Tag Archives: Solana Beach

Fee Fi Faux Fum

Jack and the Beanstalk, by Jessie Wilcox Smith


I’d been browsing end tables in a vast and sparsely appointed CB2 showroom in La Jolla for some time before I realized that the potted trees scattered about were artificial. Fiddle Leaf Fig, Dracaena, Palm, Eucalyptus. What once cheapened a room, does it still? Not necessarily. Not here apparently. I’d been pondering this issue for a condo we are furnishing for rental in Solana Beach, California. What can you do plant-wise when you’re not there to care for it? 

Like a skater on thin ice, I pressed my luck and slid over to the Arhaus showroom.  Artificial trees there too. If you weren’t looking for them, you wouldn’t know. There, in a backroom among various items that had been marked down, I took the plunge on a 7’ palm tree. Up close, I could appreciate that the trunk was made of real fiber. The hairy fiber got me, and it came home with me. 

And now I cannot imagine the living room without it. How did this happen?

As a child I used to press flowers and string daisies for wreaths to wear in my hair. I still find dried, preserved, and even wilted plants lovely. Silk flowers not so much. Silk flowers trigger an unpleasant memory for me. I was single, getting a divorce, and living alone in a railroad flat in a brownstone that had seen better days in Midtown Manhatten. A sublet apartment. A closet where I thought about hanging myself. On a dinner date with advertising executives in Greenwich CT our hostess pointed out silk flower arrangements gifted by her mad man husband, one for each child born to them. They, the arrangements, were displayed on bookcases, console tables, end tables and side tables in their elegant living room. All I could think was, as if every flower would be in bloom at once! 

Sorrow for my own marriage engulfed me then. At the time it was like seeing the possibility of a life I’d lost. As if my marriage, might have come to this. As if that was what I wanted. It was not a happy period for me. I see all that in silk flowers. 

Even now, artificial trees were something I had to warm up to. No, I had to push myself. From the disciplines of an architectural/interior design background to writing and Master Gardening, what am I doing now but appointing artificial trees in my interiors. Heaven help me.

Here’s what I’ve learned: The first thing I have to do is to stop calling them “artificial trees.” Stop saying artificial trees, artificial plants, artificial anything. They are faux botanicals. The next thing I learned is to place them where, if they were a real specimen, the light would be right and they might thrive. Give them credibility. Also, give them some distance. Let them hang back. People should be surprised, as I was in that CB2 showroom. 

Call it magical thinking but as soon as you disclose something, you find you are not alone. Think of all the photo shoots in the world of design, and how essential we have come to feel plants are in our environments, our interiors. A photograph doesn’t know faux from real, so we’ve all been dupped a trillion times, I’m sure. 

It’s a dirty little secret, and now you have it.


Filed under faux botanicals, silk flowers,

Just a Beach House


Sundowning at Seascape Shores, Photo by Ashley Mayer

Who does this, disappear for four or five months? We did. Our goodbyes on island in late June were all about going to San Diego for the birth of our latest grandchild in early July. But no sooner did baby Hudson come into the world, we started to look for a condo. A place we might rent out most of the year, and then use ourselves in wintertime. A home away from home to be near the grands and in the sun. That’s the plan anyway. Time will tell how well it goes.

This is the story of where we are and what we’re doing. I’d like our friends and neighbors on island to know, we did not fall off the earth. Although, here too, we’re living right on the edge.

Just north of Del Mar we found ourselves a condominium in Solana Beach. Not a row of condos, mind you, with everyone over your shoulder or elbow to elbow from one balcony to the next, Seascape Shores is instead designed as a village. Maze-like paths and condos that are turned for light, privacy, and abundant outdoor deck and courtyard space, all on a cliff with a shared staircase of 140 steps to the beach. A highly coveted oceanfront community, little did we know how rarely the units become available.

From first sight I have considered this “my beach house.” I want it to be an oasis. Everything in calm neutrals and naturals, following the edict of Malibu Style. I figure we’re both surfing communities, north of San Diego and north of Los Angeles. 

There is a ritual at Seascape Shores of residents coming out to see the sundown every evening. The thought is: if everyone paused like this, the world would be a better place.

As a child of the Sixties, I can do naturals with my eyes shut and hands behind my back. It’s a look and texture I love, and it’s in again, as it should be. Everyone’s got a hanging basket chandelier. Ours is made of rope. Similarly I was going to resist wall baskets for being too trendy. Well now I have two. Over-scaled. Avoiding big box home stores, I comb Cedros Design District in Solana Beach for vintage and rustic tables, stools, benches, pillows, throws, baskets, pottery, and art. 

Basically I waver between “We’re going to make it beautiful” and “It’s just a beach house.” When we first bought the condo all the girlfriends inside my head said, “You’re going to have to paint out the cabinets and replace the ugly brown granite countertops.” I know they were thinking white in both cases. Why then, after upgrading to stainless appliances and pulls, am I so happy with things the way they are? Walking home after sunsets there’s a warmth in the light maple cabinets, and the granite backsplash glows like alabaster lit from within. 

A wall weaving in cream colored string by Leanne Ford pulls everything together for me. I knew I could count on her to get my drift. In the dining there’s a twig composition from Bali, and a manzanita tree branch hung on the wall over each bed. It’s all natural and sculptural. I need to “feel the hand” of textures, to see the scale and the nuanced color. That which cannot be done online.  

So I go with what I love and in the process, fall in love with it. I’m going to have a hard time leaving this beach house. Part of me doesn’t want it to ever be finished. 

 “I hope we get out of here by Christmas,” says my husband.

We missed a summer and fall on island to get this condo in Solana Beach up and running. But I’m seeing the boys grow up here year after year. It’s their beach house too. The way the beach house was like a character in “Beaches” with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. I had such a summer place at a grandmother’s cabin on a lake in Connecticut in my childhood, so I know the importance of it. 

The boys bounding up and down the stairs in wetsuits, carrying boards and laughing. Their grandfather at the grill, and sun on the patio all winter long. A refrigerator that’s somehow always full and beds made up for them. And when it’s quiet, the sound of the ocean never far off. 

I see all this. And if they love coming here like I loved that lake, well then, that’s what I’m after. 


Filed under beach house, remodel