A House That Makes You Smile

HGTV Magazine visited this Santa Monica, CA, cottage that brims with candy colors, poppy fabrics, and storybook-sweet furnishings.

From House to Home

To give the yard an English garden vibe, Alison had vines, roses, and dense shrubs planted. One of Alison’s favorite tricks inside: Repeat your most-loved colors—periwinkle, coral, and purple, in her case—throughout the house so the rooms share a similar thread. “I’m also good about only bringing in things that I know I have a place for,” she says. “That’s how you get a collected, not cluttered, look.”

Smile-Inducing Style

Step into Alison and Brian Kandler’s Santa Monica, CA, home and it’s hard not to break into a big grin. With its mash-up of cheery colors, charmingly shabby furniture, and mismatched patterns, the house—which was originally built in 1927 but gut-renovated three years ago—has an upbeat, come-as-you-are feel to it. “There’s a way to have lots of color, vibrant prints, and interesting shapes without going over the top,” says Alison, an interior designer.

Mini Chairs and Painted Floors

Tiny furniture showroom samples fill the wallpaper-backed shelves. Periwinkle and green diamonds repeat on the floor of three rooms in the house.

Dining Room

Floral wallpaper gives the impression that you’re eating in a garden. The color scheme sets the tone for the rest of the room, like the old farmhouse table and chairs with rosy Pierre Frey cotton seat cushions. The table’s unusual proportions (8 feet long and 30 inches wide) make the dining space feel more fun, less formal. The ceramic light, made by a French company, is one of Alison’s most prized finds. And, see if you can spot the doggy door.

Family Room

Officially Alison’s home office, this space also serves as an arts and crafts center for daughter Paisley, 10. “Our family spends about 90% of our time in here,” says Alison, who stocked the room with plush pillows and low-key vintage furniture, including a wicker love seat, distressed wood coffee table, and iron floor lamp (all flea market buys). A rainbow-stripe rug from Dash & Albert ties the room’s hues together.

Blue Sofa

Stain-resistant fabric from Pindler & Pindler keeps this custom piece—which Alison has had reupholstered a dozen times!—looking fresh.

Jumbo Letters and Custom Pillow

These vintage wood pieces originally spelled star, but Alison rearranged them. Sewn from Raoul Textiles fabric, this floral-patterned pillow kick-started the room’s happy palette.

Dining Nook

This spot—which Alison deemed “everyone’s favorite”—includes lots of charming features: comfy seating, a large, arched window, and a custom table with an antique iron base. The banquette cushion is upholstered in sunny Madeline Weinrib cotton, and the pillows are made from punchy Raoul Textiles and Roberta Roller Rabbit fabrics. The bistro chairs look vintage but are new, with easy-to-clean resin seats.

Lavender Backsplash and Vintage Tabelcloth

Because they were pricey, Alison installed iridescent English tiles in just a small area. This tablecloth is in mint condition, but if it—or another one in her collection—gets stained, no worries. Alison often repurposes old cloths into small curtains or pillowcases.


The custom island is painted rich coral (Claret Rose by Benjamin Moore) to match the Anthropologie ceramic knobs and pulls. Its top is made from fir boards were put together to look like an old door. The built-in bookshelves are lined with splurge-worthy Galbraith & Paul wallpaper. Two rows of Italian sconces jut out from the ceiling, streetlight-style, for an old-world look.

European Range and Hood

“I built this kitchen around the blue Lacanche range,” says Alison. Its robin’s-egg blue exterior inspired a lot of the house’s colors. Alison is a big fan of scalloped trim, a cute feature on this custom wood cover. “I love whimsy, but I always add contemporary white elements to balance it out,” she says.

Living Room

With the floors painted cream and a neutral limestone mantel, this space can handle a lot of color, says Alison. She pumped it up with a hooked rug from Dash & Albert and a Grange sofa in amethyst linen. The rest of the furniture is vintage with its original paint intact. “To me, that old finish is just right,” Alison says.

Vintage Shutters and Airy Chandelier

Propped against the wall, the shutters are a nod to Alison’s love of old windows. This iron light fixture from Pom Pom Interiors mixes old and new parts for a one-of-a-kind design. “This room’s openness makes the house feel new, but the finishing touches—the fireplace, the beams—look old-fashioned,” says Alison.

Bobbin Chairs

Roberta Roller Rabbit pillows and Raoul Textiles cushions pep up these traditional wood seats.


It’s safe to say the Kandlers’ pool, with its splashy lilac-and-turquoise tiling, isn’t like any other on the block. The patio off the garage follows suit, trading run-of-the-mill chairs and loungers for vintage teak pieces, all bought at a flea market. Softened with pastel cushions, they look more garden party than pool party. Joseph’s Coat roses and Boston ivy climb up the exterior, framing the seating area.

Baby Blue Doors and Weathered Chairs

A coat of powdery color (Rococo Blue by Glidden Professional) accents the doors’ many panes. Softened with pastel cushions, they look more garden party than pool party.

Master Bedroom

Reclaimed barn beams give this room, added during the 2011 renovation, instant patina, while whisper-pink floors (Oyster by Dunn-Edwards) add a feminine touch. “My husband’s a really good sport,” jokes Alison. Dusty pink stripes “push the envelope,” says Alison of this wallpaper from Thomas Lavin. To soften up the iron bed, she piled on block-print linens, mostly from John Robshaw Textiles.

Jar Lamps

Alison had antique jars made into bedside lamps.

Painted Chest

Yes, it’s storage, but Alison considers this flea market find a piece of art above all.


Alison skipped tile in favor of wallpaper and beadboard so the room wouldn’t feel cold. The tub, from Cheviot Products, was custom-colored the same hue as the kitchen island. It’s a reproduction that has the charm of an antique, but modern plumbing fittings made it easy to install. The rest of the room—including the Canopy Designs glass chandelier and—is outfitted in paler shades of pink.

Curtains and Stained Glass

Floral curtains by Idarica Gazzoni and a panel of stained glass help concealed a view of the neighbor’s house.

Laundry Room

The laundry area got attention, too. Navy and white China Seas wallpaper gives the space personality and offers a pretty backdrop for shelves with corbels designed to imitate the scalloped woodwork in the kitchen. The metal screens in the lower cabinets are new, but “instantly read old house,” Alison says. A fancy floral skirt—a navy version of the dining room wallpaper—hides cleaning supplies.

Purple Pendant and Framed Art

This French fixture “emits the prettiest glow,” says Alison. The painting is one of dozens that Alison has collected from flea markets over the past 25 years.


Tucked behind the kitchen, the patio is a butterfly magnet and the house’s very own secret garden with creeping fig vines climbing up the house. Alison found the table on One Kings Lane, then discovered matching chairs at a flea market. She painted all the pieces Hint of Violet by Benjamin Moore, so they look like a set. The graphic lines of this zigzag outdoor fabric temper the sweetness of the lavender chairs.