This California Home Puts Upcycling Front & Center
Cleobella's Angela O'Brien draws inspiration from all corners of the world to create a unique family home.
Angela O'Brien is a certified global citizen. As the co-founder and creative director of Cleobella, she partners with independent artisans from all over the world to create beautiful, sustainable clothes. So, it's only natural she applied that same mentality to her 2,900-square-foot home in Seal Beach, California, which she shares with her husband and co-founder Jim and their two children, Keenan and Indigo.
O'Brien was initially drawn to the neighborhood in 2004 because it blended beautifully with their family's lifestyle. "We have [relatives] in Los Angeles and Orange County," she shares. "Also, our lifestyle is built around the ocean, and we love that we live walking distance to the beach." But, after a few years of using her space as an office for her budding business — complete with a makeshift warehouse in her garage — she wanted to transform this spot into the perfect family home. When she decided to renovate her '50s build in 2019, it was the perfect opportunity to make the space feel more special to those who lived there.
"What I love about our neighborhood is that all the houses are unique." she says. "There are some original mid-century style [spaces] and young families who have renovated cute beach cottages.When renovating our home, we wanted to mix traditional elements to fit the neighborhood with small details that felt like us."
Naturally, her and her family's passion for the world around seeped into every part of the project. After meeting the sister duo behind Design 4 Corners in Bali a few years prior, O'Brien tapped the firm to create the perfect retreat.
"Our home tells a story of where we’ve been; the cultures and people we’ve encountered on our journey," she shares. "For the last 15 years, we’ve lived five months in Bali [and] Indonesia. So much of our aesthetic reflects the artisan culture that we have been inspired by."
The worldly inspiration is on full display long before you step inside the home. While the structure's exterior wall boats imported stone from Europe to give the property a more Mediterranean feel, the white oak used on the garage doors and window shutters softens the look.
Upon entry, you will immediately notice the bright, white walls and natural stone flooring, crafted in a Versailles pattern. "We appreciate mixing old and new," O'Brien shares. "We wanted to create the right palette where our collections from our travels could have a home and be displayed in a way that was meaningful."
The space draws inspiration from all corners of the world, but there is no shortage of California pride. The foyer's pièce de résistance is arguably the curvy staircase, which represents the ocean's changing tides.
"My uncle is a framer by trade, and he introduced us to a father-son team who spent over a month creating the shape," she adds.
Of course, striking a careful balance between local and international inspiration was only one piece of the design; O'Brien also wanted to swath her home with sustainable furniture and accessories.
"As the founder and creative director of Cleobella, I have had the privilege to implement the same values into our brand," she explains. "[By] using sustainable, ethically sourced materials, and upcycling our deadstock fabric into other products, we are constantly researching new ways to do business that is best for our artisan partners, customers, and the planet."
Fortunately, the living room mixes the vivid inspiration and eco-friendly touches in perfect harmony. O'Brien shares that she found the space's two armchairs on Facebook's marketplace and reupholstered them with a bouclé fabric and woven ikat print, respectively. When she wasn't scouring social media, she snagged accessories from vendors near and far. For example, her custom wooden credenza is peppered with South African sculptures and art found at Long Beach's flea market.
In true West Coast fashion, O'Brien's living room boasts bifold doors that lead to the home's courtyard, blurring the lines between the great outdoors and indoors. Decked out with a drought-tolerant Mediterranean garden, several spritely succulents, and some edible plants, this lush space has doubled as a retreat during the ongoing pandemic.
"We have a sauna and ice plunge, which [have] been an important parts of our wellness routine during Covid-19," O'Brien shares.
But, just because the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the family's travel plans doesn't mean they can't celebrate their favorite destinations. The courtyard boasts a hand-carved joglo, a roofed structure where communities in Indonesia typically gather. Below the fixture is patio furniture that O'Brien's husband made from reclaimed teak wood.
"We love to have lazy Sundays here," she says. "I make a big frittata with herbs and vegetables from our garden, and we energize for the week ahead."
For O'Brien and her family, the kitchen is the heart — and stomach — of their home. The space is anchored by a spacious, charcoal island, which boast a large rose quartz love vein down the middle. Not only is this feature the family's favorite part of the home, but O'Brien shares it was also the building block of the room's design.
The kitchen's European-style cabinets are coated in Dunn-Edwards' Oyster, a warm hue that picks up the island's eye-catching veining and gives the space a homey, lived-in feel. Each drawer is accessorized with custom pulls, which were made out of recycled brass in Bali. Above the the lower cabinets is a line of floating shelves, adorned with a mélange of vases, objets, and cookbooks.
While the kitchen has no shortage of good looks, it's also incredibly functional. Between the custom bar stools and vintage bench, there is plenty of room for this family to kick back and relax.
"I love cooking and our children are always at the counter drawing," she says. "We feel most grounded [here]."
The kitchen might be the home's most frequented area, but O'Brien is personally partial to the powder room. "It’s a unique mixture of old-world style that takes me away to a faraway place," she shares.
Unlike the rest of the home, which boasts a light, airy color palette, the powder room is coated in a deep charcoal — Portola Paint & Glazes' Nitty Gritty, to be exact. Admittedly, using a dark color in such a small space is often met with some trepidation. However, the powder room feels surprisingly bright, thanks to the limestone checkered floor and white vessel basin.
Speaking of the sink, this powder room gets a hefty dose of worldly charm with the Indian wedding chest, which has been repurposed into a vanity. The sleek marble countertop doubles down on the deft balance between old and new that is seen throughout the home. And, rounding out the powder room, are two vintage sconces, which O'Brien reveals are from a movie set.
When the family renovated the home in 2019, they preserved the structure's footprint, yet completely changed the layout. According to O'Brien, the only thing that isn't new to the home is the angular black fireplace that rests in the main bedroom.
For many, the boudoir is the one place where dwellers can put their taste on full display, so it's only fitting that the Cleobella founders used this space to make a statement. Between the light pendant from Morocco, Turkish rug, and antique room divider from Bali — which has since been repurposed into a headboard — the bedroom is where it all comes together to create a peaceful respite.
But, with so many statement-making pieces in the room, it can be easy for a space to feel a little overwhelming. Fortunately, O'Brien practiced the perfect amount of restraint by painting her walls in Dunn-Edwards' Whisper White. The light color palette creates a blank canvas, giving the couple's pieces permission to shine at full wattage.
As the accompanying bathroom proves, there's enough "wow" factor to go around. Here, the bathtub is anchored by a teak wood carved wall from a 100 year-old Indonesian home. "We found [it] while living in Bali," O'Brien shares. "[When you're] taking a bath, the window shutters open to a sliver of an ocean view." The statement wall is complemented with a cheeky, hand-shaped stool, which was also sourced from Bali.
Similar to O'Brien's bedroom, the bathroom has its fair share of negative space. Marble countertops, a row of custom cabinetry, and white floors from Clé Tile usher in a dose of modernity.
Though sustainability and global intrigue take center stage, it was important for O'Brien to create a space that felt like...well, a home. "Our home is elegant, yet understated, it tells a story of the places we’ve traveled," she explains. "Nothing is too precious or on trend [here]; its timeless treasures purchased from artisans [are] incorporated into a modern clean aesthetic."
Throughout the space — and especially in the children's bedrooms — personal touches like DIY art and hand-me-down guitars make this worldly approach feel a little closer to home.