Fine Vintage: Living Simply in Ventura, California

A busy couple finds simplicity and a connection with the past through vintage decor and family traditions.

| May/June 2013

For busy working parents Raya and Forest Carlisle, the key to creating the good life for themselves and their children, 5-year-old Baker and 2-year-old Genevieve, is balance. Committed to finding simplicity in our busy modern world, Raya and Forest seek to bring pieces of the past—literally—into their home and to connect their kids with nature and tradition.

Simple Style

Raya, a wedding photographer, and Forest, a programmer for, a website that helps teachers find high-quality lesson plans, both grew up in the West. Raya describes her mom as extremely creative and says she helped her understand the value in living simply. “She was just so resourceful,” Raya says. “She made us a Twister board out of a cardboard box and she painted on the circles. She would buy a doll and then make an outfit for it out of scrap fabric. She had a good attitude about making a lot out of a little.”

Making a lot out of a little is a trait Raya inherited. Her family’s 1951 cottage in Ventura, California, lives much larger than its small size (1,300 square feet including the garage) thanks to its engaging, vivacious décor. In the living room, a smaller- than-usual couch makes the room feel larger, and vibrant blue and white chevron shades Raya’s mother made enliven the sunny space. In the kitchen, brightly colored dining chairs and vintage ceramic dinnerware make the eat-in dining table engaging, freeing up the former dining room to become the kids’ playroom.

Raya has a real knack for vintage style, something also partially inherited from her mom, who bought a lot of Raya’s childhood clothing at the thrift store, then would alter it to make it uniquely her own. “Now I love vintage clothes,” Raya says. “I like special things, and to me it always felt like that was special.”

That love of vintage items blossomed into an affair with retro home décor when Raya was in her mid-20s and working for an L.A. photographer who was also a furniture designer and Mid-Century design fan. “He had books on Mid-Century in the studio,” Raya says. “I discovered that, and it was a light bulb moment.” She developed a love of vintage décor, right around the time she and Forest bought their house, and began shopping on eBay and at flea markets and antique stores, building a collection piece by piece. She got a jumpstart on that collection from Forest’s family, who had kept many heirloom pieces to hand down, many from Forest’s ancestor John G. Carlisle, who was Speaker of the House under President Chester A. Arthur and Secretary of the Treasury under President Grover Cleveland. 

One of Raya’s favorite things about buying secondhand is the cozy, worn-in feeling it gives her home—perfect for a household with two young children, “Our house looks good, but it doesn’t look perfect, because a lot of the stuff I loved is scratched,” Raya says. “It’s very lived in. Nothing is too precious—it’s already old and has character. It’s part of our life. It’s messy sometimes, but I don’t care.”

5/12/2013 12:18:43 AM

What a beautiful home!  I also love the story behind the lovely pieces in it.  I love that it shows how beautiful vintage is and how by reducing your footprint you can have a home with such character.

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