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Get the Look Decor: Artist’s Retreat

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This weekend’s Get the Look Decor comes from Elka Karl, editor at CasaSugar. Elka lives in Berkeley with her husband Peter, son Uli and dog Ozzie. For the new year she’s continuing to sketch out plans for a backhouse, where she can have a proper office and her husband can have a peaceful place to blast heavy metal.

In mid-November, I traveled up the California coast to Jenner (population just around 100) to meet Clare Elsaesser and Kai Samuels-Davis, an artist couple who live and work out of their cottage in this tiny seaside town. Clare and Kai welcomed me into their beautiful home, where a fire was lit in the wood-burning stove, and candles chased away the chill on that rainy November afternoon.

[Left to right, top row: Extra large knit pouf by marymarieknits; Tapered wood lamp by ThreeElementsStudios; Decorative pillow cover by chicdecorpillows; Left to right, bottom row: Collage print by karineleger2; Rustic coffee table by thezenartist; Infinite Murk / Horrible Parrot by HeartPumpArts.]

How did you find your home?
I found our home on Craigslist, and we chose it because it has studio space for both my sweetheart Kai and me, a plethora of bathrooms and an amazing view! Just the two of us live here, so it feels nice and roomy.

How did you come to live in Jenner?
We lived 15 minutes south in Bodega Bay for the past two years, in a small house where I worked in a closet-size space. As work got busier, we decided it was time to move, but we really wanted to stay in the area, and on the coast.

What are your favorite rooms in your home?
I love pretty much every room, and am even warming up to the very dark, wood-paneled den despite its creepy ’70s feel.

How do you feel about living in such a small community? 
We love the smallness of Jenner, and the somewhat remote nature of the town. We are both hermits, so this secluded lifestyle really works. Grocery shopping is a challenge, as it takes about an hour to get to most of the markets. We shop once a week, and it is usually an all-day affair, which is a bit exhausting.

[Left to right, top row: Under window bookcase by matthewholdren; And close your eyes by windylanestudio; Vintage Harman Kardon reciever by myunclesattic; Left to right, bottom row: Mid Century ClassMate chair by DivineOrders; Farm table by RelicFarmTables; Vintage opera binoculars by trottinette.]

Where is the living room furniture sourced?
Our living room furniture comes from a variety of places. Kai made most of the wooden things: our dining room table, coffee table, and bookshelf with a built-in mini bar. There are two thrift store chairs my parents had for a while and decided to part with, our cheapo Cost Plus couch and various other thrift store and vintage finds.

Whose artwork is featured in the home besides your artwork and Kai’s?
We have a lot of amazing artwork from Kai’s sister, Esther Samuels-Davis, and a really great painting by her boyfriend Marcos Weiss. Everything else comes from either vintage and thrift stores or Etsy. We have work by Brooke Wandall, two Jeremy Miranda paintings, two drawings by Justin Durand, a Britt Hermann painting, a Debbie Carlos poster and a really neat little painting by Laura Ferrara, and I know I’m forgetting a couple artists…

What’s the story behind the photo of the embracing couple with the covered heads?
The embracing couple is one of my favorites! It is by an Etsy artist, Gabriella Sanchez, and is a take on a Magritte painting.

[Left to right: Hand-forged carbon knife by BloodrootBladesTea towel by knifeinthewater;Vintage spice rack by PosiesVintageParlor.

Can you tell me more about your fantastic spice rack?
Kai (of course) made the spice rack. He is definitely the cook in our house, and it was important for him to have a very thorough and organized spice rack. It’s made out of reclaimed "tasting sticks" (wood that was used to flavor wine as though it were aged in oak barrels).

Do you often eat at the kitchen counter? 
We eat lunch at the kitchen counter. Seals go by in the river, and a variety of large birds can be seen at any given time. Our favorite counter activity is spying on the kayakers floating down the river with our ancient, poorly working binoculars.

What are some of the challenges of decorating within the confines of the space? 
Renting a home always seems to come with the same challenges. In this case we have a wonderful landlord, but she wants the space to remain hers, so the whitewashed walls and ceilings, and the wood paneling in the den can’t be changed. I think we try to balance out the bothersome elements with distractions, like lots of art on the walls.

[Left to right, top row: November large print by tastesorangey; Table Lamp by Lampified; Skin print by erosturannos; Left to right, bottom row: Human skull ceramic votive by mudpuppy; Embroidered signpost cushion by enhabiten; Daybreak wind up alarm clock by thetinyflea.]

Where did you find the red lamp in your bedroom?
I grew up with the red lamp, and was able to steal it from my parents in the chaos of moving, when they left my childhood home.

Is the painting above your bed yours? 
The painting above our bed is actually both of ours. It’s the only painting we’ve ever worked on together. I started it, and didn’t know where to go, so we both took turns until we were happy.

What future plans do you have for your home?
Kai is planning to make more reclaimed wood furniture, including a headboard and nightstands for our bed. We really want to set up the deck/patio so it can be a fun outdoor space. Oh, and we are on the lookout for a canoe… with a motor.

[Left to right, top row: Ladder - original on paper by jeremymiranda; Soy candles by Luminology; Mid Century blue kitchen chair by DaveysVintage; Left to right, bottom row: Ocean painting by behindourhouses ; Reclaimed barnwood bench by LotusWoodcrafts; Green glass air plant vase by toHOLD.]

Can you tell me more about the vintage photographs in the bathroom?
Oh, we love them! We found them at the Salvation Army in Pasadena when we first moved in together, and have moved them with us to six houses. After scouring the Internet, we decided they must have been taken on a Greek vacation, and I would like nothing more than to find the spot from the photos and re-create them. (Kai could be the little kid in the hammock.)

Visit CasaSugar to check out the rest of Clare and Kai’s cozy seaside artist’s cottage and read the rest of their interview. For more fun with Casa Sugar, check out CasaSugar’s Coveted Crib series or CasaSugar’s Etsy Finds.


Looking for more styles and interiors? Check out our video series, There’s No Place Like Here, where creative types show us their unique spaces — infused with their aesthetic and filled with the treasures they collect. Get involved and show us your amazing space in this Flickr pool.

More Get the Look: Home Decor Editions.

Housewares CategoryVintage Housewares