Ben & Abby's Art-Filled Treehouse

House Tour

Name: Ben and Abby (and Lucy the pug)
Location: Golden Hill - San Diego, California
Size: 700 square feet (1 bedroom, 1 bath)
Years lived in: 2 years, rent

In this light-flooded Golden Hill apartment, Ben serves as resident curator. By day, he's director of La Jolla's Quint Contemporary Art, one of the hottest galleries in San Diego, making him more than qualified. Ben and his girlfriend, Abby, have created a tranquil and earthy home that doubles as a showcase for their statement-making art collection.

Golden Hill, an old neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown San Diego, offers an urban charm that's distinctly Southern Californian. Palm trees rustle in the harbor breeze and the rolling hills are lined with cute Craftsman and Spanish bungalows. Near the top of one quiet block, Ben and Abby snagged an airy space that feels like a treehouse with leaf-framed views of the city and Tijuana beyond.

The couple has amassed original works by artists like Ryan McGinness, Roy McMakin and Kelsey Brookes, as well as prints from the more affordable 20x200. Ben has also created his own clever pieces, such as wall-mounted faucets in the kitchen and an inflatable giraffe in the shower, a humorous homage to Jeff Koons.

This growing collection doesn't compete for attention with the couple's decorating style, a comfortable mash-up of midcentury pieces and organic accents, from a gorgeous rustic-modern coffee table by San Diego Urban Timber to a branch sculpture Ben assembled with tufts of moss and thread. A vibrant speckled orchid and hot-pink floral bunches pop against the apartment's natural hues, which connect the space to the outdoors and provide a neutral backdrop for the contemporary art found in every sun-dappled corner of the home.

Though only 700 square feet, the apartment spills out onto a small but perfectly appointed patio, where the couple enjoys entertaining friends. Lucy, their darling pug, is clearly the draw of any party.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Radical nature mid-century modern contemporary art flair

Inspiration: Nature and contemporary artwork

Favorite Element: Hardwood floors and sense of bringing the outside in as well as living with our contemporary art collection - We love to relax, cook, eat, entertain, sit outside on our deck, and hang with Lucy (the pug). We definitely think of this as our treehouse. It's cozy and comfortable and with all the natural light it gets we feel right at home living in the trees. We enjoy the space we have and often spend time rearranging based upon artwork on the walls or a new dog bed for Lucy. 


Biggest Challenge: It's not a big treehouse so it's a challenge when we want to add a piece of furniture or hang new artwork.

What Friends Say: "We love it!"

Biggest Embarrassment: The mess of shoes in our closet.

Proudest DIY: Repurposing IKEA table and sawing it in half to then re-use in living room and kitchen. Recently it was fun to build a music room off our laundry room so that Abby can practice what she loves.

Biggest Indulgence: Artwork.

Best Advice: Take your time - there's no rush.

Dream Source: Any kind of sanctuary, tree houses, young designers, well designed spaces.

Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS
Our landlord gets the credit in most rooms. We recently repainted the kitchen (slate gray) and bathroom (sand). We wanted to tie the house together with the earthy feel of living in nature.

PATIO
• Table and chairs: Craigslist
• Hanging Mason Jar lights: Etsy
• Plants: Home Depot

ENTRY DOOR
• Key Hooks: Architectural Salvage
• Mat: Amazon

LIVING ROOM
• Couch: Craigslist/IKEA
• Mid-Century Lamp: Ebay
• Half Table: IKEA table cut in half
• Plants: Home Depot
• Tree piece: Handmade sourced from farmers market
• Mid-Century Dresser: The Nest
• Throw Pillows: Etsy
• Candelabra: Seymour June House (antique store in upstate New York)
• Large vase: Flea market in NYC
• World Map Candles: Etsy
• Coffee Table: San Diego Urban Timber
• Artwork: Lee Materazzi (photograph with head in rocks). Ryan McGinness (skate board deck) Roy McMakin (photograph of plant)
• Teeth mold: Funny story ...
• Artwork not featured in tour, but worth checking out:
Derek Stroup (candy missing logo) Jean Lowe (bronze condom) Sam Strauss-Malcolm (Fly), Richard Allen Morris (gun sculpture) Lamar Peterson (20x200.com) Kevin Cyr (20x200.com) Andrew Hetherington (20x200.com) Colin Blakely (20x200.com) William Crump (20x200.com) Dorthe Alstrup (20x200.com)

KITCHEN
• Half Table: IKEA table cut in half and painted Plants: Home Depot
• Tribal mask: India
• Wood carving of person playing instrument: Africa
• Lightbulb with air plant: Etsy
• Faucet art: Ben Strauss-Malcolm

BEDROOM
• Chest Drawers: IKEA - handles hand painted
• Desk: IKEA
• Bed: IKEA
• Throw Pillows: Etsy
• Rug: Overstock.com
• Artwork (some not featured): Thomas Glassford (multi colored wall mounted sculpture) Kelsey Brookes (large circle explosion painting) Lee Lavy (dark ink painting) Jacob Mcgraw (multi-colored exploding treehouse drawing)

BATHROOM
• Wall sculpture: Self-made (branch with air plants)

Images: AnnaMaria Stephens

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