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odds & ends and friends

Using their own art, furniture from childhood and other favorite decor items, renters add personality to their tiny beach houses.


Decorating according to your dreams and fantasies is more about imagination than it is about money.

Jennifer and Robert Hyndman of Laguna Beach and Geanna Brayford and Ken Wood of Huntington Beach are two couples who shared a dream: to live near the beach in a house that has a history as well as a garden for entertaining.

Both were able to find affordable older houses that filled the bill.

The Hyndmans' 1940s house has hardwood floors, a fireplace and a garage. Each room has windows with views, making the two-bedroom house seem spacious--all 700 square feet of it.

They have kept the kitchen in its original style, including the green tile counters. There is no dishwasher, garbage disposal or high-tech appliance. Except for a coffee maker, the only items in view are ones that were available when the house was new.

"I like old things the best," Jennifer Hyndman says. "We don't have an entertainment center because all the new ones are ugly. If I can find something from the '30s or '40s that I like, I'll get it."

The Hyndmans say the house reflects them.

"Everything in this house has a story or is related to us in some way," Robert Hyndman says. "Most of our artwork is really family artwork. Mike Rabbitt, Jennifer's brother, did many of the pieces, my brother Dennis did some, and others are from friends or even invitations to parties that we had framed."

Ceramic pieces by friend David Ford are on the mantle and--breaking out of the '40s style--there are painted skateboards designed by Carl Hyndman that lean against one wall.

"We both come from big families, and we're very social. I am the middle of seven kids, and Jennifer is the middle of five," Robert Hyndman says.

The Hyndmans, who have rented their house for seven years, often entertain families and friends. They want their house to be comfortable and flexible enough to accommodate overnight guests and impromptu meals.

One wall in the living room is dedicated to pictures of family and friends. In the room is a sofa set they found in a friend's backyard that was reupholstered at Decor Delux in Costa Mesa. The easy-to-maintain fabric matches their beach lifestyle.

The table and chairs in the dining room are the ones Jennifer Hyndman grew up with in her family home in Newport Beach, and the chest of drawers in the bedroom was bought by Robert Hyndman's parents when the family lived in Hong Kong.

"We're not so much owners of a lot of this stuff as curators," Jennifer Hyndman says.

The Hyndmans work out of a small room that serves as a guest bedroom when not being used as an office. Robert Hyndman produces, directs and writes corporate videos, and Jennifer Hyndman is a freelance copywriter.

"This house isn't impressive," Robert Hyndman says, "but people do pick up on the personal touch. We like to surround ourselves with things that have meaning to us."

Geanna Brayford and Ken Wood have lived in a 1930s house in Huntington Beach for two years. The interior of the two-bedroom house reflects Brayford's interest in spiritual and physical healing, while the large front and back yards are where Wood spends his time.

"When we moved here, the yard was a mess, but I've really enjoyed bringing it back," says Wood, who is a California nurseryman by day and a jazz musician by night. "Right now I'm also growing specimen palm trees in pots and experimenting with horticulture. My fondness for plants is continually growing, so I keep needing more and more yard space."

The casual beach atmosphere allows Brayford to experiment with color--the television room is completely red--and combine new and old objects in what could be called beach-hippie funk.

"We love living near the beach," says Brayford, who is a hairdresser at Salon 218 in Huntington Beach. "When we saw this place it was like, 'Whoa. That's what we want.' "

Why a red room?

"I wanted it to have people-friendly walls, because if you have white walls, you always get them dirty," Brayford says. "I had already found the couch and had had it re-covered in velvet, and I had black wrought iron, so red seemed the natural color.

"I don't know what kind of style I want to have, but I know what I like," she says. "If you buy that way, things always fit together."

The couple have managed to get what they like by accumulating odds and ends from both of their families. The late-1940s couch and table in the living room belonged to Wood's grandfather, and the cedar chest is from her family in Arizona.

"We tried to buy things for the house that matched the era--like the sink in the bathroom is original to the 1930s," she says. "Where we couldn't find the original, we used reproductions. We both like things from the '50s, so we've incorporated that also."

Although they are renters, like the Hyndmans, they did make changes in the 800-square-foot house.

"The linoleum in the kitchen was the ugliest, in shades of pink, lime green and black, so we added Mexican pavers," Wood says. "The landlords paid me to make the changes."

Because the house is small, they have to save space wherever they can.

"You really have to learn to discard and not save too much," she says. "We also conserved space by having no doors on the bathrooms or bedroom closet, just [cloth or bead] covers."

Throughout the house, there are many small ceremonial objects from various cultures and religions on small shelves.

"We're always adding things and planning changes," Wood says. "We enjoy living that way."

Both couples have made their homes uniquely theirs. They are living their dreams and fantasies.

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