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In San Diego, a Calm and Moody Home Inspired by Wellness

by Sofia Tuovinen

In San Diego, a Calm and Moody Home Inspired by Wellness | Design*Sponge

Alisiene Schall has lived in her San Diego, CA rental for 15 years. Needless to say, it’s a space she loves coming home to. As an aspiring interior designer with a background in accounting, Alisiene can’t give enough praise to the creative community she lives in — the one-bedroom Craftsman style apartment that she shares with her two rescue dogs, Lily and Soleil, is located in one of San Diego’s historic neighborhoods, within walking distance of museums, restaurants, and downtown. “When I walked in, I knew immediately I wanted to live here,” Alisiene explains the feeling of seeing her home for the first time. “My favorite part was that when I looked out of every window I saw lots of green, which felt like it was bringing my dream of living by a forest closer to reality.” At the top of her wish list was also a large dining area that could transform into a workspace when needed and accommodate larger dinner parties with friends.

Besides having a generous space to entertain, Alisiene’s emphasis is on the kitchen — when she’s not working, you’ll most likely find her preparing thoughtful meals for friends or teaching cooking classes to underprivileged teens. Although being a renter limited the changes she could make in her kitchen, updating it on a budget with new countertops, removable backsplash and cabinet doors turned out to be one of her most rewarding home projects. “I learned that my background in management and accounting set me up well for the discipline it takes to follow through on projects and meet deadlines I made for myself,” Alisiene shares.

Coming up with thoughtfully tailored design solutions has helped Alisiene gain confidence in her own creative abilities. A couple of years after moving in, she was diagnosed with an advanced stage of Endometriosis, which required big changes in her everyday life, as well as her home. “It was debilitating enough that while my social life drastically changed, my goals for my home also changed with the diagnosis. […] It was a drastic change to my very social, active lifestyle,” she shares. As her home now needed to make her feel better, facilitate social interactions and offer a truly calming space to rest as required, Alisiene set out to transform it with her personal well-being in mind.

To make her home feel like a healing sanctuary, Alisiene had to first determine what that actually meant in her case. She started the process by focusing on color palettes that felt soothing and followed with reducing the number of objects in each space. Another important factor was to ensure that her home remained extremely dog-friendly, with carefully selected textiles and upholstery that met the needs of her furry family members.

Since her diagnosis, Alisiene has added darker tones and combined them with soft textures for a calm atmosphere that complements the original details of her historic home. “Turning this space into a home was pretty fast initially — turning [it] into the home I really wanted happened over time,” Alisiene reflects. Today, the old Craftsman apartment is nothing short of the healing sanctuary that Alisiene set out to create, allowing her and the pups to feel happy, peaceful and always at home as soon as they walk in the door. —Sofia 

Photography by Alisiene Schall / @21standbroadway

Image above: Alisiene fell in love with her rental apartment for its historic charm. “It [has] the best qualities of a Craftsman, including beautiful wood floors and built-ins,” she says. To create a healing atmosphere, Alisiene focused on moody tones and elements of nature.

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Alisiene and her two dogs can often be found snuggling on the living room couch, surrounded by warm and cozy textures. “As cat and dog owners know, finding fabrics and materials that work best with animals, while still representing your design style, is a time intensive task,” Alisiene notes. “The hours I’ve spent just researching velvet that wouldn’t look like it was layered with dog fur after a few hours was so much more than I could have imagined!” 

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The living room was designed for relaxing encounters with friends and clients alike. The mid-century armchair was found by Alisiene’s friend. “[It] was so rotted from water damage, I didn’t think it could be saved. A local woodworker, Corey Froscheuser, restored it perfectly. I had it reupholstered with a mohair fabric, which also seems to resist dog hair, and is very easy to clean,” Alisiene explains. 

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Two vintage chairs flank another beautiful window and calming view. “[These chairs] are so easy to take care of  — again, perfect for dogs. […] I will probably have them forever, as the friend who gave them to me passed away five years ago at the age of 35. I miss her a lot, and these chairs remind me of the many hours we sat on them together, drinking coffee,” Alisiene shares.

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Original built-in bookcases create separation between the living and dining rooms. The chair in front used to be covered in beat-up vinyl until Alisiene had it reupholstered in Kravet chenille fabric, which looks blue or purple depending on the time of day. “And most importantly, dog hair doesn’t stick to it!” Alisiene adds. 

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The dining room is perfect for big dinners and creative projects. The original built-in cabinets continue along the wall, adding both character and valuable storage space. 

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This corner of the dining area had a wall that was badly stained, with lots of spots peeling off. As I was now using this area as a workspace, I decided to make a desk and cover the wall with matte black removable wallpaper and cork squares to add some warmth,” Alisiene explains. 

[I like] having to think outside of what I know, and committing to learning something new.

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As Alisiene loves cooking and teaches cooking classes to underprivileged teens, she spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Although being a renter limited the changes she could make to the space, transforming it became Alisiene’s most rewarding home project.

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The kitchen was missing most of the cabinet doors when Alisiene moved in. She added a few doors for the lower cabinets and did a concrete process on the counters. For the backsplash, Alisiene cut up, sanded and stained wood from pallets, and attached the pieces to the wall with art tape for a creative and removable solution.

 

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“This beautiful vintage stove is my favorite thing that came with the kitchen,” Alisiene begins. “It works great, is a classic, and it is my happy place in the kitchen.” The vintage print is from one of Alisiene’s favorite restaurants, Chez Panisse. “Seeing it each time I cook inspires me to aspire to the vision of food that Alice Waters has encouraged.”

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I am a light sleeper and really need to calm my brain before sleep. This had me paint the bedroom dark with Farrow and Ball’s Railings. I could go on about this paint forever, I love it so much,” Alisiene shares.

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As my tastes can be above my current skill set, making my bed and headboard were definitely achievements for me,” Alisiene says. “I sort of accidentally discovered in the last few years that I was capable of making certain things I thought [were] for pros […]. It’s been so freeing and fun, and has made me very happy.”

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In the bathroom, Alisiene used starch to attach a patterned fabric on the wall. “This bathroom wall helped me understand that small spaces can definitely benefit from texture and certain design elements that might seem way too busy in a bigger space,” Alisiene reflects. 

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The bathroom includes some of the original floor tiles. “It’s a bit mismatched, but I like it the character of it. I also really love the Persian rug — this is a family piece from when [I] lived in Iran as a child,” Alisiene shares. 

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Alisiene with her beloved rescue dogs, Lily and Soleil. “I love dogs and animals, and would one day love to have land that provides a home for rescues,” Alisiene shares. In addition to teaching cooking classes, she also spends time volunteering in relationship counseling. 

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“What I love most about my home is how it makes people feel.” — Alisiene

SOURCE LIST

Living Room
Wall paint – Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore

Kitchen
Wall paint – White Dove by Benjamin Moore
Cabinet paint – Onyx by Benjamin Moore

Bedroom
Wall Paint – Railings by Farrow and Ball
Bedspread & Linen pillows – H&M
Smoked Glass Pendant Lamp – IKEA

Bathroom
Wall paint – White Dove by Benjamin Moore

 

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Comments

  • Very, very nice and some handy tips for choosing fabrics with dogs! There has recently been an awareness campaign in Australia on the debilitating effects of endometriosis that a surprisingly high number of women – an estimated 1 in 10 – live with everyday. I wish you all the very best with it. I also like what you said about loving your home because of the way it makes people feel. That’s my goal with my home. Good health for the future in your lovely home.

    • Thank you so much! Its great to hear more people talking about this. It can be so hard to deal with, and and equally hard to have people understand how that effects every day life. Good luck on your home goals! :)

  • What a beautiful home. I can only imagine how healing your home is in person – as just looking at the photographs gave me a sense of well-being and peace. Lovely!

  • I love how the rooms, especially the living room, feel warm with a black/gray/white palette. This gave me some ideas for my own older home. I also plan to steal the cork square/mat picture frame idea. Thanks for sharing! Be well!

  • Could you tell us more about the concrete on the kitchen counters? What’s under the concrete and how was it covered?

    • Hi Hilary!

      One of the counters, was a very old damaged formica, with lumps of bondo, and one of the counters was old tile, with some missing grout, and not such good tile to begin with. Both had multiple scratches, and cracks, and as the landlord told me they would be gutting & remodeling my kitchen after I eventually move, I tried to figure out what would look good, and also be easily cleaned and durable. While being economical.
      I had read about the Ardex feather finish on both Little Green Notebook, and A Beautiful Mess sites, so I used that. Its a concrete underlayment, that you basically apply in layers ( not to thick), and then seal with a sealer. I did three layers. I used a natural finish sealer, as I don’t really like super glossy, but more of a natural stone finish. I reapply a sealer every year, and Ive had it four years and love it!. It is SO easy to clean. You do have to make sure that you watch oil spills, as that will penetrate right through the sealer. Though honestly, I sort of like some of the marks, as it adds some character.
      Hope that helps!

  • Alisiene,
    Your home had my heart from the very first photo. The medley of to grey tones, natural elements, and mid century modern furniture is both polished and welcoming.
    I also suffer from advanced endometriosis and completely understand the fundamental shift required to maintain wellness with this often invisible illness.
    Thank you for sharing your home and your story with us.

    • Thank you so much, for your sweet words Mandy!
      I hope that you are doing ok as can be, and wish you the best!

  • I feel very fortunate to have spent a lot of time in Alisiene’s beautiful apartment. In fact, many years ago, when my former landlord mentioned he was looking for a new tenant for this unit, Alisiene was the very first person I thought to call. I knew she’d do wondrous things with a charming vintage space with tons of potential. I’ve seen her home transform over the years and have watched Alisiene’s creative talent and confidence grow along with it. Her home truly reflects who she is, which is the very best we can hope for when it comes to designing our spaces. I hope you all love her place as much as I do!

  • Having endometriosis is so challenging in and of itself but then there’s the fact that no one can tell anything is wrong from the outside. I hate that part, it’s exhausting. I’m late to the party but just wanted to chime in – when you find out you have endo it’s a clear signal to go inward and take the time to change your life and heal as much as you can, which it sounds like you have done well. I totally feel your pain, literally! ;) Thank you for mentioning this health challenge in your pretty home tour. It effects so many, including me.

    • Hi Sally!
      I feel for anyone that has this illness, and it is often as hard to explain, and to deal with.
      I hope you’re doing ok and able to feel some pain free days as much as possible!!

  • How stunning! So nice to see a space that looks loved and lived in, and Alisiene does it with well curated sophistication. I also live in San Diego and I have a hunch I might live somewhat nearby :) thankful to see someone honoring such a beautiful space!

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