Noa & Stuart’s Boho-Chic Bungalow (and Shed Remodel!)

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Name: Noa Azoulay-Sclater & Stuart Sclater
Location: Spring Valley — San Diego, CA
Size: Home: 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. 1100 sq ft, built in 1951. Studio: about 300 sq ft. Shed-to-studio remodel in 2010.
Years lived in: 2 yrs — owned

A suburban corner of San Diego’s Spring Valley neighborhood feels more like Laurel Canyon in its bohemian heyday, at least at the midcentury house owned by Noa Azoulay-Sclater, a photographer, and her husband Stuart Sclater, a musician. Their artist’s lair is filled with beautiful and curious finds, most of which the couple sourced at thrift stores and flea markets. And then there’s the alluring studio out back.


(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Noa — a lovely, stylish, and spirited woman — was born in Israel, grew up in South Africa, and landed in the states to attend “new age hippie school” in Santa Fe. Now based in San Diego, Noa shoots editorial, travel and artists, but she’s especially famous for her wedding photography, which takes her all over the world. Her studio, Feather Love Photography, has a creative clientele that includes musicians, gallerists and actors – Noa recently shot Emily Deschanel tying the knot with David Hornsby.

When Noa first saw this house on the market, she was smitten by the original brick fireplace and the pool, but what really sold her was the shed out back, perched above the lot on a small hill. “A friend called it the rape shack,” she laughs. “It was totally dilapidated.” Now triumphantly remodeled (see the survey for details), it serves as Noa’s studio – a space where prospective clients can get a feel for her vibe and where Noa can get her work done without domestic distraction. Stuart, who plays bass in the progressive psych-rock band Astra, has taken over the garage as his creative digs.

The couple’s main house appears seamlessly cohesive, even though Noa and Stuart have slowly built up their collection of furniture and artwork from seriously budget sources. I must’ve spent an hour just looking at all the cool stuff on their built-in bookcase in the entryway (“which I painted white, right away, and it lightened the whole room,” points out Noa). I even reconsidered the virtues of macramé after seeing the pretty plants hanging around their dining room.

The heart of the house is definitely the light-flooded kitchen, with brick floors that feel cool to the bare foot on summer afternoons. When I visited, Noa was busy preparing a prop-worthy artisan cheese plate, which we later enjoyed with wine while watching the sunset over the trees in this beautiful setting imbued with bohemian charm.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Combination of bohemian/rustic/eclectic/ industrial/ modern/vintage/antique, blending masculine & feminine textures and lines with unique found objects.

Inspiration: The world & the past

Favorite Element: Individual items: antique hand-carved couch that we call the ‘cranky old man” because it creeks & moans -via Craigslist. Cloven hoof candle-holder in the studio, found at the swap meet. Harvest table in the kitchen via Craigslist. Commissioned table (patio in front of studio) made from found metal and redwood.
Property: 1/3 acre lot of outdoor space! The pool is our absolutely favorite thing since we practically live in it during summer & do most of our entertaining out there. And the studio that my office is in is an old remodeled shed… the room I have always dreamed of having.

Biggest Challenge: Challenges were the source for creativity! The combination of budget restraints, and blending the aesthetics of the property with our style, forced us to go beyond a standard look: (1) Budget. It’s important to us that our design ideas stay affordable. We purchased everything in the house, including the remodel, with cash- no loans. Sticking to a budget can be a blessing in disguise because it forces you to be resourceful & creative. For example, we found tons of wood behind the shed that had been sitting there for decades. Once it was cleaned up it turned out to be beautiful redwood, which we then used to build all the benches in the studio, my office desk, trim inside & outside of the building etc. Also, I find almost everything on craigslist, swap meets & thrift stores. This way, not only do we save money, but we have found so many unique pieces. (2) Finding a way to combine our design aesthetic with the early 1950’s modern backdrop of the property and pool area resulted in an interesting and comfortable combination of clean & curvy lines, low-water landscaping, antique pieces that don’t seem heavy, and the ability to cluster some areas without it looking messy. Combining the right colors on the walls to make our earth-toned furniture “pop” instead of looking drab, was a huge aspect in pulling the whole look together.

What Friends Say: We refer to the pool area as the Boogie Nights Pool. People have said that it feels like a “mini-vacation” coming over for a weekend and floating around in the sun. A couple of weekends ago a friend said: “your house looks like your photography”. And a friend’s 3-year-old son said it was a “good house”… The Studio: before it was remodeled, it was given the moniker “the rape shack” by a friend because it looked so dilapidated and scary that my godkids were convinced there were ghosts in it. Now we hang out and relax in there with music & incense and just lounge around on the floor pillows.Some have described it as: quiet & calm… and I’ve even heard it being called “the magic room”. But I just call it Xanadu.

Biggest Embarrassment: I’m not sure if anything is really “embarrassing” but the stuff that we haven’t completed yet bugs me sometimes: painting the bedrooms and hallway, landscaping, and the thing I like least is the alcove the TV sits in, it’s just a boring gap with no trim and the space isn’t as useful as I would like it to be yet- I would love to eventually have a built-in cabinet with storage for all our records & dvd’s etc.

Proudest DIY: The interior & exterior design of the studio. Huge project, but it turned out exactly how I wanted it to look and feel. I’m proud of the design & I had some extremely talented artist/carpenter friends who built the entire thing and added their own creative additions- they are the ones that brought the vision to life.

Biggest Indulgence: Again, the Studio. That’s because it’s the only full remodel we have done. But fortunately it cost us a third of what it would have if it weren’t for our friends who built it.

Best Advice: Have patience. Everyone told us that once we bought our first home we would feel like we were never done working on it, and that’s true so far. If I had my druthers I would have it all done at once, but learning patience has been rewarding in the sense that all the changes have been really growing on us and our decisions mature with our relationship to the property. My dad’s advice was to move in and wait 3 months before changing anything- now I see that he was absolutely right… you need time to feel a room out & live in it, get a sense of the light changes throughout the day etc, before you can truly design it.

Dream Sources: craigslist, swap meets, thrift stores and travel.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Behr
    • Living Room- Contemplation
    • Dining Room- Creamy Mushroom
    • Kitchen- Cool Cucumber
    • The one painted wall in my studio is a mix of Contemplation & Cool Cucumber
    • All the crown molding in the house is Antique Beige

Exterior studio siding: rusted metal sheets from Leaf Sales in San Diego, a huge 3 acre lot of all sorts of old metal recycled from machines, piping, industrial buildings, barns and warehouses. I chose each piece for it’s rusted design and had each one cut and placed onto a purposeful layout to create the “outdoor art” siding for the building. I even named some of the metal peices for their artistic aesthetic: The Rorschach Test, The Klimt etc…

Living room:
Limited edition Crash Worship poster/flyer given to me by my friend musician/artist Jason Lane about 14 years ago. Woodblock flower by my friend artist/musician Christopher Wassell. Huge wood & butterfly wing art piece found at the swap meet ($15). Renaissance print from my friends & collectors Vinnie & Jeff on our wedding day. ASTRA band photo & other photos are my work. Other art & butterfly taxidermy, swap meet.
Studio: Photos by myself, Moe Rayatparvar, Kristin Genna, Chloe Aftel. Painting found at swap meet for $10. Air plants: Home Depot (small) & gift (large), woodblock bird print: friend Christopher Wassell. Indian chief limited edition print- swap meet. Photo of my Moroccan Great-Grandfather given to me by my dad. Set of 4 butterfly prints on foil – from the Dollar Store. Other art & taxidermy: thrift stores & swap meets.
Kitchen- Mushroom block art on wall and collection of art piled up in the corner- vintage, thrift store.
Dining room- Pair of vintage estate Indian artwork, hand-painted on silk- swap meet.

White wicker rocking chair- thrift store $15
White wicker chaise- $100

Bookshelf: collection of antique apothecary bottles- ebay ($45).
Taxidermy & antique pitchers, vases, teapots- thrift stores/swap meet.
Patchwork cowhide rug: Craigslist ($25).
Antique couch table from an old church (1800’s)- craigslist $35.
2 vintage globes- swap meet. Antique rug from estate sale $20.

Couches- craigslist. Leather $300. Wood, hand-carved antique $350 (including 2 matching slipper chairs & a matching settee which are reproductions, in other rooms).
Antique leather trunk- was my mother-in-law’s
Kaleidoscopes- small, World Market. Large, gift from neighbors.
African wood sculptures & candle holders from South Africa (gift from mom)
Blonde cowhide rug: world Market ($150)
Coffee table- hardwood with homemade inlaid shells $5- swap meet.
Collection of bones & shells found during travels.
Autoharp & broadsword from friends. Taxidermy- swap meet.
Original modern brick fireplace built with the house in 1951.
New Mexican blankets & coasters from Santa Fe, NM.

French Country table & chairs- Ethan Allen set found on Craigslist $150
Hoosier: Antique- Craigslist $100
Inlaid Rococo coffee table- Craigslist $35
Lace curtains- Anna’s Linens ($15 per pair)
New Mexican rug from Santa Fe.

Spice racks – thrift stores.
Harvest Table- Craigslist $150

OUTDOORS- Industrial outdoor dinner table- I had it commissioned & built from old found rusted metal (from Leaf Sales in San Diego) & found redwood on the property. (metal $35). The vintage set of wooden chairs are from the swap meet $35.
“Giant Macrame Monstrosity”- found for us by a friend at a thrift store.
Outdoor hanging cafe lights- World Market.
INDOORS- Cloven Hoof Candle Holder ($8), wooden eagle, vases and some art: swap meet/thrift stores.
Leather nailhead wingback chair- $25 at the thrift store.
African blanket on leather chair $20- found at a flea market in Amsterdam.
Hanging antique industrial lights $35- etsy.
Argentinian cowhide rug, craigslist. $50.
Small antique wooden side table- $5 thrift store
Hanging vintage chain-link headpice- thrift store.
Window treatments- all Cost Plus World Market, except for lace curtains- Anna’s Linens.
Native American wall hanging, red $5- swap meet.
Macrame plant hangers & shell plant hanger- thrift stores/swap meets.
Taxidermy Pheasant $15- swap meet.
Floor pillows, throw pillows & hanging Moroccan lanterns: World Market, except for large back pillows on benches- Ralph Lauren $15 (swap meet)
Beaded curtains $25- swap meet.
Hanging chandalier crystals (my “Polyanna Prisms”)- Ebay.
Collection of vintage-looking Vodka Bottles- Trader Joes.
Ram’s head paper-weight from my dad’s study in the 1970’s-1980’s.
All wood (benches, desk etc) built from the redwood we found on the property.
Antique wooden 8ft french doors- $60, Craigslist– two windows are antique, recycled from Craigslist, $40. Leaded glass window from a 120 year old San Fransisco restaurant- gift from my friend Frank who built the studio, as well as the two 6ft windows- which were left over from another job.
We descovered the wide-plank wooden walls during the remodel when we pulled down the plywood that was covering them- that was the biggest score!

Bed- JC Penny $550
Victorian Settee $130 Craigslist

Picnic table- Craigslist $240
Sail Shade-

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Noa and Stuart!

Images: AnnaMaria Stephens

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