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HOME TOUR: OUR HOUSE

I've always been fascinated by the interior worlds people create for themselves--what they surround themselves with, what they cherish and why. What makes home "home" for each of us? How does it affect and define us? What's the story behind all these things?

The idea for beautiful / useful is to visit homes of all sorts--talking to people of different ages, industries, income levels, family statuses and countries, those who have built their interior lives for years and those who are just starting out. It's a pretty big ask, coming into someone's personal abode. Because of this, it seemed fair to first reveal a bit of my own home. So here's our house, in the middle of our street.

Who lives here: Emily (beautiful / useful), Dan (business) and our black lab Remy.

Location: Santa Monica, CA.

Home type: A tiny standalone bungalow built in 1923. Traditional Americana style with white shingles and green trim.

What attracted you to the space? Its many windows, that it's historical and that it has charming accents--never underestimate the power of good bones!

And the neighborhood? The community--and that it's walkable. We are a block away from the market, my yoga studio, the American Cinematheque and great restaurants. My dog has friends in the neighborhood and we're not far from the water. There's nothing better than an ocean breeze.

What's your interior style philosophy? As this site reveals, I believe every object should resonate with its owner personally. I love homes filled with stories and so I surround myself with things that speak to different places, people or times in my life.

How do you achieve it? By buying slowly over time and keeping your eyes peeled everywhere. Live in your space for awhile and it will reveal to you what it needs (usually, a lot less than you thought). A collected home to me is not one that's filled to the brim. It's not about acquiring "stuff," but instead reflects a well lived life--your experiences and eccentricities. I tend to shop when traveling because these are the pieces most meaningful to me: I don't want to buy a vase just because it's a vase, I want to buy it because it reminds me of my trip to Argentina and the way I felt there.

The item that best represents you? I'd say the wicker bull's head in our kitchen (even though it's my husband who's the Taurus--the bull is his animal!). I just adore quirky accents--surreal, Salvador Dali-inspired things that are slightly off, like a floating eye or a lopsided candle. Funny oddities like this bring so much life into a space.

A beautiful / useful piece? Our Heath plates, mugs and bowls. Their pieces are so simple and so good. We use them everyday, they go with everything and the weight feels great in your hands.

Something you picked up while traveling? Textiles from Mexico. Portuguese water pitchers. A brass tray from Egypt. A vintage obi from Japan. Rocks from the beach in Italy. A wooden box from Greece. Ceramics from Sweden, bowls from Turkey...I could go on. I often bring pantry items back too, like truffle oil from France and chocolate from Spain. And things that I don't display, but wear--jewelry, sandals, scarves and straw baskets always seem to sneak into my luggage.

Anything you collect? Too much. I have a soft spot for ceramics, love vintage books and jewelry, own far too much glassware and am slowly building a vinyl library. Since childhood, I have also been collecting tokens of various religions. I started with the little sacred water holders you find often in Spain, but also have prayer beads, Mexican retablos, Greek evil eyes and other objects from Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They are so beautiful and I am fascinated by the idea of devotion in different cultures.

An item you're currently coveting? I recently found a Danish artist on Instagram whose work really resonates with me. Not sure when I can purchase a piece, but it's always on my mind!

What makes a house a home? The people, obviously, and the memories. I mean both memories that you create in the space and memories that your objects embody. Really enjoying and experiencing a home through cooking, hosting friends, filling the house with music--these are the actions that infuse a house with energy and feeling.

Any interior challenges? Space! These old houses have very little storage, so we've had to get creative. And I am constantly editing, keeping colors light and muted because the small rooms can feel busy quickly. We also had some custom pieces made for our long, narrow living room when standard furniture didn't fit. The amazing thing is that custom doesn't have to mean more expensive. It can be a really good value because you're working directly with the maker.

Favorite spot in the house? The living room. We use it for everything--the record player and TV are in there, as well as the dining table. It also gets the best breeze through a large window facing the street. Our puppy loves sitting there and we can say hi to all our neighbors.

Daily moments or rituals you love? The process of making my morning cappuccino and enjoying it in a Heath mug. Going to the farmer's market toting a giant Spanish straw bag and feeling for a moment like I'm on vacation, even though I'm getting something useful done. I take our dog for a walk every evening and that is the perfect bookend to my day. At night, I've finally discovered the relaxing quality of cooking and am all about trying new things. The best is when my husband gets home early and we can cook while enjoying a glass of wine together. We turn on the record player and light candles on the table--it's great.

Your entertaining style? Setting the table is honestly a creative outlet for me and something I've been doing it since I was a little girl. I love mixing and matching to create a different ambiance. I start layering on different glassware, carafes, cutting boards, candlesticks, serving pieces and greenery to see what works. Mostly, we entertain outside because we have more space there. My husband is great about helping out in the kitchen and he is our resident bartender. He makes a mean drink.

Any particularly memorable fetes? I can't resist a good party theme. We hosted a massive Oktoberfest one year, with imported sausages, homemade cider and German music. Our garden looked like a spooky picnic: Halloween decor peppered with Bavarian blue and white checks. Also memorable was my husband's 30th birthday dinner, the only formal sit-down thing we've really done. He loves bourbon, so we had a bourbon tasting and made it an ingredient in every course--biscuits with bourbon butter, bourbon salad dressing, bourbon chili and "bourbon balls" with ice cream for dessert. I put a party hat on the wicker bull's head and it was perfect.

Dream home for the future: A farm! In Catalunya or Basque country!


Click through the gallery above for more info on some of my favorite things.