We didn’t even know where to begin! There was all this dead space that we didn’t know how to fill—not to mention the extreme wind and sun of the Palm Springs climate. It was intimidating.”
But when Dani met BOXHILL founder Elizabeth Przygoda at the Alt Summit, a plan quickly clicked into place. “We knew we had to ramp up our outdoor game, particularly because of Airbnb,” Nagel said. “The backyard was basically unusable for much of the year—it was too hot and bright. At first, we thought we’d add an awning, but we didn’t want to mess with the beautiful lines of the architecture.” The couple was also concerned about nighttime temperatures in the winter when Palm Spring is at its most desirable.
To solve the summer shade problem, Elizabeth created an outdoor flex space with a shade structure, furnishing the new outdoor room with a comfy outdoor sofa and colorful outdoor pillows in the home’s signature hot-orange hue.
To solve the winter chill problem, Elizabeth chose the Royal Fire Pit in tangerine, surrounded by matching Acapulco Patio Chairs. “Those chairs are crazy comfy and such a statement—which is a lot, coming from me!”
Montgomery chose the sleek Click Round Dining Table and chairs in a mixed palette of cool tones to complement the warm wood—all on a custom-painted concrete disk that she and Nagel painted together.
A pair of sleek white pool loungers give snowbirds a place to soak up the desert sun, and commercial-grade market lights add year-round charm.
“Elizabeth just swooped in and transformed the space,” Nagel said. “It feels like we doubled our square footage! Honestly, we had intended to use it primarily as a rental—but we end up spending at least a week out of every month out here.” And yet, as with every creative endeavor, to the artist, it’s never really finished. “Oh, there’s definitely a phase two!” Nagel said, laughing. With Boxhill’s help, she plans to make the backyard an extension of the house’s tiny kitchen—complete with a sink and countertop, a long dining table, a hot tub, and even an outdoor shower. “It should be a place our guests want to share with their favorite people.”
Because, after all, art’s greatest value is the joy it gives to others.