Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” That’s as true for interior design as it is for couture. And just as challenging a concept to master. After all, even the most authentically original looks – bell bottoms, the high-tech interiors of the 1970s – lost their cool quotient over time. What was once chic becomes cliché (or worse). Hitting that sweet spot between a Look and looking good is no mean feat. But in their modest Temecula, California home, James and Felicia Shelby have gotten it just right.
While the white clapboard house with the welcoming front porch and black shutters is a near anomaly in the sea of Mediterranean inspired stucco homes that blanket so much of Southern California, it wasn’t living up to its facade when the couple purchased it in 2017. “Where we live,” explains James, “it seems everyone had gone for a rustic, wine country or Tuscany look, so the interiors of the home really didn’t match the exterior. We re-did everything.”
Taking a cue from the house’s exterior appearance and following their own taste for a more traditional, East Coast look, the couple proceeded carefully, room by room – without a professional designer – to create the kind of spaces that made them feel at home. They removed carpeting and installed wood floors in a handsome herringbone pattern and enriched the profile of each room with new millwork – crown moldings, wall and window trim and ceiling medallions.
From the cowhide on the floor to the Atom 5 pendant by Nuevo, this sitting room is as perfectly composed as the large landscape hanging on the wall. The flowers, bust and glassware on this delicate bar cart are typical of the tableaux Felicia creates throughout the house.
The entry hall is flanked by two identical rooms, which the Shelby’s transformed into his-and-hers sitting rooms. Originally painted a winered color, each is now covered in Tricorn Black from Sherwin-Williams, a shade that gives the rooms a sense of substance and elegance. The space for James displays a hefty chesterfield with an aluminum-clad steamer trunk for a coffee table, while Felicia’s is outfitted with a green, velvet sofa and a graceful armchair, upholstered in a floral pattern and paired with a diminutive side table.
Art plays a key role in the homeowners’ design scheme. And the pieces displayed throughout the house reflect a keen interest in historical Americana. The couple’s collection includes a large oil painting from the 1920s, one of seven that the Santa Fe Railway once hung in the Santa Monica train station as an enticement to travel. In the light and bright living room, James and Felicia have hung an arresting panoply: vintage funny papers from 1910 to the 1930s. “They’re from newspapers across the country,” notes James. “I found then in a local antique store. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, then Felicia had the good idea of framing them and blanketing the wall, almost like wallpaper.” While the look throughout the house is very tailored, the two are not afraid of little flourishes. Felicia’s background in visual merchandising is evident in her restrained tableaux of books, candles and objects.
Clean and bright, the living room epitomizes the couple’s penchant for mixing styles and periods. A panoply of framed vintage comics form a fine backdrop to this handsome chesterfield and cherry end table.
The couple’s willingness to mix flea-market finds with brand-new pieces, antiques with contemporary furniture, plays out beautifully in the living room. Here, night tables in a midcentury style neatly frame the sofa and a streamlined, glass-topped coffee table is right at home anchored on a geometrically patterned rug. A floor lamp in a neoclassical style (acquired from an antique store) fits neatly into the mix.
Neither minimalist nor maximalist, the Shelby home is a study in scale and proportion. Neither spare nor cluttered, these spaces are artfully composed, but utterly welcoming. Riding on a palette of white, black and gray with accents of wood and metal, they strike a balance between elegance and ease. And best of all, they have a real personality, a truly singular look spun from two people blessed with a healthy visual curiosity and the convictions of their tastes. “I’d encourage people to incorporate things into their home that might not be everyone’s first choice,” offers James. “You can be inspired by things from almost anywhere. If you love it, go with it.”
Photography Courtesy of Alexes Lauren.
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