10/14/19: This article is being updated with additional comments as the story develops.
Last week, we shared the news that the now sold-out Lisa Frank Flat was popping up at a high-end residence development in Downtown. Turns out that the colorful space looks suspiciously similar to Cloudland, the whimsical loft of rainbow-loving designer and content creator Amina Mucciolo and her husband/business partner, Salvatore Mucciolo, who just happen to reside in the building next door. That's not all: The couple is being evicted after nearly three years of living in the multi-story development, and they suspect that it may somehow be related to their DTLA digs' apparent doppelganger neighbor. (H/t to the commenters who tipped us off on Instagram!)
The landlord of the Mucciolos' soon-to-be-former Downtown building partners with high-end hospitality company Barsala to book out its vacant units. Barsala teamed with Lisa Frank and Hotels.com to create the limited-run room, which sold out within an hour that online reservations became available October 11. Though the Lisa Frank Flat is housed in the sister building owned by the same developer and run by the same building management, Mucciolo expressed concern in a recent tweet that the development's owner and manager "is trying to get rid of us so they can use the space in the same way. They clearly see the value in a colorful design."
We reached out to Amina Mucciolo, who tells UncoverLA that she found out about the Lisa Frank room "because of my community. People were tagging me on Instagram, asking me if it was my place and if I did it. My initial reaction was shock and confusion because I immediately thought it looked like my house, but I questioned myself a lot too."
Mucciolo tells us that "we were a couple [of] weeks late to make rent and [that was] their reasoning/response [for the eviction notice]. They simply said that 'this decision comes straight from the owner and we want you out.' Then they proceeded to threaten us, promising that if there were any delays, they would make it difficult for us to ever rent again."
Known for her rainbow-inspired style and designs, Mucciolo — who has previously collaborated with ModCloth and was the designer behind playful paper and stationery brand, Studio Mucci — shared side-by-side images on Instagram comparing her abode to the Lisa Frank studio, both of which feature multi-colored cabinetry in the kitchen and a gallery wall in the living room, to name a few striking similarities.
We've also contacted Hotels.com, Barsala, and Lisa Frank's teams as well as the building owner and manager for comments. As of press time, we are awaiting official statements from all of the companies; we'll update this story as soon as we receive a response.
Hotels.com did respond to Muccioli via Twitter, apologizing for "the situation with your landlord, but this is unrelated to the Hotels.com Lisa Frank Flat. We hope you are able to resolve the issue with your landlord soon and wish you the best." The company added that the "flat was curated exclusively with Lisa Frank's iconic signature prints & characters. It was custom built for the two-week pop-up room at a short-term rental unit owned by one of our partners."
Lisa Frank superfans who booked the room sadly aren't having the sunniest stay, as seen in the comments by Muccioli's supporters on photos tagged with the official hashtag #hotelsxlisafrank (yup, including ours). Niki Sparx, who booked a night at the hotel, told us via direct message: "I've been a fan since I was 3 and I'm 30 now. I did not expect this. The boycotting is overwhelming; I was the first to stay in the hotel and can't even post any of my pics without hate mail. I rented this room for Lisa Frank and my childhood, not for the L.A. developer who hired the design team."
L.A.-based entertainment journalist Roxy Tart took down her Lisa Frank Flat photos as a result of the backlash. In a post on Oct. 13, she wrote: "I wanted to let everyone know that I'm aware of the situation with @studiomucci and I've taken down my photos supporting the Lisa Frank Flat. … To be clear, I don't know Amina, and I don't know the full story of what is happening behind the scenes, none of us do."
Tart continues in her post: "However, I do not work for Lisa Frank, Hotelsdotcom, or Barsala, and I do not appreciate being harassed and threatened because I went to the Flat BEFORE any of this came out. So please, put down the pitchforks and torches, and stop harassing me, my friends, and the people who got to visit. Thank you."
We also reached out to Tart, who told us via Instagram DM that she booked a reservation for Tuesday and has been "trying to cancel since yesterday, because I'm honestly afraid of the backlash if I go. At the moment I'm waiting to hear back from the hotel to see if they will refund my money."
"On a personal level, I was shocked [Sunday] morning when I woke up to all the messages," Tart tells us. "By the time I took down my photos and had the full story (or as much of it as any of us can have), I was more disgusted by people's behavior and how quickly it became a witch hunt. The people I really felt bad for were my friends that I took with me, and the owner of the site I was writing for. None of them (or me, or anyone else who isn't involved) deserved that type of attack."
The Mucciolos' home was previously featured on Apartment Therapy and quickly went viral; it also appeared on the covers of magazines including India's Good Homes and Ikea Family. As a result of the eviction notice and the last-minute hunt for a new home, the rainbow-haired blogger is selling pieces from her colorful closet.
Mucciolo tells us that the eviction "has been distracting and confusing. To be honest, my life is normally pretty stressful so this was really traumatic to experience. Because I often have to face challenges being someone who is different, but also who doesn't have a lot of support (in terms of representation), I often have work copied or stolen from me. But to have something so personal like my home, something that I put so much love, time and hard work into, completely ripped off without credit felt very violent and personal."
She continues: "I just felt very powerless, especially with the added layer of my landlord's involvement. I grew up with Lisa Frank's products as a child so I always had positive associations with the brand. Sadly, she is a hero no more to me."
Mucciolo first revealed the alleged copy-cat apartment on Instagram and revealed that "I believe that I'm being evicted because of the Lisa Frank hotel. Our landlord refused to accept our rent payment, and wanted us out no later than October. We thought it was strange that he was so specific about the time frame, but we fought it."
She continues in the post: "And then, sure enough, in the beginning of October, we learned that the LF apartment was in our rental development, owned by the same people trying to evict us. Then we saw that it looks suspiciously similar to our own home, Cloudland, that I designed and shared in 2017. … I am in no way saying it's a room-for-room remake but the 'inspiration' is extremely obvious, and the kitchen is a complete ripoff."
On Twitter, she also cleared up her previous financial struggles "to make sure that I give you all the facts because this situation is extremely complicated and stressful and communication is sometimes a challenge for me." In the recent tweet, Mucciolo (who also shared that she was previously diagnosed with level two autism) disclosed that as a result of several factors, there was a brief period when "we needed to pay rent late. [The landlord] accommodated every late payment as we ultimately always paid."
As seen in Mucciolo's tweet above, the blogger explained that "this last time we needed to pay late but were refused. … Everyone including the landlord's lawyer thought they were being unreasonable and didn't understand the motivation to get us out before this October deadline. It all became clear when we saw the Lisa Frank hotel which completely ripped us off."
The controversy calls to mind other big-brand rip-offs of independent designers, including L.A. artist Tuesday Bassen (who went head-to-head with Zara after the fast-fashion giant released pins similar to her designs), among many, many others. Given that the pop-up is a collaboration among several brands, it wouldn't be at all surprising if the "inspired" eye-popping elements were the result of many, many hands involved in the design process — one likely influenced by Mucciolos' internet-famous home as well as other colorful (and Googleable) abodes around the web.
Whether or not the Lisa Frank Flat is directly responsible for the couples' eviction, one thing is clear: At the very least, this appears to be a strong case of interior design copy-catting rather than coincidence. (We'll let you decide.) In the meantime, those who want to support Mucciolo in a larger way can contribute to her Help Studio Mucci GoFundMe campaign, which is raising funds for her legal defense and moving expenses.