A Frat House Turned Surfer’s Paradise in Newport Beach

Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Interior Design: Mindy Laven · Photography: Ryan Garvin · Tile: Mission Tile West, Arizona Tile, and Clé Tile · Furniture and Decor: West Elm, Serena and Lily, Ro Sham Beaux, and Essentials for Living · Wall Coverings: Phillip Jeffries

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When it comes to a beachy, California abode, Mindy Laven knows how to check all of the design boxes. Bifold doors? Check. Surf boards? Check. Soothing blues? Check. Vintage finds? Check. Hand painted tile, natural materials, and tons of texture? Check, check, and check.

Scroll on to see how she transformed this former frat house in Newport Beach into a captivating, entertainer’s paradise for her third-time client. (You know you’re doing something incredibly right when a family trusts you to design not one, but three homes!)

This project is full of interesting tile – which leads us to two questions: What are some of your favorite tile sources? These beauties look hand-painted; how do you know if hand-painted tiles are right for your project?

You are correct. The kitchen backsplash tiles are hand painted Terracotta by Tabarka. That tile came from Mission Tile West, my go to for any unique tile that I might be sourcing! The stair risers are cement tile from Cle Tile. The son’s bathroom tile is from Arizona Tile.

I love hand-painted tile so much. It just feels authentic! I try to incorporate a touch of it on every project. Mixed with other, less expensive options, I always feel like it elevates everything. It also pairs so well with the vintage vibe that is my calling card! I don’t think you can go wrong using it as an accent. Even if it’s just a backsplash, there is so much design value in a hand made material. So, in answer to your question: Hand-painted tile is always a good idea in my book!

This home is so welcoming – we’d love to pack a bag right now and come over for a visit! What are some of the things you keep in mind when designing a space for entertaining?

I spend a lot of time getting to know the families I work for. My goal is to build a house that functions the way a family lives. This was my third home for this family. I know that their children and grandchildren are the most important people in their lives. This house is divided into two separate units. Although each unit is on the smaller side, they needed to live large. We removed walls, raised ceilings, opened up staircases and anything else we could think of to make this space feel airy and open, yet cozy and livable at the same time!

In the downstairs space, we actually positioned the couch to face the outdoor sectional. With the bifold doors open, it creates the opportunity for indoor/outdoor conversation. Both units have kitchen islands, making for a great spot to serve meals, play games, or share a glass of wine. My number one priority is designing a space that lives well. This family is super casual and welcoming, and I think their space reflects their sense of hospitality!

You’ve shared your goal is to create something “classically memorable” in every space – which piece or design element fulfills that goal in this gorgeous project?

I love all of the vintage pieces we used here. The painting of the old sailing schooner is so cool, leaning on the floating shelf in the kitchen. I also love the tortoise shell hanging on the wall in the family room. I had the family crest painted on the wall by a local artist. It shows the year they moved in, the nautical location, and the family name. It makes me happy every time I see it!

Can you share more about your journey and what lead you to pursue interior design?

By the time I went to design school, I had remodeled and sold three of my own homes. I was obsessed. Design literally kept me awake at night. I would finish one house and instantly want to move so that I could start another.

Eventually, I was helping all of my friends design their spaces. Essentially I was working a full time job but not getting paid. Right about then, I decided to go back to school! Once I graduated, I printed a card, and I’ve been fortunate to be busy every day since.

Design really is my passion, and in a small way, I feel like I’m contributing something good to the world by helping people turn their houses into homes! I love that I get to try something new on every project. It keeps it continually fresh. I also love that I get to resurrect and breathe new life into spaces that otherwise might be forgotten.

This particular house was actually a frat house before the owners bought it! I wish you could see the before pictures.

Southern California knows how to do indoor-outdoor living, and this project is no exception! What are some of your favorite design details of a functional indoor-outdoor space?

I love the downstairs patio with the stone wall. There’s a spot to relax and a spot to eat together. Neighbors can drop in anytime to chat or share a glass of wine. We used sliding doors that open wide to let the ocean breeze in and allow for ease of conversation. There is actually a beautiful roof top deck that we are completing right now! Here’s a little video from the project.

What Instagram accounts are inspiring you these days?

Leanne Ford is an icon in my book, and I can’t get enough of Athena Calderone and her account, Eyeswoon!

If you could go back and share one piece of advice with yourself when you were just starting out, what would it be?

Go big or go home! Believe in your vision! I don’t stray too far from a comfortable, livable aesthetic. My clients hire me to create a lifestyle.

You’ve truly mastered the old-school surf aesthetic. What are the must-have elements for someone inspired by this style?

A neutral base palette is so important to me. It allows me to pop in color wherever I want without competing with the bones of a house.

I always layer in vintage. I believe every home should contain items that existed before you! It’s my form of environmentalism. The patina of an item, the chips, dings, and scratches…those things speak to me. A little bit of wear on an item tells me that it has been well loved!

All of my projects get a surfboard of some sort. I custom paint a lot of them myself to go with the decor.

I love a mix of natural materials…wood, leather, jute, brass, etc.

Tortoise shells, old ship paintings, hand made pottery…to me, this is design. These items make a home feel curated, collected, and livable.

Is there a current design trend you’re loving?

I’m loving rift sawn oak paired with marble. I can’t get enough of it and plan on using this combo in my own next house. There’s always a next house for me!

What’s your favorite part of being an interior designer?

I love that every day is different. Some days I’m on site, some days I’m in my office, and other days I’m out in the field sourcing. It keeps things exciting and keeps my creative juices flowing.

I also adore my clients. So many of them have become good friends. I feel very blessed that I get to do something I love that brings others joy.

What does a well lived home mean to you?

It means nothing too precious. A place to kick off your shoes, curl up on the couch, light a favorite candle, or pour a great glass of wine for a friend. A home is really made up of the people that live in it. The design is simply the backdrop for a life well lived! 

Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Interior Design: Mindy Laven · Photography: Ryan Garvin · Tile: Mission Tile West, Arizona Tile, and Clé Tile · Furniture and Decor: West Elm, Serena and Lily, Ro Sham Beaux, and Essentials for Living · Wall Coverings: Phillip Jeffries

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