Pomp And Circumstance

The House Tour That Almost Was…

Posted in Decor Files, Inspiration by Miss Circumstance on July 2, 2010

This is an advance warning for this blogging system that you are about to begin reading a novel of a post. Enter at your own risk…..

A little while ago I submitted a sample house tour to Apartment Therapy. They were looking for people to do free-lance house tours a couple of times a month in the SF/Bay area. The house tours consist of going in and taking lots of pictures of the way the house is laid out, set-up and designed, and close-ups of vignettes and little areas that are in someway eye-catching or interesting. You also then interview the owner, and get to know their story and how they think about their house. My first thought was “oooo, that would be so cool. I would love to do that”, quickly followed by “oh that’s a neat couch…”. I had dismissed it that quickly! But then I got excited about going for it. It is something that before I would not have tried because, let’s face it, thousands will and thousands are more qualified and better at it than me. But more and more I want to be someone who is not afraid to try, and goes after the things in my heart that excite me. So I did. I did a sample tour on my mom’s house because it is beautiful and I love the story and heart that went into preparing it.

Now, I didn’t get the job. Which didn’t surprise me, but I have to say I was a little more disappointed than I thought I would have been (I guess it’s a good thing I am not in some kind of constant-rejection industry!). But I thought I would share with you guys the house tour anyways just for fun……


Name: Ron And Mary
Location: La Selva Beach, California
Size: 2,000 ft2
Years lived in: 5 and 5 (more on that below…)

In a quiet little surf town just a couple blocks from the beach, Ron and Mary have built themselves a place they love. After a broken water pipe flooded the original house, they room-hopped for 5 years with various dear friends who took them in while the process of red tape and rebuilding began (and continued, and continued). When it came time to dream up what their new home might be, they knew they wanted a place where people would feel welcome and loved. They achieved that with high ceilings, an open layout, and spaces filled with sentimental treasures. A large family-style farm table and many cozy chairs serve as the setting for frequent laughter-filled gatherings of family and friends. And it’s not uncommon to find someone dozing on the sofa by the fireplace—an occurrence that’s actually a great compliment to the homeowners: “Someone falling asleep on my couch tells me they feel comfortable and at home here.”

The entire house is painted the same color (a custom mix created by the man of the house, who works for a paint company), which helps keep the eclectic, flea-market vintage vibe feeling perfect, not cluttered or  overwhelming. This is a home filled with objects of affection. Cabinets overflowing with vintage heirlooms and shelves holding antique architectural pieces all work together to tell a story. There are so many great surprises! It is filled with the unexpected: an old toolbox is used to hold pencils and pens by the phone; a garden trellis box is used to organize gift wrapping materials; a large piece of pottery intended for a plant is used as a trash can; industrial exterior lighting is used in the bathrooms; and a vintage dolly is used to hold hand towels.

Most of the items in the house, from the light fixtures to the kitchen sinks and cabinets, have interesting origins. Says Mary, “I really don’t like to pay a lot of money for things, so I wait…while looking at Flea Markets and online for things that jump out at me that I know will be perfect.” When you enter the home, it feels like everything in it has been there for a long time, and that each piece was chosen with care and has been thoughtfully placed. “As I look around our house at the things I have acquired, I think my favorite things are not the big things, but the little ones—the ones that have been given to me, or that I have bought at garage sales, flea market, or estate sales for nothing, or next to nothing.  I love my frames that my friend Helen’s family gave me because they remind me of Helen, and my little metal tables that Helen herself gave me before she passed away.  I love my green velvet curtains done on a trade with my friend Kim, who got them from an antique store, who got them from an old castle.  It seems everything has a story!  I love the lamps on the big table in the downstairs bedroom, given to me by my friend Jim’s landlords when he lived in the city, and the wire lampshades on them bought at a garage sale for $1.00 each.  My bed, which of course is not little(!), was given to me as well by Jim.  I really have been blessed by such generosity in my life.”


My style: I don’t know that I have one! I am drawn to things that are worn and have aged. I think it brings character.

Inspiration: Anthropologie. I love their displays. I am a big fan of using something for a purpose that it was not originally intended for, and Anthropologie is so good at that! I love looking at how they display items in the store, and how they decorate. One time they made a huge lighting display using extension cords and old mason jars…it was beautiful.

Favorite Element: Four things. One is the long table in the downstairs bedroom. I saw it on Craigslist and knew I had to have it. I love the size and grandness of it. And second, the dolly in the bathroom that we use for hand towels. I get the most compliments on that. The third thing is the large corbels we used under the island in the kitchen. All of those things are things I didn’t spend a lot of money on, but they make the house. Oh, and the dining room table.  I really love that table. I like that all of my furniture can be worn even more than it already is, and it just makes it better.  I don’t have to worry about scratches, or burns or anything.

Biggest Challenge: Finding the perfect kitchen hardware. I am picky and am trying to find something interesting and cool, and not overused. Unfortunately for my husband that means waiting a very long time while I look! I found some gorgeous old wooden knobs online from an old barn in the UK, but they only had a certain amount. So I am in the process of trying to have them duplicated without it costing a fortune.

What Friends Say: One thing we hear a lot is that people don’t want to leave, that it feels like home, that it feels peaceful and joyful.

Biggest Embarrassment: The fact that five years later I still don’t have kitchen knobs!

Proudest DIY: I would say the fireplace mantle. I got it from a local antique store, but it was too small. So my husband cut the top off, extended it with pieces of wood, put it back together, and antiqued it.

Biggest Indulgence: My tall cabinet in the living room. I knew I needed something very tall and narrow, so I put this on layaway as we were living with friends waiting for the house to be done.

Best advice: Patience!! For sure, patience. I wait until I find exactly what I am looking for. I would often find things that I knew I loved but wasn’t quite sure exactly where they would go. I would get them and hold onto them till I found the perfect place. Oftentimes, pieces just need to be re-worked a bit and they can be just right. I have a ton of things that just need to be re-wired, have seats added, or shelves installed and then they’ll be great. I have a very patient husband!

Dream source: Anthropologie. I love using their ideas but would love to buy their furniture!

Resources: Most items were purchased from craigslist, estate sales, and by doing trades with friends.

Tall Living Room Cabinet: Warmth Company, Aptos, CA

Fireplace Mantle: Center Street Antiques, Soquel, CA

Green Living Room Cabinet: Crawford Antiques, Capitola, CA

Antique Cup Holder: Center Street Antiques, Soquel, CA

Bathroom Light Fixtures: Hi Lite Lighting



One Response

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  1. ashley said, on July 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    well, i think this is great! even if you didnt get that job you could do something LIKE that for your blog. id love to see you document cute houses and apartments and even boutiques! and i LOVE ron and mary’s house. ive never ever felt uncomfortable coming over, spending hours, and yes…falling asleep on the couch countless times!

    awww, make me want to have a sleepover with james again…for old times sake 🙂

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