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  • It's a Southern California fall day like this that makes me miss my Topanga house in the mountains. You can see more photos on the blog.
  • This time last year I took my first road trip up California's 395 through the eastern Sierra mountains. I went on to Mammoth, Truckee and Yosemite.

It was epic.

The highlights for me were Bodie (Check out my highlights for "ghost town"), Mammoth (reminded me of the Canadian Rockies), and seeing the Donner Party Memorial/area.

It's a super hard state to live in, but it sure is beautiful. (PS: I made a Spotify playlist for just the drive: http://bit.ly/mountainroad).
  • I posted this in stories but  got so many comments I had to post it here.

I'd read an article which said how common an electric kettle is in the UK/AU but not in America. 
This was so interesting to me because my kettle is probably my most used appliance. But when I stay in homes here I can never find one.

A lot of Americans told me they use their microwave for hot water or they have a stove top.

And @astridpiepschyk explained it had to do with voltage. "Most Americans don’t own an electric kettle because the electricity voltage is too low to power a kettle effectively. In Australia, UK the voyage is 240, but in America it’s 110, and not very effective in boiling an electric kettle. It works, but takes a long time. This is why stove kettles are much more common." So what started as a post about how I love my half shelf for teacups in my 1930s cupboards turned into a great cultural and scientific conversation.

This is why I love Instagram πŸ˜€
 #hyggehouse
  • Ten years ago I moved to Philadelphia to build Anthropologies first Social Media, Content and Community programs.

It was a dream come true for two reasons. One I loved the company and two I was moving in July which meant I'd have an east coast fall.

It did not disappoint.

I spent every weekend out in nature with rosy cheeks, drinking hot apple cider. All this time later, that fall is still one of my favourite s and I miss it every year.

PS: the last photo is my old garage on my one acre property in Chestnut Hill. I had an 18th century stone home which I loved. I don't think I ever really wrote about this place because i never really settled in. Something I wish I'd done but I was just so consumed with work.

Pps: I've done a fall clothes clean out and am posting things for sale at @hyggehouseshop this week
  • I like taking photos at Disneyland that don't look like Disneyland.
  • This is my aunt on my french fathers side. During WWII, she got tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium to recover.

To pass time, she and her other young female friends would doll up, take photos and send them plus letters to soldiers to flirt with. Some they knew, some they didn't. Like old-fashioned Bumble. πŸ˜€
She was incredibly smart, witty, and fierce. In this photo she was full of possibilities and hope.

She married soon after to an abusive alcoholic, had four sons and quickly got trapped by circumstance and the era.

She was my favourite family member even though I didn't see her that often. I have one hand written letter from her and this photo which are the few family things I have.

I loved her because she always listened to me - patiently and sincerely. She saw who I really was and was so kind about it and oddly relatable. She gave me direction without advice. She laughed often, was direct when needed and sometimes acted soft. She was the only one who ever called me sweetie (my family nickname at the time was Chuck! and my family never used soft names with each other. So sweetie felt so amazingly special). I had 5 other aunts but I called her just "Aunty" as she defined them all. It was only to her that I felt a connection, unconditional love and a sense of family.

Her situation was always pitiful and dire,  but she never acted like a victim. When I saw her on her deathbed she was so small, weak and wilted from a hard life. But somehow she had always given me courage and strength, as if to say to be the possibilities she couldn't be.

Recently I hung out with my two young adult nieces and they both just called me "Aunty." Not Aunty Alex or Alex. Just Aunty.

It made me feel so special and like we have formed the same bonds that I had with my own Aunty. And that I was now being to them what she was to me. 
But more importantly, they helped me change my idea of her - the one that she never accomplished something. 
Because she did. 
She taught me how to be a good Aunty - one of my favourite things to be. That's her legacy which I think is really beautiful.

Well, that and dressing up when you feel poorly. πŸ˜€
  • The @ojaivalleyinn is one of my favourite places either for a day trip or an overnight. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
I always go when I need supreme rest and healing because I really really get that here. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
There's something so magic and calming about Ojai and this place taps into it so perfectly. And they have the best massages.

My recs? Avoid weekends and holidays. It's insane and the spa isn't as relaxing because it's just so overcrowded.

For rooms, avoid the ones above Libby's Market/Pub (I think they are the original rooms). They're just louder & smaller. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
I've had a suite with a patio, bedroom and fireplace down by the spa that was heaven and I've had a larger room by the main restaurant (I can't remember that buildings name) and both were amazing. This past room was in the Topa building which is their main building and it was really lovely (and had a balcony overlooking the golf course). β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I've  been here with girlfriends, alone, on retreats with work and loved all the experiences. I know a lot of people who come here with kids (@couldihavethat has a recent post in IG and her blog on why it's great for families) and it's also totally dog friendly (@ScoutStCharming has been). β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I  paid for my room πŸ˜€ and received zero things for free. So not am ad, just sharing what I love.
  • I found hope in Hope thanks to nature and my nieces.
  • The bridge next door and the buildings in the park across the street burned down in the Woolley Fire. But the Old Place still stands which makes me so happy. It's my favourite place in LA and I have missed hanging out here. It's nice to be back.
  • Possibilities.
  • "After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains." Happy 200th birthday, Walt Whitman

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My Hygge House

Topanga Canyon House

May 8, 2016
Topanga Canyon House by Hygge House

I have a pretty strong belief that the right home chooses you. There’s a little magic, a little unexpected, and a lot of impossible involved. It’s been true of all the homes I’ve truly loved and never more true then this one in Topanga California.

In the summer of 2015 I moved back to Santa Monica, California into a (very small) temporary condo. I’d begin a long and daily search for my dream home. As someone who spent most of her life in the countryside or small towns, I was exhausted by the intense city living I’d been doing since moving to America years ago. I wanted somewhere quiet, with views outside my window that weren’t of my next door neighbour, I wanted space to putter, to garden and to host friends. I wanted simple things like a place to park my car without having to circle blocks looking for parking.

After living in so many homes, I knew exactly what I liked and didn’t and finding something in a market that doesn’t have inventory but does have crazy prices was proving to be really difficult and frankly depressing.

I was ready to give up when, one morning, I searched outside of my normal area and comfort zone: Topanga Canyon. It was only 10 miles to Santa Monica or Malibu, 4 miles to the beach and seemingly miles away from civilization. I saw a listing that had a photo of a home I knew instantly was meant for me, on an acre with so much nature including a chicken coop and a Provence-style garden. Neighbours but you couldn’t see them and noise? Only birds. It had lots of windows, lots of light, lots of white and lots of space.

There was an open house two days later so I made sure to be there as soon as it opened but another couple had got there first. I was worried because I could hear them being aggressive about the home – what they’d do to it, what they wanted changed, moving plans. I walked through the front door and as I stood in the kitchen I heard them talk to the realtor that they wanted it. They’d take it. They’d go home and make the arrangements. It would be a done deal.

And I remember thinking, “oh no you won’t. This is my home.”

I waited in the kitchen until that couple left and then walked out to talk with the realtor who was brokering the lease. I said, “I’ve heard the conversation you had with the other couple. Should I even bother?”

I’ll never forget, but she gave me this grin, squeezed my hand and I swear with a twinkle in her eye said, “Yes. I think you should.” It was this strange but cheeky feeling like she was letting me in on a secret – she wanted me to have it. I hadn’t spoken to her before and that’s all we said but that was enough.

When I applied I wrote a huge letter for the owners. Telling them how I’d grown up in the country, how I’d lived in and owned historic homes and knew how to look after them, how I loved to garden and craved peace. How I wanted to live somewhere for a long time and would sign a long lease. And how I felt like it was home. And I was so ready to feel at home, since the past 9 months 75% of my things had been in storage and the past several years I’d felt in flux and not settled.

And then, the next day, the owners accepted my offer and two weeks later I moved in.

When I met with the owners and the realtor, I mentioned how I knew it was my home from the start and the realtor said “I believe the home chooses the person. And this home chose you.”

And it did. It really did.

There’s no cell reception here which the Laura Ingalls in me is very happy about.

Furniture that I’ve had for a long time that’s always kind of not fit the next house completely fits into specific areas of my home – almost like what I had was made for this place. I no longer hear neighbours yelling but coyotes howling. I don’t wake up to dogs barking but birds singing. I’ve got my white walls upstairs but now I have dark, cosy wood and flooring downstairs. I have views, quiet, and peace. It’s total calm here and a place that just feels happy. I think that comes through in photos which is why I have friends coming almost every other weekend for the next six months and I couldn’t be happier. I have the sparest of spare rooms that feels like a treehouse and I can’t wait to share it with friends, and now, with you.

Inside the Canyon House:

The house was originally hand built in 1925 as a one room hunting lodge. The stone on the first floor walls is native to the area and is pretty common up in the canyon. It’s in a high-risk fire area so having a stone foundation helped owners to show ownership of land if a fire happened. What I love is that it was all put in by hand and in the living room, you can see how they had to work around a huge boulder because at the time, there wouldn’t have been a great way to remove it. It’s one of my favourite features of the house.  The first floor has a lot of original details like an original Wedgewood stove, farmhouse sink and wood oven stove in the living room. 

The first floor is also the ‘cosy’ floor and new for me in terms of style. It feels to me like a home in Provence with all the wood/stone, slate floors in the living room and cork floors in the kitchen. The first floor windows also look level at the backyard because the house is built into a hill. It’s darker and cooler downstairs but it also has the most beautiful sunbeams coming in through the kitchen each morning.

The kitchen and the downstairs hallway were added onto in the 30’s. The kitchen somehow perfectly fits my West Elm dining table (that I absolutely love) and my shelf I bought in Santa Barbara from a historic mansion (it’s a 1930’s console shelf). In the hall, which is super narrow, there’s just enough room from my 18th century horse buggy seat from France and a narrow shelf (from Etsy). The living room has what feels to me like a little french church window which looks into the driveway (you can see the slope).

The downstairs is mainly the large living room, one bathroom with a shower and kitchen so I keep the styling pretty cosy and french feeling with a touch of history to make it feel like you’re stepping back in time but with plumbing! I try to pay the most respect to the homes history on the main floor with a nod to cowboys and slow times. It’s all a mix of high and low end. There’s custom Shabby Chic pieces (couch, console, ottoman and upstairs the bed), some Ikea, some Urban Outfitters (the butterfly chair), antiques, West Elm and a lot of Anthropologie.

The show stopper of the house is the landing that connects the first and second floor. The walls span two floors with beautiful french doors that look outside. When I got here, it was all white but the drama of the walls called for wallpaper. I installed removable wallpaper (post here) from Hygge and West which turned out better than I could imagine. I keep two fake candle lanterns on every night for the ultimate in drama.

The second floor feels like a Scandinavian treehouse, surrounded by bougainvillea, trees and lots of windows. There are 2 rooms and one bathroom (with tub) upstairs, all which were added in the 50’s. All the walls are white, there’s no curtains on any of the 12 windows (except for 1 in the guestroom) and there’s original hardwood floors in the guest room, original tile in the bathroom but cork in the bedroom (not a fan, but it’s there).

The Garden and Yard

The house sits on about an acre of land high up in the canyon which gives beautiful canyon views. The driveway is so steep if you have a little car you won’t be able to make it out but the slope also creates a beautiful hiking trail up the other side of the property. And all the way down the land is the creek which you only get to see during Spring when there’s actual water. 

The front patio is really spacious, running the length of the house, and overlooks part of the front yard/garden/canyon. So I bought a couple of lounge chairs from Amazon which work well as beds or go completely flat and work great as large benches (perfect for parties). I got a side table from West Elm and large dining chairs and bistro table from Terrain.

I never take this view for granted – it’s what I see from the main front garden. This is my favourite time when the clouds from the ocean drift through the canyon. It’s really amazing to watch. And if you look close enough in the photo above, you’ll see a wire cage which is part of a little step down covered garden for veggies or anything else that you want to grow without the critters getting in.

The garden is really thoughtful; it’s all native plants which is important because of the high temperatures in the summer, drought and all the animals (we have lots of gophers and deer who want to eat everything). I keep a lot of succulents because the ground is perfect for it same with rosemary – it’s everywhere. Jasmine grows in the back yard and in the front in pots, over the door. There’s an apple tree in the front and a maple in the back. My favourite is the bougavilla that drapes over the front and the morning glory that comes for a little bit in the summer.

I also love olive trees so I put a few dwarf varieties in the front along side some lavender. This is what gives my place the vibe of Provence. The umbrella (from Amazon) and bright bistro table set help.

The back yard has a huge slope to it so it’s pretty natural and undone. The bottom is pure rock slab so nothing grows and is also kept natural. A sitting wall was put in in the 20’s by hand and a huge boulder was carved out (also by hand) to make way for the house and back porch. The backyard is the only fenced area so I tend to sit out here in the mornings and late at night with the dog since it’s the safest place from coyotes and other critters.

The Studio

The studio is about a 1min walk from the main house along a little trail in which you pass the chick coop and then my favourite tree/boulder (which is holding which up?). It’s basically an unfinished shed with a huge deck and the best canyon views. It’s where I do a lot of outdoor yoga or chilling. It’s also the trailhead up the property or down to the little cabin on the creek.

The studio overlooking Topanga Canyon
Hygge House Chick Coop in Topanga California

The Cabin

I’ve heard the story from a few neighbours who were all here during its occupancy. In the 50’s, a single man bought the house (he’s the one that added the second floor). In the 70’s he had an older friend who was looking to retire in the area he’d always lived. So the owner invited the man to build a cabin on the land.

The man was in his 70’s and hand-built this cabin overlooking the creek. What is remarkable about this is there is no road access where the cabin is and requires walking up a steep hill for about 5-10min each way from the main road. He hauled all the boulders in the area to build the foundation and then built the rest out of pure lumber from the lumber yard on the boulevard.

There is no electricity or running water to the property and he lived in the home he built for 20 years until he died. 

From the studio there is a little buried trail that goes down to the cabin but you really can only get to it in winter when most of the vegetation has died. I’ve only been to the cabin a few times but it’s really impressive; its two floors with the main floor being wall to ceiling glass to see the canyon and creek. There’s an old wood stove in it and what impresses me is there’s a couch, a dresser and a bed. Again, no road access and I keep thinking how did they get that in there (and I know that’s why no one’s taken it out!).

The odd thing about this, and why this is so Topanga, is that my neighbour believes part of this property is hers. When the old man died, she took the bottom part of the house and the top part stayed with my house. Neither uses it but each has access to the floor owned by them. So weird but so charming.

Some people think it feels haunted. I think it feels beautiful.

I’ve never committed to anything as long as I’ve committed to this place is the first home that actually feels like a hygge house.  There is a natural charm to the home because of how/why it was built, the fact that it’s only had two owners so it hasn’t really been changed and that there’s space without feeling big. Plus there’s something about this area that feels a world away from everything.The home feels both simple and luxurious, cosy and open, and calm yet energizing. Hygge!

PS: In spring 2017, Hygge and West came and shot my home for their book, Hygge and West Home. I wrote a little more about the home and how I approach living hygge. I love how my chapter turned out so if you want more (or better quality!) photos and a little more insight, I highly recommend picking up the book.

  • Reply
    KristyNo Gravatar
    May 12, 2016 at 1:51 AM

    Can’t wait to follow the journey in your lovely new home. We’ve got some big spaces in our home in the UK and I tend to find that big Persian/Indian style rugs on the floor make things look cosy almost immediately. If you’re stuck for funds initially, Ikea has absurdly large faux Persians in rich colours for Β£50 – they’ll do you for a few years until you find the perfect one. This is the one we have in our entrance hall (wanted something cheap and durable that would tolerate outside shoes and Labrador paws) and they come in a larger size again http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/10100495/

    • alex the girl | hygge houseNo Gravatar
      May 18, 2016 at 11:54 PM

      Thanks, Kristy! Finding rugs that are dog-friendly is hard so knowing you’ve got lab-approved rugs is a huge rec πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    CashmereLibrarianNo Gravatar
    June 1, 2016 at 4:32 PM

    Wow, that is just beautiful. So happy for you!

  • Reply
    Penny LNo Gravatar
    June 21, 2016 at 2:52 AM

    Totally hygge Alex. What a beautiful place. I can’t wait to see more of it on your blog and Instagram feed. I hope you’ll be really happy living there. With love Penny L in Dorset UK xx

  • Reply
    Abbey Lile-TaylorNo Gravatar
    June 21, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    Oh my goodness…this house is beyond heavenly. As someone who has been following you on your many journeys for years now (a decade?), I am so happy you have finally found your space. Congrats to you! And I can’t wait to read/see as you make the home even more “you.”

    • alex the girl | hygge houseNo Gravatar
      June 25, 2016 at 10:38 PM

      Wow, Abbey! I feel like you should get a brownie badge for that!! Thank you for following all these years. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Making a Fairy Garden
    July 24, 2016 at 8:12 PM

    […] I moved into my home this past spring, wild grass had just been planted. Because it’s not a normal green lawn grass, it comes up in […]

  • Reply
    susan / fleurishingNo Gravatar
    August 9, 2016 at 11:48 AM

    This looks so incredible Alex, and I love the story behind it. Clearly this home chose you! Congratulations.

  • Reply
    MatthewNo Gravatar
    September 11, 2016 at 2:57 PM

    Hi Alex, it was nice finding your blog. What shade/ color of white did you end up going for in your canyon house for the walls, wood ceilings? It looks nice!

  • Reply
    JaneNo Gravatar
    September 27, 2016 at 4:34 PM

    Fantastic Alex great home, I’m just back from Hygge Denmark but will soon be leaving for Cali can’t wait πŸ˜€

  • Reply
    CaraNo Gravatar
    May 5, 2017 at 7:28 PM

    I’m so happy to have come across your blog after learning about the Hygge lifestyle! I felt exactly the same feeling you did when we first stepped into our home in Santa Susana Knolls (border of Chatsworth and Simi Valley by the Santa Susana Mountains), a year ago. We rented in Woodland Hills for 6 years and always hiked around Topanga. It’s beautiful there! But now that my family and I have found our own home, hearing coyotes, waking up to the sun in my face, the birds and the beautiful mountain views just makes me feel in touch with nature and I just love life a whole lot more. Thank you for sharing! Ü

  • Reply
    SunnyNo Gravatar
    June 5, 2017 at 9:02 PM

    Hi Alex, as a one-time-girl now elder who grew up in Pacific Palisades, I have loved Topanga. My artist-mother loved to park along the Canyon road and we’d hike down to the creek, playing with the spilling pools of water, floating sycamore leaves and prickly seed-balls down the stream. The sound of the water was magical. The light through the trees with their patchy trunks was golden. And once in the late ’50s a young aunt took me into the Canyon to meet these potters who also made the best cinnamon rolls I ever ate, before or since. She’s 92 now and doesn’t remember that wonderful day in my young life. Enjoy your hygge life! I’m happy to have found your blog. Best, Sunny

  • Reply
    Kathleen BrennanNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2017 at 7:59 PM

    Perfect home and inspiration for me as I now have an oversized suburban home (and all the maintenance) and desperately miss my 600 sq ft student apt at MIT! seeking Hygge but know I will not find it in a suburban ‘planned’ development… hope my next home is hygge. Thanks for the introduction!

  • Reply
    TiffanyNo Gravatar
    September 10, 2017 at 5:08 PM

    What a beautiful home! I’m so glad that it chose you & thank you for sharing your Hygge house with us! <3 I found you because I'm hoping to have a Hygge dinner-party this autumn for friends, so I'm looking for ideas and a better understanding of Hygge.

  • Reply
    AnnaNo Gravatar
    September 13, 2017 at 1:20 PM

    Oh my gosh I love everything!!! Congrats to you!! I am most loving that couch and fabric bench in the living room – looks so cozy and inviting – hygge perfection.

  • Reply
    Sarah WoodruffNo Gravatar
    September 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM

    what kind of wallpaper is that? or what’s it called?

  • Reply
    Caitlin KellyNo Gravatar
    February 11, 2018 at 9:18 AM

    Heaven! Everything sounds (and looks) so lovely.

    Best of all? That doggie of yours with the bent ear! Thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply
    michael p hawkinsNo Gravatar
    December 11, 2018 at 1:09 PM

    If you get a chance go to Half Moon Bay, it is north on PCH. My favorite place in Cali.

  • Reply
    Sarah CramerNo Gravatar
    July 11, 2019 at 4:33 PM

    Hi! Your home was my favorite in the Hygge & West book πŸ™‚ Would you mind sharing the paint color of your kitchen cabinets? Thank you and I love your home!!

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