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Home: Drawn To Style

At home with artist Karina Bania and her family


La Mesa

1,700 square feet with 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, a front office, and an art studio

Their Story

Artist Karina Bania’s house is akin to a pair of perfectly worn-in jeans—relaxed, lived-in, and effortlessly cool. The Banias have restored nearly every inch of its 100-year-old bones. Décor-wise, everything is meaningful and placed ever so artfully—from the photo strip casually tucked in the frame of a fancy painting, to the hand-painted wood ceiling in the entryway (she mixed four colors and spent late nights lying on scaffolding to finish it), to the cactus in the corner (“It feels like a grandmother to me.”). A sheepskin rug drapes over the sofa and appears tossed by accident, yet it adds the perfect texture and pop. It’s the kind of innate style you’re born with, and Bania has it in spades. Rest assured, her family is as interesting as she is. Her girls, Sienna (age 8) and Olivia (age 6), speak Mandarin and Spanish. Her husband, Doug, who launched the intellectual property consulting firm Nevium, recently testified in the case against Pharrell and Robin Thicke over their song “Blurred Lines.” Karina runs her art studio and business out of the too-stylish-to-call-it-a-basement basement. She’s not above shopping at Ikea and doesn’t ever want a big behemoth of a house. “I like old houses. I like close, cozy living—with everyone in the same space.”

Karina and her husband kept the original cabinets and cut out the centers. They added new hardware, glass, and metal screens, which they spray painted white, and swapped out the original countertops for butcher block.

An Eclectic Mix

The living room features a blend of old and new, including a Beni Ourain rug, Marfa wool blanket, West Elm coffee table, and hand-cut side tables made from a felled Torrey pine. Karina found the Eames-inspired chair for $20 on Craigslist. “I love that it’s so used,” she says. One of her paintings, Eastern Approach, hangs front and center. On the wall to the left is a handmade magnet board. Karina and her husband bent sheet metal around a wooden frame, similar to what she uses for her canvas paintings. She changes the images seasonally. “It’s a nice modern way to display family photos and invitations.”

“My style is definitely relaxed. I like lived-in.”

A Beautiful Mess

The family’s dining room is filled with unique details that turn empty walls and spaces into talking points. Karina stood the skeleton of a saguaro cactus in the far corner and decorated it with various trinkets from her travels, such as a god’s eye from Sayulita, mala beads from India, and bell chimes from Nepal. “It’s like a little altar,” she says. An accent wall painted in Benjamin Moore’s Dark Harbor showcases a mix of art and photos, sourced from flea markets to Etsy to fine galleries. “I’ll buy art anywhere,” she explains. “It doesn’t have to be expensive.” The built-in bar was originally one of the windows along the front of the house. The Banias discovered it during their restoration process and decided to keep it, adding a wood frame, mirrored backing, lighting, and glass shelves. She says, “It’s the perfect toast to the home’s history.” The table is set with Karina’s handmade linens, hand dyed with colorful smudges and stains. The design evolved from practical experience. “I really wanted to bring art into the everyday,” she recalls. “With these, your stains and markings just add to the history of it—and the memories.”

The couple added a master suite onto the back of the house. Its neutral gray walls, complemented by a hand-quilted vintage kantha throw and West Elm bedding and drapes, create a relaxed and inviting space. On the right, Karina opted for drapes in lieu of standard closet doors and designed the master bathroom around these vintage doors from Architectural Salvage. In the background, framed artwork leans against the wall, rather than being hung. She says, “They break, and I just leave them there without the glass.”

Small Space, Big Style

To maximize her daughters’ tiny room (roughly 9 feet by 11 feet), the family chose a trundle bed from Ikea. “Small spaces can work,” Karina insists. “We use every inch.” The artwork above the bed was painted by Sienna. “There’s a time when children are free, when they do their own thing with complete freedom,” Karina says. “This was done during that glorious time.” Bedding from Target.

Inside the Artist's Studio

Soft, natural light fills the space in Karina’s art studio. The room is punctuated by inspiring things: piles of colorful magazines, a vase of used paintbrushes, an old photo of Sofia Coppola, past paintings stacked on cinder blocks. Flecks of paint dot the floor, creating a work of art unto itself. Above, a table and unfinished workbench serve as shelves that house her collection of paints—a mix of acrylics, latex, gouache, watercolors, pigments, and dyes.

Drape Escape

Karina converted the porch off the dining room into an outdoor living space. Ikea drapes create a wispy, almost Bahamian feel, alongside vintage wicker furniture and her grandmother’s old sofa covered with an unapologetically casual white sheet. “I love luring the outdoors inside, and vice versa.”

The artist loves hanging plants. She has 13 in total. “I even have one in the shower.”

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