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SoCal Style

This article was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and was featured in our March issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Vanessa Lentine. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.


Living with your family in a 1920s cottage typically means you’ll have architectural charm to spare in every room—but you might feel a bit cramped in your day-to-day lifestyle. Take this particular home in Costa Mesa, California, where designer Aly Morford raised her three daughters. “Because this is a historic home, it had a more segmented, small footprint for me to work with,” says Morford, cofounder of Pure Salt Interiors, which she started with partner Leigh Lincoln.

Her solution was to maximize her home’s indoor-outdoor footprint by making the exterior areas just as homey and welcoming as the interior ones. “It was an exciting challenge to get creative in my design to make our gathering spaces feel open and airy, and to carve out unique zones for my family of five to find space for ourselves,” she says. “By leaning into my love for indoor-outdoor living, I was able to double our living space with an entire front [yard] and backyard dedicated to lounging and entertaining.”

Her design firm’s typical aesthetic leans heavily on the neutral and natural—a look Morford naturally gravitates to. “I think working with whites and creams with pops of color through earthy tones like moss, navy, and warm browns makes a space feel timeless and evergreen,” she says of the look in her airy abode. “Plus, by keeping my palette cohesive throughout my home it visually maximizes the smaller spaces by keeping your eye moving with a coordinated color scheme.” Large-scale photographs of, say, a beachy coastline create a de facto “view” where there isn’t one; a bit of visual sorcery that has a highly Instagrammable effect.

Another one of her go-to design tricks to make a space feel beautiful is employing myriad finishes and materials, the same tactic Mother Nature uses in a beautiful garden. “Layering up texture is my love language—there is nothing better in my book than mixing nubbly linens and soft jutes and raw woods and fresh plants for a curated and dynamic home,” she says. The designer also utilizes vintage pieces when she can to add an element of history that’s impossible to buy new at a retail store. “A lot of my shelf styling are finds from all eras of my life that not only add visual texture with mixed materials, but layer in so many stories that give the space a lot of depth.” In the kitchen, blonde-wood open shelving provides an opportunity to display curated finds: an artful landscape here, a lush fern there.

Morford put her green thumb to work in every corner of her home and garden. She recommends working in reverse to bring the outdoors inside, using leafy plants galore. “Adding lots of plants to your spaces, opening windows as much as possible (even opting for a Dutch door so you can let in the sunshine and a fresh breeze), and incorporating earth and natural textures are all great ways to emphasize the outdoors within your home,” she says. Before she became an interior designer, Morford was a florist, and it shows. “I’m an all-around garden gal, so it was very important for me to have a beautiful and livable outdoor space,” she says. “I wanted lush greenery that felt like it had been growing with the home for as long as it has been standing, and the passion fruit vines above the front doorway are quick to flourish, giving that effect. When everything is verdant and full of life, it makes you want to spend time in the space. So, I added an outdoor dining area in the back for us to eat meals under the pergola and designed a few seating areas out front so I could relax while the kids play in the yard.” The final effect is like having your own fairy-tale secret garden . . . indoors and out.

2020 taught everyone how to bring the indoors out, but it’s just as vital to human happiness to bring nature inside. Here, a few ways to bring the serenity of the natural world indoors.

Layer Your Plants. Just as it is in a garden landscape, you’ll want to keep a variety of houseplants with different textures to provide organic eye candy in your space: a graphic succulent, lacey fern, and delicate orchid, for example.

Let There Be Daylight. Why cover the windows in your living spaces with clunky curtains in heavy fabrics? Outside of bedrooms and bathrooms, few of us need totally private blackout shades—and sheer draperies (or the totally bare look) allows so much more natural daylight to filter into your space.

Taste the Earthy Rainbow. There are hundreds upon hundreds of paint colors to choose from. But for a timeless, natural look that evokes the wild landscapes of your region, look for earthy hues: calming greens, sumptuous browns, and whites as ethereal as clouds in a cerulean sky.