I've always liked the funky House Vintage (315 S. Cedros Ave.) in the heart of the Cedros Design District in Solana Beach. (Cedros regulars might know House Vintage by its former name, Out of the Blue).
Debi Beard opened the shop 17 years ago on a former used-car lot. Stepping inside, you're not sure if you're entering a historically designated building or a cozy vintage store. Turns out it's both. Beard, an artist, had the car lot's worn but charming cottage designated as a historical landmark a few years back to keep it from being torn down or significantly altered.
The beginnings of Beard's business were modest—she started selling her own designs, art and jewelry at craft fairs in college. Once she found the storefront on Cedros Avenue, she set out to do something fairly original in retail: stock the store with items she designed (and redesigned) herself, as well as a few previously owned treasures. Her refurbished and updated furniture is scattered throughout the saltbox-shaped house. Interspersed between shabby-chic bureaus and re-upholstered chairs—pieces that rival what you might find at Anthropologie, but at a fraction of the price—are quarts and samples of organic paint, stains and waxes carefully displayed next to spools of lace, ribbons, notions and fabric swatches to give patrons DIY ideas. Beard has a YouTube channel with tips and step-by-step instructions on everything from giving furniture a distressed look to yarn-wrapping chandeliers to a particularly cool tutorial on turning a fishing buoy into a pendant light. (Click the YouTube icon at debisdesigndiary.com.)
Nestled amongst the furniture are vintage dresses, hats, accessories and delicate display cases filled with reworked antique jewelry. Beard sources everything in the shop from antique sales, yard sales and estate sales and takes the items back to her store-slash-workspace to be repurposed. I spied a piece that featured vintage rosary beads as a chain and, for the charm, an antique daisy-shaped broach embellished with a Victorian brass stamping of a bee surrounded by colorful rhinestones ($40). If you want to try your hand at upcycling old jewelry, Beard stocks the shop with some of her second-hand scores.
Outside the store, Beard made space for classes and an expanded furniture display. Four artisans also rent space, giving the area the feel of a whimsical garage sale. I found a wrought-iron bistro chair for $45 whose seat had been reupholstered in an interesting black-and-white graphic print. In another corner, I spotted a coral wooden lawn chair that had been aged and covered in ecrucolored painted starfish. Beard's creations find a home in the yard, too, including a Victorian-style couch with upholstery that had been painted hot pink (Beard's YouTube page includes a howto video), repurposed chandeliers and picture frames and a variety of indoor and outdoor furniture.
Beard regularly offers classes—you can sign up on her website to receive a schedule, or check the "Online Shop" page to reserve a spot—and the outdoor classroom space was primed and ready on the day of my visit for a sign-making glass. On another visit, I observed an "advanced painting technique" class in progress where students brought in their own pieces to repurpose. House Vintage carries CeCe Caldwell paints ($34.95 a quart or $7.95 for a sample) and displays a large board of paint samples outside, so you can get a true feel for the texture and color. The U.S.-made paint is nontoxic, VOC-free, odorless and doesn't require priming or sanding. It's also ideal for painting damaged wood or creating an aged look on newer items.
House Vintage isn't just a store full of stuff you see everywhere—it's a treasure trove of originality and inspiration.