From managing some of the music industry's hottest talent at MTV in New York City to flipping houses in Highland Park, Real Estate Investor and Design Consultant, Lyndsay Siegel, has a few stories to tell! Did we mention she's also a triplet?
Do you remember your first week in LA?
I moved here in the beginning of 2009. I was working at MTV in New York, and I was laid off during the economic downfall. Then I broke a bone in my foot, which was really traumatic because it was the dead of winter and I had a cast on. So I was like, “OK, fuck you, New York. We need a break from each other. I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you.”
Kind of on a whim, I decided to sublet a place in LA. I came out here for a week, intending to stay a month. Then I signed a lease for an apartment in Los Feliz. I called my friends and family and said, “I’m moving to LA.”
Did you have a job lined up?
No, but I was already doing strategic marketing consulting after I left MTV. That was before I got into real estate.
Let’s talk about working at MTV for a moment. What was that like?
I think I was at a stage where I was getting to know myself. We all go through different phases, I guess, and that was definitely a learning period for me. I was a marketing and talent coordinator, so I loved working with the creatives and meeting all these celebrity musicians. I got to meet people I idolized, everyone from Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore to Peter Murphy and Dave Grohl.
It was an important time in my life but it didn’t last that long; it was only three and half years. I think that what I do now is so much more significant. I would always question: What was I really doing to help people? Now I’m putting first-time homebuyers into their homes.
How did you go from MTV to doing what you do now?
I get asked that a lot. I think that’s because 1) there aren’t a lot of women working in construction, and 2) in LA so many people work in agencies. So working in real estate is so interesting for people.
It was really organic. I was doing marketing consulting and not really saving the money I wanted to save. It wasn’t as lucrative as I hoped it would be. I bought my first house in Highland Park in 2012 and I flipped it and I did well. Then I bought another one.
Can you explain what the term “flipping” means?
Yes, so I buy distressed homes, primarily in Highland Park. I renovate them and put them back on the market and sell them.
That sounds like an incredible amount of work, money and time.
Yeah, but it’s fun. The hardest part is working with the city on permits and coding and taxes. I’m constantly paying taxes.
I just sort of found my niche. It’s weird—I almost haven’t said out loud that I’m a designer now. I wasn’t classically trained or anything. I still feel like I bow down to designers. You know what I mean?
It’s more than just interior design, right?
Yeah, and I don’t really do interior design. I would say it’s more like interior architecture. It’s more about the hardware, the piping, the sewer, the termites, roofing…. It’s so much more than, “What color tiles should I do in the master bathroom?”
I find it fascinating that you were doing something successfully, and now you’re doing something completely different.
But it’s not that different. So much of what I do now is about picking the right person for the job, and that’s what I did when I booked talent for MTV. I created my own company and brand, so I had to do a lot of the marketing for that. And real estate is so much about strategy—you can’t just put a house on the market and expect it to sell.
So you renovated and sold your first home and thought, “This could be something.”
Yeah. At first it was more about the money, I think. I thought, “I’m going to try it and if I don’t do that well I won’t keep doing it.” But then I did really well and thought that maybe there’s something here. Because I made money I was able to buy another place. Now I’m doing two or three at a time.
That’s amazing. Is that what you do solely now?
Yeah, and I do design consultation, too.
Ten years ago would you have thought that this is what you’d be doing?
Nope. But my mom was like, “I always knew you’d be doing something like this.” She said that I was really creative and into art as a kid, and she thought I wasn’t putting that to use enough in my previous jobs.
Did you feel that, too?
Yeah, I felt like there was this power and confidence that was pushed down in me, which didn’t light up until I found a career I was passionate about.
I think some people are really able to separate their life from their career, but I’ve never really been able to do that. They’ve always been so intertwined for me. The music community here is still a big part of my friendship group. I feel like the creative people always find each other.
I guess you just fall into things. But I think there were more things guiding me to LA than I thought. I just wasn’t listening before. Then when I found this path, I thought, “Oh shit! I think this is what I’m meant to be doing.”
I was OK doing the marketing stuff and making a living, but it just wasn’t exciting for me. I think if you’re the type of person that works on yourself, you can find it.
Is that how you would describe yourself?
As someone who works on themselves? Yeah, always. Through therapy. I’m a New York Jew! [Laughs] I think it’s about being open. There’s that saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Don’t try to run away from things; face them head-on.
I think, for me, LA was this beacon of new territory. I’m a triplet and we all sort of followed each other around. Not necessarily intentionally. We all went to college back east and then we all went back to New York. Now we’ve all scattered. My sister is in Brooklyn, my brother is in San Francisco with his wife and baby, and I’m here in LA.
No one in the Siegel family had planted a flag in LA yet, so I wanted to try it out. Beyond the fact that I just really like it and there’s a ton of cool shit going on here. Now it’s sort of like “my city.”
Do you think that was the point where you developed your own identity?
Yeah, I think so! It was terrifying. I didn’t really have any friends here and no family. I never lived in a place with no family around. I come from a really tight family. It was this sense of freedom for me.
What about the perception New Yorkers have about LA? Did you have that at all?
Yeah, I did and sometimes I still kind of do. Sometimes you just want to say what’s on your mind like New Yorkers do. LA is a little hesitant with that.
Do you look at New York differently now?
For me, personally, it’s so frenetic there. There’s such a frenetic energy in New York, and I think it’s to do with the Pacific and the Atlantic and the calming of the Pacific on the west side.
Going back to New York now, it’s an adrenalin rush. I can see how much better it is in LA for me. Maybe it’s being near the Pacific, or it’s the people, or that the sun is always shining. I don’t know.
Do you have any plans for the next five years?
I’d really like to continue flipping houses and design consulting. But I would really like to be doing retail work, as well, helping brands build spaces.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give?
Trust yourself. Sometimes you want to follow your gut but you’re scared. But that’s really where your power is. If you can let your gut and you head talk to each other and you trust yourself, then you can accomplish whatever you want.
Isn’t that what life is all about? I don’t think I could have moved to LA if I wasn’t listening to myself, even though I was scared. I don’t think I could’ve started a business if I wasn’t like, “You can do this!” However cheesy that sounds, I think it’s really true. The sooner that you can trust that you’re OK, then the sooner you can do everything you want to do.
You live in Silver Lake. What do you think about it?
I love Silver Lake. I think it has a bad rap of being this “hipster community” and I apologize in advance if I am one of those. I can walk down the hill and there are so many different bars, restaurants and shops. It’s really close to Highland Park where I do all my work.
I love Café Stella and Bar Stella. Pine & Crane is really good. It’s Taiwanese. I like Blossom a lot. Dream Collective is close by, right next to Alfred Coffee. Moon Juice is really yummy. There’s so much around here.
Where do you take out-of-towners?
I’m a museum/gallery girl, so I’d probably take people to the LACMA or the Getty Center. The Getty Villa is really cool but I think the Getty Center is more magnificent. The view and the gardens are beautiful. The MOCA is great, too. The Broad opened not that long ago. La Cienaga is probably my favorite gallery street.
What does LA mean to you?
It’s really a sense of freedom for me. It’s art, it’s calm, it’s green, it’s for foodies, it’s relaxing. Yeah!
Find out more about Lyndsay's work at Tradecraft.
Photography by Magdalena Wielopolski ©