In Love With It All
An interior designer’s own home showcases her eclectic flair
Jennifer Verruto was born to be a designer. It’s pretty obvious now, when you see how cute and cozy this fun-loving lady made the 1930s Spanish-style home she shares with her scientist/rock-star husband John (a lyricist who sings and plays Americana rock ‘n’ roll harmonica and organ with his band The High Rolling Loners and a brainy scientist working to develop algae-based biofuels at Synthetic Genomics) and their 1-year-old son Eli. But back when she was a kid, only her subconscious knew about her calling. Well, her mother might have had an inkling, too.
“Much to my mom’s horror, I would take mirrors off dressers and move precious antiques around,” Jen says, laughing about her teenage designing exploits. “As a kid,
I rearranged my room constantly. I used my babysitting money to buy area rugs.”
When she went to college, Jen graduated with degrees in psychology and anthropology. “I just never knew being a designer was an option,” she explains. Her friends knew, though. Figuring out she had a knack for interior design, they would ask her to give them little one-room makeovers. “I’d go to Ross and get a few cute things and switch their furniture around,” Jen explains. “They are the ones who told me I needed to start a business, so I went to Mesa College and it organically happened from there.”
Blythe Interiors started slowly, with more makeovers for friends, while Jen was working part-time for a model-home design firm. Then she created a website, which got traction, and she began getting great Yelp reviews. “I was scared to leave the part-time job but as my own business kept growing and getting busier, I finally figured out that I could do it full time and make ends meet.”
That was six years ago. Now, not only is her business booming but her little family of three have hunkered down in this charming, three-bedroom, two-bathroom Normal Heights home that Jen’s magic touch has turned into a comfy, forever nest.
“We rented a house for 10 years, saving up to buy a home,” Jen says. “When we found out we were pregnant with Eli, the heat was on. We started earnestly searching last March and it took us until August to find exactly what we were looking for—a home with character, something kept in a time capsule, somewhere we could walk to restaurants and bars and do fun things and then go back home and escape.”
All the other houses they saw required some structural modifications—“I wanted to change everything”—but with Jen six-months pregnant, making alterations was not an option. “We needed to move in and be ready to rumble,” she says. “It was so shocking that with this house, there was nothing I wanted to change—well, I didn’t feel like the storage was good enough in the master bath, but that’s all.
“Every single owner took good care of it and loved it as much as we do and you can tell. The last owners bought vintage-looking modern appliances in the exact color of our kitchen. People see the appliances and think they are original to the house and then they say, ‘Wait a minute. They didn’t have dishwashers in 1930.’”
One of the first things Jen did after she and John bought the house was hang their nameplate by the etched-wood front door. “We got it a couple of years ago in Grenada, Spain, but it didn’t suit the house we were renting,” Jen says. “I stashed it away and then we moved into this Spanish house—we didn’t even know we would like Spanish; we were looking for Craftsman—and it was perfect. The universe knew this belonged here before we even got here.”
Mature palms sway along the home’s front and bright colors, brought in by Jen, bring the welcoming exterior entry to life. The outdoor area rug, with happy teal, magenta, yellow, green and red splashes, previews the cheery color snippets and high-spirited rugs that warm the interior.
The front door opens to an inviting, living room containing a bold-hued Turkish rug. A hefty three-piece sectional provides laidback seating in front of the hearth. “This was kind of an awkward, long and skinny room, that just begged for a double-chaise sectional,” Jen explains. “Although the rug is from Etsy and I haven’t been to Turkey, my style is eclectic, collected through my travels and it’s a little bit boho, a little bit vintage. Being a designer, I get to see the best of everything, so I fall in love with the best of every style. I love every style…except Tuscan.”
As in all Spanish-style homes, arches abound here. The arched opening behind the living space reveals mix-and-match dining room furniture and accessories: a silver-toned metal chandelier; a modern wood-topped table; chairs upholstered in deep-blue velvet; a vintage serving cart; and an antique cabinet.
“I went bold on the chairs, but everything else stayed neutral,” Jen says of the space. “The chairs and that funky chandelier are what make it pump. John and I fell in love with the inlay on the buffet, so we splurged on that, but nothing in the room is astronomically expensive. There is a Japanese tea cart that my mom, who was a flight attendant for 38 years, brought back on the airplane with her and there’s an antique glass cabinet from my grandma.”
Sentimental, heirloom and travel treasures are on view throughout the home. A glass cabinet in the nearby kitchen displays pink wine glasses that also belonged to Jen’s maternal grandmother and a pair of teacups, which the couple picked up in China, depicting animals from the Chinese Zodiac (the horse—warm-hearted, enthusiastic and positive—is Jen; the dragon—ambitious and energetic—is John). A travel wall, next to the lavender-tiled guest bathroom, features artwork from almost everywhere the couple has been. A framed print showing the exact constellation of stars on the night Eli was born hangs in the nursery. And in the master bedroom above a rocking love seat that once belonged to Jen’s paternal grandmother, a painting done by Jen was a first-anniversary present from her to John.
“I painted my husband and me on the Ocean Beach lifeguard tower,” Jen explains. “When we met, we walked to the beach and sat on the tower and talked until sunrise.”
The master bedroom’s sliding glass door leads to an extensive backyard with a concrete patio, which Jen turned into a large seating and dining area. Surrounded by more palms and other mature greenery, Jen says she and John just stood there with gaping mouths when the Realtor showed them the house. “When we saw the exterior, we silently nodded to each other. It was beyond anything we had looked for.
“When we were leaving, after seeing
the house for the first time, I did not want to go,” Jen continues. “It felt like my house. I was sad to leave and I wanted to get back in. I thought, ‘Why am I leaving my house?’ We had to see others but I was like, ‘But mine is right here.’”