Home Tour: Elise Alden’s Family-Friendly Mountain Retreat

Elise Alden’s airy, cozy home in the mountains.

You know my friend Elise? The one who’s an amazing party-planner and an amazing bananacake-maker, and owns the cutest kids’ boutique in addition to managing glam | camp and designing and curating the most adorable little-kid clothing and accessories on the planet? (No but really: this necklace just got added to the site and I am DYING. Dyinnnnnng.)

Unsurprisingly, Elise’s house is as warm and bright and sweet as she is. My favorite thing about it – besides its location in the Los Gatos mountains, which is basically paradise – she transformed it from a dark, dated space into a breezy home that’s both comfortable and fun for kids, and beautifully chic for entertaining. And she did this not by spending zillions of dollars on decor, but rather by pulling together mismatched pieces from antique shops, thrift stores, and DIYing wherever she could – sidenote, the woman painted her two-story house exterior herself, which makes her an actual superhero – and ended up with a house that’s completely her, from the hand-painted wall design in her girls’ book nook to the ramshackle glam (sorry, had to) living room.

I love how easy and accessible Elise’s style is. I thought you might love it too, too.

(Elise is the cool-looking one on the right)

Talk to me, Elise

Elise Alden: Mother of two girls (ages 3 and 7), owner of Stripes Boutique in NorCal, Creative Director of glam | camp.

Buying a house in Northern California is a miserable process. So how did you choose this one? Did you feel like the existing style matched what you were looking for, or were you more like, “Oh look: a house I can afford that no one else has put down a all-cash offer on! Sold!”?

What initially drew me to this house was its location in the mountains, nestled in between beach and city – it feels remote but is still accessible, not too far off the highway. The style of the house when we bought it was nothing like our own. Ninety percent of the interior was painted mauve. Mauve. Floor to ceiling. It was scary, but also something I could look past knowing paint is the easiest fix. So I started there, and over time went through the process of making it feel like my own, keeping in mind that I wanted it to be functional for our family.

What’s your favorite room/spot/thing in your house?

It’s a tough call, but I think my favorite spot is our sitting area by the wood burning stove. It’s backlit by floor-length windows and makes me so happy. For awhile we had the furniture arranged in a way that the nook was sort of lost space, but it turned out I couldn’t live without it: the open living/dining room is the heart of our home. And while the kids prefer the couch, this sitting area gives us our own front row seats to the lovely chaos.

bright and light living room in Northern California

Everywhere in Elise’s house is a place you’re welcome to sit.

How would you describe your decor style?

Kind of boho, with layered rugs and mismatched pieces in complimentary colors. But I also really like my copper fixtures, which I think add a tiny bit of glam.

Has your decor style changed since having kids? How?

Before having kids I wasn’t home much, and definitely was all about Ikea, because most of my life existed outside of the walls of my rental. But having kids and a home of my own basically forced me to figure out what type of decor style would be most comfortable for my family during these formative years.

Do your girls help you decorate their spaces? Or are you all “hush, Mommy’s paying so Mommy gets to pick out the curtains”?

The girls will get excited about decorating initially, but tend to quickly lose interest (depending on the length of the project) and leave me to do my thing. They do love to color or paint, so most of the art we have on the walls is theirs. I have never been good at choosing wall art and am habitually non-commital, probably due to to all the years of renting, but at some point having other things on the walls that might be more “stylish” but that weren’t especially meaningful to me didn’t seem to make sense.

What’s the biggest home decor mistake you’ve ever made?

At one point I repainted a solid wood cabinet to add a “pop of color” in my living room. Lets just say that a heavy piece of furniture should never be the color of a mango.

You’ve done so many home updates on your own. Which project has been your favorite? Which made the biggest impact? And which (if any) would you never in a million years try to tackle yourself again?

There are still so many updates I want to make! I feel, as in any creative process, our house will never be “done.” But the updates which have had the biggest impact so far have all been paint. We put a new coat of paint on the entire interior, and then added a full matte black statement wall in our bedroom, and painted our downstairs bathroom a lovely deep blueberry color. Later on we painted the entire exterior of our very tall two-story home. YIKES. I would not try that myself again.

one black wall in an all white bedroom

A rainbow throw rug adds color to the matte black wall. 

What’s your favorite place to shop for home stuff?

My best finds have definitely been at local vintage fairs or thrift stores. But aside from that I have consistently found great deals on just the style I’m looking for on Wayfair.

Which glam | camp products are you most excited about for spring? Any hints about what brand-new pieces will be coming to the shop?

I don’t want to give away too much, but lets just say your favorite cold-weather sweatshirt might soon end up being translated into summer-wear.

What are your top five favorite spots in the Bay Area?

This is harder than I expected!

  • Mountain Gals Vintage Market: A seasonal vintage fair at a beautiful estate in the mountains.
  • Montalvo Arts Center: The historic estate of former San Francisco mayor James Phelan, which was turned into a public park and garden, as well as a venue for the advancement of arts. It is a beautiful escape in Saratoga, and completely out-of-the-ordinary.
  • Costanoa: My favorite glamping resort. So good.
  • Jack Rose: This Saratoga restaurant/bar/entertainment space offers handcrafted cocktails and live music, and is my go-to hangout spoton summer nights.
  • The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: I grew up in Santa Cruz, and my nostalgia keeps me coming back to this retro beach bum carnival year after year.

Literally three out of five of your picks would be on my list, too. I wonder how I discovered them ;). OK, last question: What’s your number one dream home decor item?

I have always wanted a ridiculous, blush pink velvet tufted sofa. Does this even exist? I don’t know, but when my kids are done with the jumping-and-spilling-on-furniture phase, I am going to find out.

Get Elise’s Look

farmhouse dining table in bright dining room

A rustic farmhouse table balances out a glam light fixture.

vintage tool cabinet used for storing craft products

A vintage filing cabinet is home to Elise’s extensive collection of crafting supplies.

cute desk ideas for kids

My old vanity, repurposed as an art center in Elise’s living room.

black wall in an all white bedroom

The black wall is honestly just super-cool looking – even cooler in person.

cute reading nook for kids room

Hand-painted triangles on the “Book Nook.”

unique ideas for hanging kid's artwork

The art hanging from this flowery branch can be swapped out whenever new creations are made.

bright California style living room with open floor plan

A beach-print blanket hanging on the wall speaks to Elise’s Santa Cruz roots. 

cool diy headboard idea

Elise and her husband Miles made the headboard with wood reclaimed from their yard demolition.

hash brown mini quiches recipe

These mini quiche muffins are insane, and so I snagged you the recipe:

What You Need:

  • Approximately 20 eggs
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s bacon pieces
  • 1 package frozen hash browns
  • Shredded cheese

What You Do:

  1. Lightly grease a muffin tin.
  2. Cover the bottom of the cups with shredded hash browns (about 1/4″)
  3. Top each cup of hash browns with 1 tbsp shredded cheese.
  4. Beat the eggs, add the bacon to the eggs, and pour the bacon-egg mixture into the tins until they’re 2/3 full.
  5. Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes.

awesome ideas for family tattoos

Elise and her husband, Miles, have the best family tattoos I’ve seen.

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