Name: Helene Cornell and Preston Swirnoff
Location: San Diego, California
Size: 1200 sq ft, + outdoor living+ mobile love dens ( vintage trailers galore)
Years lived in: 5 Years, Own
Photographer Helene Cornell and scientist/ musician husband Preston Swirnoff are both artists who work from home, so it made perfect sense that when they shacked up they would need quirky inspiration in every corner. They believe that rules are meant to be broken when it comes to design, and that life is a playground. When they travel they collect design treasures as keepsakes from their adventures. Each piece of art comes with its own memory, and each lamp bulb reminds them of a day they fell more in love.
Bold colors, patterns and textures are balanced to stimulate your senses. In every corner of their 1914 craftsman bungalow you will find a fusion of funky thrift store finds, modern and antique artwork, along with ubiquitous music and photo accessories. This couple is not purist or shy when it comes to blending eras- why not use grandma’s striped couch from the 60′s next to an 80′s disco ball hovering above new record shelves from Ikea?
They also host a variety of travelers through AirBnB, where Cornell has managed a successful bed and breakfast for over 4 years. As the demand grew, she needed more space. Thus, the Bubble Business (as she calls it). Cornell and Swirnoff own three vintage trailers that were puchased on Ebay, Craigslist, and from a mutual friend. Two are small and adorable ‘canned hams’ from the late 50′s, and the third is a shiny aluminum twenty foot Airstream from the 70′s. All were lovingly restored and are parked in the driveway, with one even at the neighbor’s house, where Cornell is constantly shuffling travelers who need a affordable place to stay.
Helene Cornell featured in front of her popular canned ham coined ” The Mobile Love Den”. To see more photos and how you can rent this gem on wheels, click here.
Our Style/ Inspiration: Jonathan Adler takes an acid trip with his accordion to Morocco where he learns how to fortune tell, write poetry, and garden. We love to incorporate our heritage; we have a growing collection of modern prints by First Nations artists from my homeland on Vancouver Island. We also collect photography, cameras, records, and musical instruments. We love unique vintage furniture, and have a couple of pieces from Preston’s grandmother that we love.
Favorite Element: French doors that open to a hammock in our private jungle where we can pick breakfast bananas right off the trees.
Biggest Challenge: The home is very small, and we have to store all of my photography equipment under the beds due to lack of storage. We had to buy and return at least 4 dining room tables, as every thing looked so cramped in the tiny space. People were smaller in 1914!
What Friends Say: ” Which one of your trailers can I crash in?”
Biggest Embarrassment: Breaking a chandelier when I was using the broom handle to aggressively to clean up.
Proudest DIY: Making a custom wooden bench with hidden storage space to hide the ugly water meter that stuck out 2 feet, then creating the world’s longest seat-cushion pillow to go on top.
Biggest Indulgence: Anything to make better coffee, and bedding. There is nothing that can change a room faster then a new douvet.
Best Advice: Break rules and just go for it. If something doesn’t match, your eyes wont notice if you put enough layers on it. I learned this from photographing ugly children.
Cornell uses vintage dynamite crates (sourced on a home visit in Canada) as a great way to store books, which seem to be piling up in every corner in the house. Put them on wheels to make for easy mobile storage.
Cornell wanted to make a headboard from giant pillows, so she took apart pillows from West Elm and sewed in various other patterns she had in her archives. She used knobs from Anthropologie to hang the pillows across a wallpapered 2×4, and adhered the assembly to the wall, concealing the hardware, as if it was floating. All other items found on Craigslist.
Bedding: West Elm. Wallpaper: Home Depot. Side table: Urban Outfitters.
Cornell made this skinny table in her beginner wood working class for dining under the cabana. She sewed her biggest pillow ever, with affordable fabric from Ikea. Burlap coffee sacks from eBay make great table runners. The vintage gas can makes an unlikely home for a cactus installation (next step- put it on wheels to avoid eye poking during photo shoots!).
Curtains from West Elm. Danish table was a house warming gift from Preston’s mom- thank you!
Mirror from Target. Zebra head from Anthropologie. Tablecloth from Anthropologie. Chandelier and side table refurbished from Craigslist.