Ever walk into a space and feel instantly inspired? Some people have a knack for creating beauty wherever they go, and longtime Schoolhouse friend, Alex Creswell, is one of these magical and rare humans. Case in point — her character-filled California home.
Bright, winsome, and full of fun (often unexpected) touches, Alex's 1940's Central Coast cottage is the perfect reflection of her creativity in tangible form. The design approach? Surround yourself with things you love. Since we've had an extra rainy spring here in Portland, we asked Alex to take us on a visual vacation to her light-filled and oh-so dreamy abode. Below, she shares the story behind the space and gives us an inside scoop on her latest passion project — Neighbors General Store.
Tell us about your home! How did you find it?
Alan and I were living in Portland at the time but knew we wanted to move back to the California central coast since we were both from the area. Housing was hard to come by (to say the least)! Less than 30 minutes after this listing went live on Craigslist, we were able to secure it. Every day I pinch myself that it worked out the way it did. It’s a light-filled 1940s cottage with quirks and character to spare. Our neighbor is in her 80s, and her mom used to live in our house years ago. She has the best stories about growing up in this home.
How would you describe the interior aesthetic in three words or less?
Collected, cozy, and comfortable.
Could you share a little bit about your background?
Well, I worked with the most wonderful group of people at Schoolhouse for about five years on the Marketing Team! My background is in photography, and I’ve been lucky enough to always have that as a part of my job description. These days, I’m a full time freelancer. The pandemic really shook things up (to put it mildly), and I realized I could carve out a career for myself doing things I love.
How does the look and feel of your home relate to your lifestyle?
I want people to feel instantly comfortable when they come in — not to worry about putting their feet up on the coffee table or staying too late after a dinner party. I love beautiful, well-made things, but I don’t want to be fussy about them. If a plate chips or a drink spills, no sweat.
"I love beautiful, well-made things, but I don’t want to be fussy about them."
What are some of the first questions you ask when styling a room?
I’ve learned over time, I really need to love something if I’m going to bring it into my space. If I’m looking to buy a side table, or a rug, or new plates, I know that if I buy something but don’t love it, I’ll never be content with it. I’ve found that it is much better in the long run to be patient and hunt for just the right thing.
On that note, could you tell us about a few of your most cherished or nostalgic pieces?
My grandparents took a lot of photos. I have stacks of pictures from the last 80 years: their travels, family photos, lots of memories. Some of them are just so beautiful. I love that I have this tangible way to see the world through their eyes back then.
I also love our coffee table! A couple years ago, I went vintage hunting with a few friends. I was on the hunt for a coffee table and towards the end of the day, we stumbled on one that was $20. A few months later, my friend Jorie found out it was actually a vintage Knoll table by George Nakashima. I really liked it before, but knowing what a treasure it really is, makes me love it even more.
Last but not least, my sister-in-law made a paper-cut portrait of me and Alan, and it's one of my favorite things. I love how she was able to capture us both so well.
Do you have any renter-friendly tips to share when it comes to designing a home?
One of my favorite ways to make updates is to switch out the lighting. It’s usually not too tricky, and if you hang on to the original lights, you can swap them back when you move somewhere new. Along those lines, a simple hardware swap in the bathroom or kitchen can go a long way too.
I’ve also found that most landlords will let you paint a room white, which often makes an instant improvement. I’ve always held the mentality that I’d rather put in a little time and money to make the space feel like home.
Could you talk us through a few of your Schoolhouse favorites?
How much time do we have?! Number one is all the blankets! I can never get enough. The Winter + Summer Coverlet is probably my all time Schoolhouse favorite. It’s timeless and beautifully made. The Popcorn Coverlet is a close second. It reminds me of an old coverlet my grandma had on her bed for years.
I’m also loving the new Allegheny Wall Sconce in Lichen. That color is absolutely perfect, and it’s such a great bedside sconce especially since it comes in a plug-in option for easy installation. As for a new favorite, it would have to be the June Side Table. The tone of the wood goes with almost anything and the scale is perfect for our bedroom. Plus, it has such a sweet scallop!
You very clearly have a knack for creating content. Could you share a few tips around photographing your own home?
Lighting is key. As a general rule of thumb, it's ideal to have light coming in from at least one side and the front. Keep an eye on that sun and it will do you a lot of favors!
Look through the lens. What you see is different from what the camera sees. If I can, I’ll put the camera on a tripod to dial in the frame and style based on what it looks like.
Move stuff around! Often I’ll frame something out and realize it looks too cluttered or that it needs a pop of color. Making minor adjustments can work wonders.
What are some things that energize or inspire you these days?
I started making pottery a few months ago when we were still living in Portland. It was my therapy. I’m not great at it, but I love the process. There's an old potter's shed in our backyard at our current place and I’m slowly working to clear it out and make it functional again. I’ve missed making pottery these last few months and am excited to have a space to do it in soon.
Last but not least, what’s something you’re looking forward to this year either personally or professionally?
Currently, I spend a lot of my free time working on a little online shop called Neighbors General Store. I love the process of curating products and telling stories through photography. My career has been doing this type of work for other brands. I’m really enjoying having my own thing! It’s so fun to dream and scheme about what it could be.
Shop the Space
Photography by Alex Creswell