They say to strike while the iron’s hot. No one knows this better than the Smoleys.
Consider the brass chairs around their dining table. Allie saw them in the background of a photo on Instagram and direct messaged the person to ask if they were for sale. She was in LA a few hours later offering $500 for the set on the spot. Then there’s the midcentury console in her dining room. She spotted it on Craigslist and had the seller ship it to her from Texas.
That doesn’t mean they’re impulsive—just good at seizing opportunity when it presents itself. "I’m not in a hurry to find what I want," says Allie, a wedding photographer. "I wait for things to find me."
Considering this, you shouldn’t be surprised that she and her husband, Jared (who works for Napster), purchased their current house sight unseen.
Granted, they’d been house-hunting for three years prior. The Fallbrook High sweethearts had lived in three tract homes before craving something with character.
"I had to have something built between ’55 and ’68," Allie says. "The problem was finding that on at least two acres."
She and Jared were in Tulum, Mexico, two years ago when her mother found their solution: a one-story Fallbrook ranch house built in ’63 had come on the market, she told them, and it required a quick sale.
"I mean, I saw the photos online," Allie says. "In hindsight, I maybe had some rose-colored glasses on." By the time they returned to the states, they were in escrow and Allie was "decorating in my mind."
The first time they saw it in person, the whole house had pink tile flooring and the walls were yellow. The windows were still hung with original ’60s curtains. "It really hadn’t been touched since it’d been built," Allie says. "It was perfect." And it had all the fixings from her favorite design era: beamed ceilings, exposed brick interiors, a stone fireplace. "We didn’t knock down a single wall. I didn’t want to lose the character, I just wanted to update the character."
But to do that took a lot more patience, time, and money.
They gave themselves three months to make it "livable" for the kids, Jack and Max, now seven and three respectively.
First to go were the original plate glass windows and sliding doors. Then came stripping the whole house of lead paint and applying a new white coat. They swapped that pink tile out for birch flooring. Every interior door was reinstalled, too, with sturdier all-wood models, laser measured and custom made by Interior Door + Closet Company.
But the hardest part of all? Downsizing from 3,500 square feet to 1,600—they could move in only half of their belongings. Ahead of the move, Allie created a Facebook group called Allie’s Flea Market to sell what she wasn’t attached to. (It’s still online today.)
But she had to call in reinforcements to help with her closet. "My old closet was the size of my master bedroom. I hired a stylist to give me a dose of hard love and keep only 10 percent."
The 90 percent she sold paid for their new kitchen countertops. That was a real revelation into the wonders of minimalism.
"Now we don’t collect stuff," she says. "Most people unnecessarily hold on to stuff they’re not using, and that creates chaos. Chaos is hard to keep clean. You want your space to feel comfortable and calming."
It’s precisely what she achieved in the new home, which is still gleaming with her long-awaited finds but curated with purpose. Take an Alexander Calder painting she scooped up at an estate sale for $60. Allie asked Jared to rearrange the whole dining room last weekend to ensure it was a focal point. "He’s used to it," she jokes. "We’ve rearranged probably 50 times."
Currently, that must-have stone fireplace anchors the living room, where two light leather couches symmetrize the space. It opens into the dining room, where those brass chairs surround the dining table.
In the kitchen, they’ve installed open shelving for a modern touch. Past that, the bedrooms offshoot from a hallway bedecked in brass-framed artwork, all collected during the family’s travels.
The boys’ bedrooms are no exception to the serene feeling in the rest of the house—their chaos (read: toy collection) is contained in midcentury wardrobes or their closets. Both of them have a daybed, too, because Mom is a big believer in them. "They’re beds that grow up with kids."
The master is most minimal of all, furnished with a brass-framed bed and two midcentury dressers. And the layered textiles there are another example of their knack for waiting till just the right moment to buy. The bottom rug, an oversize Persian one showing its age because it’s shaved all the way down, Allie purchased four years ago. It took her buying the rug atop it—a Moroccan one she spotted online and hightailed to Fullerton to buy—to finally find the right place for it.
"I’m never looking for the perfect spot. You don’t have to place everything right away. If you find a piece you love, wait for it."