Eighteen-month-old Slater Beardsley toddles toward a shelf under the staircase, to baskets of toys he shares with sister Ellis, 4 1/2. Out of reach above his head, elaborately framed family photographs rest amid other fragile objets d'art.
The shelves are just one example of how Tamera Beardsley has fashioned her Rancho Santa Margarita home to look like a designer showcase while remaining kid-friendly.
After years of apartment living, jewelry designer Beardsley was determined that, when she and husband Jeffrey bought a house, it would have all the panache of a house from an interior design magazine.
The hitch came two years ago when the Beardsleys bought a new, two-story house. With the cost of the 1,600-square-foot house, along with the expense of raising two--now three--small children, there was little money left for decorative arts.
Undaunted by their small decorating budget, Tamera Beardsley found ways to customize her home for fashionable adult tastes while keeping it accessible to the children.
"The last thing we wanted was to have a bunch of precious things that we'd forever be trying to keep the kids away from," Beardsley said.
Decorating with children in mind was a fun challenge, she said.
There is no carpeting on the first floor, which houses the living room, dining area, kitchen, bath and small bedroom. The Beardsleys tore up the wall-to-wall carpeting to reveal the concrete floor, which they stained a deep terra-cotta color.
This gives the floor a warm tone and anchors the otherwise white and beige house. A sisal rug distinguishes the living room from the dining area.
"The walls were already painted white, and we didn't want to have to repaint. And with the kids, we wanted the environment to have a calming effect," Tamera Bearsdley said with a laugh.
The simple furniture, from the family's apartment days, is made fresh with thick, washable unbleached cotton slipcovers, of a sort.
"They're dropcloths," Beardsley said, smiling, "just like the kind you get at Home Depot. They're great. When they get dirty, we just throw them in the washer and dryer. We can even change the baby's diaper on them."
Scattered with accent pillows, the furniture looks comfortably chic.
The living room windows are hung with canvas sailcloth on metal pipes from a hardware store. The TV and stereo--and all their delicate parts--are behind hinged metal doors next to the fireplace. A mosaic that Beardsley made from broken colorful tile decorates the fireplace and adds a splash of color.
The mosaic "really isn't hard to do. The adhesive that you use is very forgiving and lets you pick up stuff and move it around," Bearsdley said.
She learned the hard way--from experience--that using broken tile is easier and less expensive than using broken glass. On the dining area floor is a large, attractive vase covered with a mosaic of broken glass, Bearsdley's first attempt at mosaics.
"Broken glass has too many surfaces that make it very hard to work with. The smooth surface of tiles make it a very easy," she said.
It was so easy that Beardsley was able to do a mosaic on the kitchen counter that opens to the living room--while she was pregnant with son Hunter, now 3 months old.
Jeffrey Beardsley, a golf course superintendent at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, made the wooden coffee table from redwood 4-by-4s. Two store-bought little wooden chairs are tucked underneath for Ellis and Slater to sit and play. The dining table was made the same way.
"The best part is the more the tables get used and stained, the better they look. We purposely left it untreated to make it look aged and not brand new. It takes on a real patina, and this way, with the kids I don't have to worry about every mark," Tamera Beardsley said. "Everything was designed with economy and kids in mind."
Upstairs, the children's rooms are where Beardsley's background as an artist is expressed.
The boys' room has a jungle theme, with walls of 6-inch and 2-inch broad red and black vertical stripes, hand-painted with a rag to give a rich textured look. Stuffed jungle animals and silk vines are hung throughout the room. The black-and-white checkered linoleum floor adds to the vibrancy.
Ellis' room is a little girl's dream, with bright jewels glued to the fuchsia walls and netting in all the colors of a sunset draped from the ceiling over her bed.
The children's bathroom is equally colorful, with their names painted on the walls and the interior tub painted with water-resistant fabric paint to mimic the ocean.
Aluminum tubing is used throughout the house as cabinet knobs, artwork and a grand shower head in the master bath that makes the water look as if it's flowing from an expensive chandelier.
"I used aluminum tubing a lot in making jewelry, and the best thing is it's affordable and easily available at hardware stores. We spend a lot of time in hardware stores," Beardsley said.
The outside of the tract home is just as interesting.
On a street full of look-alikes, the Beardsley house stands out. There's a terra-cotta colored painted driveway and lush vegetation that adds privacy to a front-entrance patio.
"We knew we wanted another outdoor room, and this just seemed like the perfect place. In good weather, we eat out here more than inside," Beardsley said of the patio adjacent to the front of the house. A round table, topped with a mosaic of broken tile pieces, was also made by Beardsley.
The patio, visible from two living room windows, is surrounded by greenery in planters and pots. "I like that jungle feeling," Beardsley said, "and I think plants add a very calming effect to a room."