A “Renovated from the Floors Up” Earthy California Bohemian Home — House Tour
For Vera and Sam, the past three years have been filled with the never-ending process of renovating and personalizing their home. The fact that Sam — the acting handyman and contractor — has no experience with renovating is even more impressive. “We’ve poured our energy into renovating it from the floors on up, with plenty of ‘Oh shit, that’s not what I envisioned’ moments along the way.” Despite those hiccups, their home in its current state is bright, inspired, and personal — and there’s more to come.
While Sam takes care of the renovating, Vera adds her aesthetic to every room in the home. Just what is that aesthetic? Vera describes it as Earthy California Bohemian. “We enjoy decorating with items that have a personal meaning,” Vera says. That includes handmade pieces they’ve collected on their various travels around the world, natural objects they’ve found on hikes or camping trips, things handed down from family members, and items that Vera curates for her shop and business Cosa Buena, which collaborates with with artisans from remote villages in the Southern region of Oaxaca, Mexico.
They strike a wonderful balance in their home — Sam has a good eye for functionality while Vera focuses on design and creating a space that is pleasing and calming. On days off at home, Sam enjoys working in the garden or tinkering with the many ongoing projects inside. Vera enjoys cuddling with their rescue pup Rusty while enjoying a cup of coffee. “Building this home together has been a wonderful process for the two of us, and it’s just beginning,” they say.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Earthy California Bohemian. We enjoy decorating with items that have a personal meaning — handmade pieces we’ve collected on our various travels around the world, natural objects we’ve found on hikes or camping trips, and things handed down from family members.
Inspiration: Vera: I am inspired by my travels. The people, cultures, languages, landscapes, and art I have been so fortunate to experience in different countries. Sam: The outdoors. I want my home to be full of plants and natural woods. I am happiest in nature and I want my home to reflect that.
Favorite Element: Vera: The beautiful Douglas Fir floors and the warm golden light that fills the house in the late afternoon. Sam: The Douglas Fir floors from the original 1907 cottage. I grew up on Bainbridge Island in Washington, which was a hub of the lumber industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Bainbridge Island was the source of much of the Douglas Fir shipped to the Bay Area for new construction. I like to think the floors I labored to discover and refinish are from my hometown.
Biggest Challenge: Vera: Not over-doing it. I consider myself a collector. I have pieces from my travels all over the world, but I have limited space. I have boxes filled to the brim with textiles, bags, blankets, pillows etc. that I have collected on my travels that are just sitting in the garage. I don’t want the house to feel cluttered, and that is my greatest challenge. Sam: Doing everything myself. I am not a handy man. The only tools I used growing up were duct tape and wire. When I bought this house, part of my intention was to do all renovations and house work on my own — to teach myself how to take care of my own home and to personalize the space on my own. YouTube has been an indispensable teaching tool.
What Friends Say: Vera: “WOW! Can I move in?” and then they usually take their phones out and start photographing everything. Sam: My friends helped me move in and saw what the house looked like when I bought it. There’s always something new when friend’s visit, and the reaction is usually, “Holy shit!”
Biggest Embarrassment: Vera: It is so hard to pick just one! All of our DIY projects never seem to go as planned, but we learn to love them, or perhaps just to live with them. I’m still on the fence about the bedroom paint color. Sam: Putting large, accidental cuts into the Douglas Fir floors. I thought I was replacing damaged pieces of the bottom layer of flooring. Turns out there was one more, very beautiful, layer to go.
Proudest DIY: Vera: The kitchen! This was a major DIY renovation. We painted the cabinets, refinished the tiles, put in new floors and lighting, and completely redecorated. I had a vision and it really came together so beautifully, and cost us very little. Sam: I think you can guess from the above answers. I had to rip through carpeting and several layers of flooring and plywood to discover the original floors. They were so old they’d been treated with wax. Getting all that wax off and sanding and refinishing them nearly broke my back.
Biggest Indulgence: Vera: The wall hanging from Chile. I discovered the artist and fell in love with her work while I was living in Valparaìso. I knew I had to have one for our home, so I commissioned a piece. I now represent the artist and sell her work exclusively in my shop Cosa Buena. Sam: Landscaping and gardening are what I really love. I forced myself to get through work in all the rooms of the house before moving to the back yard. Last August the project began when I took a jack hammer to the concrete backyard. Recently I spent $1200 on flagstone and decomposed granite for the new surface. That was a big expense, but our outdoor sanctuary will be worth it.
Best Advice: Vera: Your home is your sanctuary. It is for you and no one else. Don’t take design too seriously, and don’t be afraid to make your own rules. Look for one-of-a-kind statement pieces instead of mass-produced items, support local artisans and makers whenever possible, try to source vintage or repurposed pieces to lower your carbon footprint, and always look to nature for inspiration! Sam: Let go. After working so hard on so many elements of the house, I think it’s important to not get crazy about maintaining the close-to-perfect-as-possible finished product of that work. Refinished floors and new counters are going to get scratched. It’s a house and it should be lived in.
Dream Sources: Vera: I spend a lot of time researching traditional art forms around the world, and I always prefer to support local artisans who still practice and maintain their traditional art forms. When you buy something that is handmade you can feel the time and love that went into it, and who doesn’t want to fill their home with that love and energy? Sam: Handmade items from abroad. Vera has a business working with local artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. We love to travel and to pick up things from the places we visit, supporting local artisans and ancient traditions.
PAINT & COLORS
Benjamin Moore — Swiss Coffee (Dining Room/Kitchen)
Olympic paint — Scandinavian Sky (Bedroom)
Benjamin Moore — Milk (Living Room)
Benjamin Moore — Dill Pickle (Guestroom/ office)
Church pew bench — Building Resources (DIY sanded and refinished)
Tile decals — Bleucoin via Etsy
Russian dolls — Gift from Vera’s mom, purchased in Russia
Straw basket — Garage sale
Corner table — Craigslist
Floating shelves — Target
Pillows — Collected traveling in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
Side tables — Craigslist
Bookcase — Craigslist
Skull — Purchased in Tucson, Arizona
Mini cacti basket planters — Cosa Buena
Wall hanging — Cosa Buena
Pompoms on door handles — Found in Buenos Aires
Jute rug — NuLoom
Red rug — craigslist
Painting over planter — Made by a family friend
Vintage planter — Passed down by Sam’s family
Circle mirror above stairs — IKEA
Masks — From travels in South East Asia and South America
Basket weave bamboo pendant light — World Market
Three basket light DIY — Baskets found in Mexico on the side of the road
Air plant decoration — DIY (air plants purchased at Flowercraft)
Talavera tile light switches — Purchased in Mexico
Bench — Craigslist, covered in indigo textile from Burkina Faso
Japanese wood block painting — Vera purchased in Japan
Painting of man in boat — Sam purchased in Guatemala
Table and chairs — Family hand-me-down
Paintings — Painted by a family friend of Sam’s
Copper onion light — Shades of Light
Table Runner — Vintage from Vera’s grandmother’s in Hungary
Talvara light switch — Mexico
Ceramics — Vintage Italian, handed down from family
Copper candle holders — Gift, made in Mexico
Small head planters — Cosa Buena
Copper hanging planters — IKEA (spray painted copper)
Copper coffee press — Bodum
Bowls — IKEA
Plates — Vintage Italian, gift from family
Frida dish towel — Heartfelt
Glass food storage — IKEA
White tea cup and plate — Vera purchased in Tel Aviv, Israel
Copper mugs — Bed, Bath & Beyond
Small white jute rug — World Market
Wooden bowls — Crate & Barrel
Vintage spice rack — Etsy
Copper salt and pepper shakers — Amazon
Copper coffee storage — Bodum
Hanging planters — IKEA
Dresser and mirror — craigslist
Mirror planter — Building Resources
Triangle shelf — DIY
Baby alpaca textiles (on sides of bed) — Purchased in Peru
Pillows — Collected traveling Ecuador, Mexico, and Bolivia
Bed spread — Bolivia
Paintings — Family friend
Palm leaf baskets — Cosa Buena
Talavera light switch — Purchased in Mexico
Mini baskets on dresser — Purchased in Ecuador
Rug — Craigslist
Table in front of bed — Meditation platform from India
Large Tree — Thrift store
Pompoms — Purchased in a market in Nayarit, Mexico
Closet shelves — IKEA BILLY Bookcases
Dresser — Family hand-me-down
Frida Kahlo print — From Vera’s old apartment
Pink woven textile — Purchased in Tucson, Arizona
Ganesha — Purchased in Tucson, Arizona
Mirror — Target
Flagstone — Broadmoor Landscape Supply (http://ift.tt/2wXH7D4)
Hammock — Purchased in Nicaragua
Giant Buddha Head — Found on the side of the street in the Mission
Plants — From previous homes and many beautiful plants gifted from our wonderful neighbor