Painter Allayn Stevens settles into a seaside home that inspires her life and work.
If kismet can exist in real estate, then artist Allayn Stevens’ abode was written in the stars. When a friend in the neighborhood heard the French Tudor cottage was going up for sale, she alerted Allayn immediately. The idyllic house, perched on a cliff along the picturesque Southern California coastline, was just the kind of place that would inspire Allayn’s many landscape paintings. And the light on the patio and the sun streaming through the Storybook windows would accentuate many a vignette for her still-life portraits.
After meeting with the owner, she found he was a fan who owned some of her artwork. He even turned the living room into a showroom and installed gallery lighting. It didn’t take long for them to strike a deal that included some original Stevens canvases, and before long Allayn was settling into her new home.
“My favorite spot is the outdoor eating nook just outside the French doors,” Allayn says. “Just looking out there is wonderful; I leave the doors open all the time.” Indeed, the home and Allayn fit together well. The aforementioned nook is used for lunches outdoors but also as a classroom for the eight or so students that attend painting workshops Allayn hosts.
The home was originally built in the 1950s by a Swedish couple and boasts similar elements to the cottages in Europe: small unique spaces, vaulted ceilings and, in true Normandy style, gabled dormers and narrow casement windows. The second owner—the gentleman who Allayn purchased the house from—made a few adjustments of his own. The walls received a textual treatment by way of paint, plaster and hay; fresh paint was layered over wisps of hay plastered to the walls for a rough, natural finish. He installed and painted concrete in some of the rooms for a more modern gallery touch, which suited Allayn’s needs.
“It’s kind of funky inside. It’s not real finished, but I like that it has that Old World feeling,” she says. Beyond painting a few walls, installing a new bathtub and refurbishing the fireplace, Allayn has left most of the home untouched. The “funky” spaces come with a lot of built-in storage that makes living in a 1,600-square-foot space manageable. Aside from the master bedroom and a guest room, Allayn turned a smaller second guest room into a workspace/studio, though she paints all throughout the house to capture the perfect light or still-life arrangement.
Stylistically, Allayn has worked her vintage European flair throughout the house with aplomb. Her décor is a mix of antiques and functional contemporary pieces. She calls her look “Old World French with a layering of vintage chic—everything in it is essentially still-life material.” While Allayn travels often (at least once a year to Italy or Provence), many of the key pieces in the home, such as the armoire in the dining room, have been scoured from consignment stores and flea markets. Just as she approaches her art canvases, she begins a room based on a singular inspiration.
“It’s usually like when you create a painting, something will catch your eye and then you create a cohesive vision from that one little thing,” she explains. “For my rooms, I might find a statue that I love, and then I might create a room around it.” Similarly, she finishes those rooms with the same artist’s eye for detail. “I create vignettes like a painting: It’s about scale and balance—just like a painting would be,” she says. Her preferred palette at home is slightly different from her canvas in that she relies on a monochromatic scheme of whites dotted by a few colorful accessories or artworks.
In some rooms, she needed to be creative: The angled roofline of the cottage means bedrooms on the second floor can’t accommodate any headboards. Instead, she has layered beds with an abundance of pillows and lush textiles to make up for it. In her own bedroom, the bed is well-appointed, with fine satiny linens in a French antique blue and few unique pieces acquired from trips abroad.
While another signature look for Allayn is bringing outdoor items in, the artist is sure to utilize the outdoors, as it is plenty. A side patio on the second-floor balcony just off the master bedroom is a gentle place of respite, used for reading, snacking or just taking in life en plein air.
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By Jickie Torres
Photographed by Jaimee Itagaki
Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel