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O.C. Home: Itsy Chic

Designer Steve Jones’ beachfront studio is small, but full of big ideas

      Home developer-designer Steve Jones is a flea market addict. His pair of 40-foot shipping containers filled with vintage furniture and accessories attest to it. “Enough to start a store,” quips the former mid-’80s vice president of visual merchandising for Quiksilver.  

      Jones uses the items for Better Shelter, the boutique real estate company he put together in 2006 that specializes in renovating homes by adding age-appropriate fixtures. “Old lighting, door knockers, stained glass, architectural trim, interesting hooks, handles, and pulls—anything that adds authenticity to a place,” he says. Then he furnishes them with his mix of vintage finds and contemporary pieces—from IKEA, West Elm, and CB2—and a deep layering of books, paintings, and collectibles. “My goal is to leave the impression that someone lives there.” After the sale, furnishings are returned to their trailer home.

      When it came time for Jones to decorate his Laguna Beach pied-a-terre overlooking St. Ann’s Beach where he surfs, he followed the same principles of mixing old and new. The challenge: It’s a 320-square-foot apartment. “Some walk-in closets in Malibu are bigger,” he says with a laugh. “I treated the space as if I were designing a boat … everything had to be intentional and purpose-driven.”
      First, he stripped the apartment, taking it back to its original white, 1940s stucco box from the Mediterranean “villa” a former tenant made of it. Removing the cottage cheese ceiling, and painting over brown and beige walls with a crisp gallery white makes the space appear larger. Ditto the new wall-to-wall sea grass carpet. Jones also replaced the makeshift sink-and-hot-plate kitchen with a ship-tight galley. A new shelf above a farmhouse sink holds knickknacks.

      Nearby, a pony wall he added helps divide the kitchen from the living room while doubling as a bookcase. At the opposite end of the kitchen, a new dresser with built-in shelves on either side separates kitchen and bedroom. “I built it shallow so it doesn’t stick too far out into the room,” he says. The designer kept furnishings to a few select pieces: a vintage leather sofa, a pair of chairs, a coffee table, a bed.
      The apartment’s personality comes from Jones’ quirky decor and architectural remnants. Walls are peppered with surfer art, seascapes and mermaids, fisherman and divers. Campy accessories, such as his 1950s leaping-fish lamp, sea horse candlesticks, and collection of fish objets d’art, add interest. A 1940s paneled front door that he inserted with vertical reed glass sets the period tone. Other items from the era include Lucite doorknobs on the new dresser, a pedestal sink, and period medicine chest and toilet. “I wanted to make everything look as if it had always been there.”

      Jones hits all the major flea markets monthly—Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica—but says he’s put himself on hold for his biggest passion. “No more surfer art for a while. … I’m growing out of my containers.”


      Photograph by Jeri Koegel
      This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue.


      Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
      This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue. - See more at:

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