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In San Diego, An Interior Designer’s Vintage Aesthetic Goes Against the Grain

by Lauren Chorpening Day

Something I really love about Design*Sponge is that it’s a place for homes with a personal style and a story to tell. The homes in our archives are largely decorated by the people who live in them. It means that sometimes we might shy away from showcasing a beautiful house because it may have been designed wholly by an interior designer without much personal sentiment or style from the homeowners. So I was very excited to come across Jennifer Riley‘s home in San Diego, CA because not only is it a gem full of history and incredible vintage pieces, but she’s also an interior designer and creates spaces for other vintage aficionados through her full-service design firm, Hohm.

Jennifer grew up in a 1892 Victorian Queen Anne filled with beautiful, ornate furniture and objects. “I spent my childhood ensconced in ‘visual splendor.’ Being surrounded by antiques fostered my love of timeless design and history — and the marriage of the two,” Jennifer shares. Now Jennifer lives in a 1909 Craftsman Bungalow in San Diego and has allowed her upbringing to inform the way she decorates her own home and designs for her clients. “Since I grew up in an antique house, all of my design decisions go back to the bones of this house. I wouldn’t knock down walls and have an open-concept home, and I wouldn’t take out the original elements; I wouldn’t paint over original wood paneling in the home, and if the bathroom renovation happens, I will be using period appropriate everything.”

While there’s no wrong way to renovate a home necessarily (I’m guilty of not always sticking with era-friendly renovations in my 1900 home), it’s refreshing to see anyone honor the original aesthetic and materials of a home in their designs. Jennifer shares that while she’s never purchased a new couch, she has recently started to source a few more modern pieces for her home to incorporate with her incredible collection of vintage decor. “My decorating goals might be a little off-the-cuff and unusual. I am a visceral, intuitive decorator for my home. It unfolds slowly and I go with the flow of it,” She explains. “I always, always go with what speaks to my heart and makes it leap with joy!” Her home is a sweet mix of all things beautiful and serene. “I would advise homeowners to find their style and own voice. Also, the creating of a home takes time, it’s not like an HGTV show where a whole house is outfitted in two short months. It’s okay to not live in ‘perfection.’ It’s great to evolve with your style; my style is completely different than it was just three short years ago.” The thoughtful design in every room is evident. Jennifer has allowed her coastal surroundings, her childhood home and the era of her own home to influence her design choices — but at the end of the day, she chooses whatever feels right for her home and her clients’ spaces. The result is so, so lovely. Lauren

Photography by Carley Page Summers

Image above: Jennifer’s bedroom. She shares, “I’d say since the beginning of 2017, I have been moving to more of a fusion of natural pieces, textural [elements], and doing my rendition of California Casual; I enjoy the woven textures and having a more subtle, calm space, but I also do a bit of my own thing with lots of family pieces, Victorian [items] and a few more global pieces.”

In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"The small table at my bedside was my parents' and is an antique piece that was once used in a hotel," Jennifer shares. "Everything holds significance for me."
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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The green walls (Sherwin-Williams "Jasper Stone") make the wood and white tones really stand out in Jennifer's bedroom.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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Jennifer's business was born out of her love for designing meaningful spaces with unique pieces. In an industry that generates income via commissions on trade-only items, Jennifer has created her own path in interior design: Sourcing pre-owned, hard-to-find pieces wherever she can.
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"My design process is constantly evolving; interior designers enjoy endless tweaking and of course since I specialize in selling vintage/antiques through my design business, I always have the opportunity to upgrade my home when the mood strikes me," Jennifer explains.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"All of the art in the room was found at various estate sales over the years; several of the pieces I have personally sourced antique frames [for] and had them framed. I get the exact look I want and it's completely singular and unique," Jennifer explains.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"I am most thankful for this beautiful, historical space," Jennifer shares. "I grew up in a Queen Anne Victorian house, so I have a natural affinity for old, antique homes. The craftsmanship and attention to detail were unparalleled back in the day, and I'm thankful to be in such a beautiful environment."
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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The pale yellow stove is from the 1930s and still works. So many of the pieces in Jennifer's home are vintage but in working order because of the care she gives to them.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"The copper pots on the wall were my Grandmother's, and they were given to her by my father back in the early 1970s; he brought them back from a trip to Morocco, so I enjoy the full circle of [them] now being in my hands," Jennifer says.
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"The kitchen was totally rebuilt in the early 1990s. So all of the cabinetry was built to mimic what it would've looked like in the early 1900s. I think it was very nicely done," Jennifer shares.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"The most challenging part of the home is the original windows let in a lot of cold air (during the winter months) and I have no plans to replace the windows, so it's something I live with," Jennifer explains.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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The Boucheroite rug, large gesso mirror and framed artwork in the hallway give the small space Jennifer's signature eclectic style.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"The fireplace is original to the home. They are called Klinker Bricks and they are uneven and almost look like rejects. I love the texture of them and the history behind them," Jennifer shares.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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Jennifer bought the coral sofa from an estate sale. The rest of the pieces are a collection of family items, antique finds, and a few mass produced accessories. Jennifer has resisted big box stores in the past, but is starting to embrace them for a few elements in a room to round out a design.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"I didn't set out to create the more organic and spare living room I have right now, it sort of just happened," Jennifer explains. "The process of decorating the house has taught me I am pretty go-with-the-flow. I'm not worried about 'getting' the house to a certain point or look, on a certain timeline. I do what I can when time permits, and when money permits. I did create a small goal-setting plan for this year and what I'd like to do with the house: small upgrades, painting certain areas, getting new curtains, finding matching end tables for my bedroom... things of that nature."
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"All of the doors are original and redwood, and the whole house has original lathe and plaster walls which are stunning," Jennifer says.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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"My parents bought me the large Post Office slotted piece from the Rose bowl for $110 and I've had that since my mid 20's... I still love it to this day and have no plans to sell it," Jennifer shares.
In San Diego, An Interior Designer's Vintage Aesthetic that Goes Against the Grain | Design*Sponge
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Jennifer Riley in the enclosed porch of her 1909 craftsman bungalow.

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Comments

  • This home has beautiful spaces. The wall colours, both neutrals and those gorgeous soft blue greens, set off the wood and brick and the smaller furnishing details with warmth.

  • Love the Jasper wallcolor (and the floral-but-not-too-floral bedding). What a charming, livable place.

  • It is so nice seeing old pieces used in this home. Our house is filled with old family English antiques and New England antiques. It is warm and cosy. I am relieved to hear that I am not the only one to enjoy the old alongside some new.
    Lovely.
    Polly in Vermont

  • Gorgeous, and such a relief from the current popularity of blown-out rooms, all-white, and macrame. In fact, it looks like my house, with hand-me-down furniture and meaningful “objets.” We need more of this!

  • Gorgeous home and decor. Love all the details given to everything, very inspiring. Bet it is so fun to live there.

  • This is a beautiful home. But what made me comment is that I would really REALLY love to know where the bedding in Jennifer’s room is from – it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! Any clues? Please and thank you.

    • Ikea! I bought the same a few years ago, I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the design…

      • No way! Thanks Helen. Haven’t seen them in ikea here (Ireland) but will look them up. Thanks for the tip.

  • I absolutely love what you have done with this space. The small gallery of artwork, the cushion choice and the rug are just everything!! Such a talented lady.

  • Really love this post. 1940s houses in Australia are very similar and what I love most about them is the dimensions of the rooms. Perfect height and width. Love that Jennifer has resisted the “new” and filled her home with beloved found pieces. I still have the wooden bookcase, a chest of drawers and the pouffe from my childhood (1960s) and mix them up with other found and bought furniture. An eclectic mix but seems to work. We have also sought out ways in which to insulate our old windows without replacing them. Can be done with a little help from google/youtube.

  • As an old house lover myself, I really enjoyed this article and Jennifer Riley’s philosophy and aesthetic. What beautiful furnishings and a great kitchen. A tip on the windows: If you haven’t already, check out “Working Windows” and similar books and Old House Journal on how to keep the cold out with caulk, glaze and storm windows (there are even such things as interior storms). Thank you!