English Country House
How the Local Bazaar's Jodie Alonso infuses bits of her heritage in Carmel Valley
Would you ever let Google decide where you were going to live? That’s exactly what David and Jodie Alonso did in 2013. David, who is French and Spanish but grew up in the United Kingdom and always spent summers at the beach in the south of France, had tired of the often-dramatic English weather—temperature, wind and rain that can change day by day, even hour by hour.
And Jodie says, “I didn’t want a miserable husband.”
So the couple, who married in 2003, took to an internet search to decide their family’s fate (the couple has two children—Harrison, now 12, and Rosie, now 7).
“We Googled the cities with the nicest climates, and San Diego was No. 1,” Jodie says. Sydney, Australia, ranked high on the list as well, but the couple thought it would be easier for friends and family to visit California. David would move his software company to the States, and creative Jodie, who had a business renting china for events and selling other vintage wares could easily translate that model abroad.
They packed up their cottage, received a five-year visa (they’re now awaiting their green cards), rented a container and shipped their UK existence to California, having never visited before. “Friends thought David had gone mad and urged me to leave him,” Jodie laughs. “But I totally trusted him. We’re childhood sweethearts.”
Jodie contacted Jonna McFarland with Farland Realty in Carmel Valley to help her and David find the ideal house (in a kid-friendly neighborhood in the right location for schools) prior to their arrival. They found the perfect place to rent in Pacific Highlands and wanted to buy it after a year when they decided to put down some roots. But the owners weren’t willing to sell.
Jonna helped them once again, finding them a home in Carmel Valley. It was not Jodie’s style at all. “It felt so corporate, so modern,” says the bubbly brunette, who almost always wears dresses, has a thing for vintage bags and loves Cath Kidston, a British designer known for her demure florals and nostalgic prints.
This four-bedroom, 3.5-bath home, built in 1987 and completely renovated in 2007, featured black granite, a stone-and-glass backsplash, a mostly brown glass-and-tile master bath and very modern fixtures. Jodie admitted that much of it wasn’t her taste at all, but her creative mind saw the 3,400-square-foot home with a view for what it was—an open home that would be very comfortable for her family with loads of space for visitors (and they get a lot) and entertaining (which they do frequently).
“Friends couldn’t believe we bought this house. They thought I would never choose something so contemporary,” Jodie says. After all, Jodie collects things—vintage china, bags, linens, decor and art that she peppers throughout her home. How would these soft, feminine pieces live in a space where harsh lines, black and leather prevail?
Jodie’s a master of many things, but two of her greatest strengths tend to be her patience and her ability to make any space more inviting. It’s a mindset she’s adopted in her decorating but also in her professional life.
She and her best friend and business partner Jade Spalding founded The Local Bazaar, a curated market offering a mix of local fashion, handmade and vintage items in Southern California (they set up markets in San Diego and in Orange County as well). But it’s more than just providing a temporary physical space where vendors can sell their goods. Jodie consults her vendors, helps them come up with new pieces to make and offers advice on merchandising their booths.
It’s a philosophy she employs at home to some degree.
It’s never about starting from scratch. The modifications she and David made in their home are mostly cosmetic, but the results provide more than a quick fix.
The $100,000-plus kitchen was definitely not something Jodie would select on her own, but she also could not bring herself to rip it out and start again. Instead, they hired a carpenter to build a reclaimed wood bar that they painted a weathered gray and slipped on top of the existing black bar. “It’s totally removable,” Jodie says. “If, when we go to sell this house, the new owners want the black bar, it’s still there underneath, unscathed.”
A more permanent change manifested itself in the backsplash makeover. Jodie had the multihued stone-and-glass tiles that go all the way up to the ceiling painted a pearlescent white. “It took four coats of primer and two coats of tile paint,” she says. “But I love the results.”
She kept the glass dining table the previous owners left behind but replaced the leather chairs and barstools with those that resemble ones you’d find in a Parisian café. She swapped the glass pendants above the island for open-weave fixtures.
Outside, the painting continued. Bright white now coats the pergolas (which used to be brown) and the left-behind iron barstools. Jodie brought in woven white furnishings, a sweet floral-print, fringed umbrella and lots of roses (real and fake) to evoke the English countryside in her backyard.
The only real demo renovation took place just inside, where Jodie and David removed the home-office setup in front of the bay window that looks out to the back and replaced it with a built-in bench Jodie had upholstered in marine-grade white vinyl, which easily wipes clean. She outfitted the area with her parent’s original Eero Saarinen dining table and tulip chairs, which she recovered in a Cath Kidston oilcloth and a vintage hutch that also made the trip from England. It holds some of her china collection and all of Rosie’s art supplies. The budding artist’s paintings and drawings hang on the wall opposite the hutch, above the modern lounge chair Jodie picked up at Marshalls.
“I really try to buy as much as I can from local artists and shops because that’s how you feed and improve the local economy,” Jodie says. “But when I pick something up on a sort of high-streets shopping trip, I customize it to fit my own personal style.” Jodie painted the black base on the modern lounge a quieter gray using chalk paint she had from another project.
On the wall adjacent to the fireplace, Jodie created a gallery of art that features a mixed-media painting from local artist Stefanie Bales; an original watercolor of the Del Mar racetrack (a garage sale find); a painting from her cousin, Antony Bridge, an artist in England; and Samsung’s new Frame TV that allows you to upload a photo or find a piece of art in its collection to display when you’re not watching television.
The guest suite off the front entry highlights more local creativity. San Diego artist Delilah Strukel painted the leaf motif by hand on the wall. “I was originally thinking wallpaper,” Jodie explains. “But then I thought, ‘What am I doing? I’ll ask Delilah to do something.’”
Jodie actually works with several street artists now—and not only in her home. After chasing down the prettiest murals in Southern California (and elsewhere) and documenting it on her Instagram (@jodie_alonso), Jodie’s become quite the expert on photo-worthy public murals and has been asked by Flower Hill Promenade to come up with mural themes, the right artists and designs to create a more experiential atmosphere at the outdoor shopping center.
At home, she’s thinking she’ll ask Delilah to paint a cactus scene outside the pool/guest bath. She believes there should be beauty everywhere you look.
In fact, every nook in the Alonso home tells a lovely little story—often using something old, something new and lots of local artists.
“I worked for fashion designer Tracey Boyd in London who had this stunning mirror in her powder room, and I asked, ‘Why confine such a gorgeous mirror to a room you don’t use often,’” Jodie remembers. “She told me, ‘Why shouldn’t every corner of your home be beautiful?’ And that really stuck with me.”
More from Jodie: Favorite So-Cal Makers
We asked Jodie to fill us in on the local creatives carving out a name for themselves who she thinks are going to be huge someday soon.