I met Mel and her husband, Jeff on a recent evening at their sweet waterfront home in Vallejo. Built in 1924, there are plenty of original details with a newer kitchen and bathroom done by Mel and Jeff who is a builder and metal fabricator. Their two story house is filled with abundant light and touches of collected vintage, family art and furniture made by Jeff. This industrious couple has made their house feel so loved and lived in with great energy.
Their beautiful Persian rug that Mel snagged second-hand for a great deal. Cool metal coffee table made by Jeff.
Their dining table made by Jeff is paired with vintage Danish chairs that Mel reupholstered. Tillandsia and coral decorate the table.
Sweet Cathrineholm teapot.
One of Mel's beautiful metal moon mobiles hangs next to the stairway.
Simple white subway tiles continued from the kitchen into the bathroom.
Mel's studio is a sweet light-filled room at the end of the hall with a view of her growing garden below.
In addition to their two cats, Cali and Marty-Pants, the neighbor's cat is a regular visitor seen here.
An avid skater, Jeff built a skate ramp in the larger of their two garages.
How long have you lived in your house? We've lived in our house for almost 6 years. When we moved here in October 2010 we discovered dozens of pumpkins growing in our new yard. So, as a way to get to know our neighbors we offered fresh pumpkins to neighbors as they passed by. We were also struck by our view of the stars from our new neighborhood, which has limited street lighting. Prior to this house, we lived in an apartment in the Mission District in San Francisco that had a bright view alright, but of a 24-hour grocery store. This new to us, unencumbered view of the night sky is one thing that inspired me to start making metal moon mobiles.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house? I am grateful for all of the windows, and the light that pours through them. We enjoy our views of the water, where the Napa River meets the San Pablo Bay, and the view of Mount Tam. On a clear day we can see the Golden Gate Bridge. All of this to say I love all the visual reminders that we are in the Bay Area. When Jeff and I began house hunting I felt a little ping of anxiety when we drove through neighborhoods that didn't have the immediate sense of place. I'm also really grateful for our uniquely-shaped corner lot -- there are no houses right next to ours which gives us privacy in an urban area, which allows us to play loud music and skate the ramp without bothering our neighbors.
What are some of the biggest changes you've made to your house? The biggest changes we've made to the inside of our house all happened in the kitchen. When we moved here the kitchen was tricked out with a faux green marble linoleum tile floor, matching Formica countertops, a Giant with a capital "G" fridge, and cabinets that had jagged edges where they'd been cut apparently with a chainsaw to make way for the fridge...you get the picture. We've had a lot of fun modifying the little kitchen ourselves, on a budget, and it's now a room that we enjoy spending time in! We added eco-friendly cork flooring, modified, painted and moved around existing cabinets, added open shelving, painted the walls, added butcher block countertops using wood given to us by a friend and lots of other little things.
The biggest changes we've made to the outside area include removing a 6 foot retaining wall, and a 6 foot plastic dividing wall, we terraced the hill, put in a gate (made from skateboards) off the driveway, just to name a few things. Of course we continue to add plants, trees and flowers.
How would you describe your style? My style is easily described as vintage eclectic--I collect things that have stories, histories, and hold meaning. For instance my card catalog once lived in a library at UC Berkeley and I like knowing it was once used as a learning tool by thousands of students; my vintage green tables and chest of drawers set were used by medics during a war! Jeff's grandpa's 1960's portrait hangs in our living room; my late step mom's ceramics honor her memory; our bedroom nightstand was built by my late father when he was in hight school; and the theatre chairs were, you guessed it, once sat on by theatre goers. As a librarian, I love stories, in books and about vintage and sentimental objects. Also, we've filled our house with things we've made ourselves like our coffee table, dining table, art, vases, chairs we've reupholstered, and so on. To sum it up, I'd say my style is story-filled vintage eclectic and equal parts self-made.
What are some of your favorite places in Vallejo or the Baby Area? Mare Island Brewing Company is a favorite destination in Vallejo, the waterfront taproom is easy-going, and the beer is great. Vallejo's own Moschetti coffee hosts free coffee tastings on the weekends. The owner is nice, and the selection is crazy big. I like to hunt for treasures at Indian Alley and Yesteryear's antique shops on Georgia Street, and on the same street there's ValleJOYoga, the best yoga studio. My friend and I both have garden boxes at a local community garden and sometimes we meet there.
The ferry from Vallejo to San Francisco makes it easy to get to the city without fighting traffic or hunting for parking, and as an added bonus there's a bar on the ferry. Recently, thousands of Bay Area people flocked to Vallejo's waterfront area not far from our house for the Bernie Sanders rally, which was amazing, and that grassy area on the water hosts tons of various events throughout the year. Since I work near Albany I like to go to Flowerland on my lunch breaks, and on my days off I enjoy hiking new trails throughout the Bay Area, and eating good vegetarian/vegan food in Oakland and Berkeley. The "meatball" sandwich at The Butcher's Son on Univeristy Avenue is so freakin' delicious!