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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 just $20, Raya bought these old school lockers she found sitting outside a neighbor’s home. Forest repainted the doors, and the kids now store their toys in them, inside labeled baskets from Land of Nod (
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • Forest and Raya decided to convert their former dining room into a play room for the kids. They sold their large dining room table and bought this smaller one at a thrift store, which works much better in the smaller eat-in kitchen space. The Thonet chairs, originally from a church in Santa Barbara, are another Craigslist find.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • Raya and Forest love their home’s laid-back, cozy vibe.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • In the children's bedroom, sweet vintage toys and graphic prints lend themselves to a unique, playful aesthetic.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • A tiny shelf with ceramic miniatures and a letter G makes an adorable accent in Genevieve’s closet.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • The kitchen is unusually large for the neighborhood and was a major selling point. Raya and Forest painted the walls and changed the light fixtures to these from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. (
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • Raya found this lounge chair at an antique store and had an upholsterer patch a few tears and paint the leather.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • Raya chose a smaller-than-usual slip-covered couch from Room & Board ( to help the living room feel bigger (and the couch stay clean with two young kids). Raya’s mom made the chevron window shades.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • Raya found these two shapely chairs on Craigslist. She liked the original goldenrod fabric, but after the chairs suffered an attack from the family's puppy, she re-covered them with slipcovers her mom made. Raya made the matching pillows herself.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • IKEA shelves (, an old shipping crate and a big flea market wire basket contain some of Baker and Genevieve's playthings. Raya found the vintage map at an antique store and Forest mounted it to a wood panel.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle
  • Baker's wardrobe is one of Forest's family heirlooms.
    Photo By Raya Carlisle

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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