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2443 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA, 94115

(310) 463-0650

Designs by Alina:  Handcrafted jewelry fabricated with gold, pave diamonds, and choice pearls for the sophisticated modern-classic woman. Beauty and inspiration forever entwined. Lifestyle blog on design, travel, fashion, family.

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Blog

Designs by Alina Lifestyle Magazine

Blog, Travel, family, interior design, jewelry design and fashion.

 

 

An Oasis in California's Central Coast

Bernardo de Albergaria

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Chances are that if you don’t live in California, what first springs to mind are sandy beaches, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the Golden Gate Bridge. But farmland?

Absolutely!

Meet Marfarm, a chic new bed and breakfast located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the heart of Edna Valley’s wine country. The converted barn, which is attached to a working horse stable for a true farm stay experience, is set upon sixty luscious acres with a 360 degree view of rolling hills, each acre meticulously cultivated.

 
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We met the proprietors, Jill and Hamish Marshall, several years ago at a dinner party and became fast friends. Our better halves exchanged stories of life abroad while Jill and I bonded over our joie de vivre and love of design, in particular the use of juxtaposed textures, colors and design elements. In fact, it was Jill who inspired me to launch Designs by Alina back in 2014.

 
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Hamish’s “no worries mate” attitude coupled with Jill’s warmth, wit, and exceptional eye for design, make them the perfect gatekeepers of this secluded oasis. And while Edna Valley may not sound like the place a gifted designer and Aussie adventurer would call home, a simple glance at the haven they have created makes it clear that this is exactly where they need to be.

“Hamish was based here for development back in 1995,” explains Jill. “When I graduated from design school with a jewelry degree, I was persuaded to fall in love with him by my mother. I finally conceded and we’ve been very happily married in Edna Valley for 22 years.” The Marshall world has grown since then with two daughters, four dogs, a cat, a cow, a pig, sixteen horses, twenty-two chickens, a donkey, a new B&B and llamas on the way.

In deference to its roots, the barn interiors are accented in green to complement the original 1930’s dairy floor. Every detail from the Spanish chandelier pendant fabricated with recycled soda bottles and grasses, to the linen bedding, rugged Argentinian throws, and Moroccan tiles hinting at old Americana quilts, attest to Jill’s unrelenting attention to detail and superb design aesthetic.

While beauty and originality abound at every turn, the 9 hand carved wood horned bull heads are a sight to behold. Imported from Bali, these fascinating sculptures can be showcased with 1200 possible light scenarios, though the Marshalls have opted to greet their guests with warm shades of green and sunset rose.

 
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Marfarm’s refined rustic-meets-modern design, perfectly suitable for a wedding or weekend getaway, is an ongoing labor of love. A designer after my own heart, Jill espouses the idea that subtle details speak volumes: “Just being there, placing flowers, cutting fresh fruits, setting the dimmers just right, lighting French candles, making the bar look perfect with wines and fur beer cozies is like playing house, and all those little details offer our guests a visual explosion.”

 
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So next time you wish to discover a place less traveled and simply divine, look no further than Marfarm in San Luis Obispo, where beauty, serenity and joy await. www.marfarm.com

Photos credits: Marfarm and Alina de Albergaria

Springtime in Santa Barbara

Bernardo de Albergaria

I love words.

Having earned a living for the better part of two decades as a television producer, host, and writer, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. However, sometimes words are superfluous, detracting us from the point. So I will merely mention that following a seven year drought, Santa Barbara has finally taken her sweet revenge. Verdant hills and unfamiliar flora abound like the proteas I discovered in our garden yesterday.

Yellow Protea Pincushion

Yellow Protea Pincushion

Aren’t they stunning? In a state of sheer fascination, I fetched my camera to immortalize them and their many companions. Budding persimmons, cherries, plums, peaches, grapes, apples and guavas lie in wait for summer, while avocados, lemons, oranges, grapefruit and tangerines are on the verge of being devoured. Ah, but the roses!

Each spring I feel increasingly grateful for life’s abundance.

And I am fairly certain that this year I am in good company.

Dedicated to Neri, whom our family misses dearly, and to our 🐩 🐩 who love the garden as much as we.

Beverly Hills through the lens of an ex-local

Alina de Albergaria

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Much like the flora and fauna, we have been programmed to anticipate and adapt to the changing seasons, virtually by instinct. This is especially true now that the sweet scent of orange blossoms permeates the air, hinting at heat around the bend.

This year the season swooped in without warning, taking me to the City of Angels with my youngest in tow, while our teens spawned spring break plans of their own. We stayed in my old neighborhood, at the Peninsula where our daughter enjoyed one of my favorite rooftop pools in town, while I met with colleagues. Located in the heart of Beverly Hills just blocks from Rodeo Drive, the Peninsula caters to the discerning traveler with a penchant for understated elegance and stellar service. The tone of discreet beauty is evident from the moment a band of trees sneaks into view, encircling the classic Renaissance style hotel as though shielding it from bustling city streets. In similar fashion, the hotel retains a couple of chauffeurs so one might avoid the frustration that comes along with driving in Los Angeles. (Think William Foster in Falling Down).

 

Suite, patio and cabana photos: courtesy of the Peninsula Hotel. All others, property of Designs by Alina.

 

We reserved a car just once on the way back from dinner because we love to stroll, always choosing hotels that are on (or near) walking streets. Once you have seen the obligatory Rodeo Drive and Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where Pretty Woman was filmed) consider venturing south of Wilshire Boulevard, away from the tourists, to S. Beverly Drive, home to local boutiques and lively restaurants like Urth Caffe, where celebrity sightings are not uncommon. (I have spotted Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow among others, while enjoying my morning latte.) The pastries are hit or miss so I now opt for an omelette or French toast, and when I am craving a buttery, flakey pastry, Chaumont, one block north of Urth Caffe, is delicious.

LA quirkiness at its Hollywood best, anyone? Head on over to the Spadena House (aka the Witch’s House) four blocks north of the hotel on Walden Drive. This city landmark, known for its whimsical, intentionally decrepit style, was designed in 1922 by Harry Oliver, an Art Director who later influenced Storybook architecture.

 
The Spadena House, Beverly Hills

The Spadena House, Beverly Hills

 

Our hotel’s Belvedere restaurant offers delicious Mediterranean-inspired fare with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and wild-caught seafood. While the setting is lovely, lunch felt a little more tame than our mood, so we ventured out for the rest of our stay. Here are a few of my new and old favorites:

Brunch/lunch: Fred’s rooftop restaurant at Barneys has it all: farmers-market-fresh fare and a spectacular view of the Hollywood Hills. Another popular spot is The Farm (try the tuna three-ways). Then there is Sugarfish where your taste buds come to life with mouth watering sushi that will leave you clamoring for more. Be warned, however, not to ask for miso soup, cooked fish or dessert because, well, there is none. Sugarfish is all about simplicity stemming from exceptional ingredients. Ah, what I wouldn’t do for one of Chef Nozawa’s toro hand rolls right about now! Founded in 1983, The Ivy on Robertson is brimming with flowers, making you feel as though you are in a country cottage rather than the industry darling it continues to be. And while it is pricier than most restaurants in the neighborhood, you will not be disappointed from the moment you are greeted with a glass of chilled champagne.

Dinner: The places I used to frequent as a resident years ago, are more than just relevant today: Il Cielo (Italian cuisine) still tops my list for the most romantic garden setting. And like Il Cielo, Spago (Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant) has been around for decades and continues to be a front-runner. These restaurants are superb, though many would argue that West Hollywood is where the hottest new eateries are, and I tend to agree. My husband and I gauge our dining experiences a bit differently: he is a stickler for outstanding fare whereas I seek out beautiful design and a lively, unpretentious ambiance. That said, if you are up for a short drive to West Hollywood, we both recommend Catch, Eveleigh, or Lucques.

Last but not least, if you have a sweet craving at four o’clock in the morning or want to surprise your little one while you sleep in, the world’s first cupcake ATM Sprinkles on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Camden is available twenty-four hours a day.

 
Sugarfish, Beverly Hills

Sugarfish, Beverly Hills

 

Yes, my husband and I are foodies and our children don’t fall far from the tree, but the greatest gift this time around had little to do with my palate or business. Pounding the same streets I did for so many years as a young woman in television, with my daughter beside me was really some kind of wonderful. But to stand in front of my old Beverly Hills apartment with someone who might have only touched my heart back then by way of a wondrous dream? Well, that, was nothing short of surreal!

 
 

Whether you have sprung forward in a matter-of-course, or added a touch of nostalgia for good measure, we wish you and your loved ones a glorious season of bloom.

The Bygone Beauty of Venezuela

Alina de Albergaria

 
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Today I share a piece of my heart.

To many, Venezuela is just another poverty stricken country. To me, however, it is the place in which, for the first time in my life, I had extended family. It is the birthplace of my mother and is where I met my beloved uncle/godfather, the most gentle, kind, loving, loyal human being I have ever known, the one who would later walk me down the aisle and cradle our newborn children.

 
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Venezuela hosted our family on virginal beaches with gaitas, salsa, and merengue, where fisherman asked what we wanted for lunch, bringing it to us minutes later from the sea.

It also hosted us in the Andes where my fondest memories of New Year's celebrations live. I can still see the sparks we made on the pavement those nights alongside children unbeknownst to us who, too poor to own skates like we did, partook nonetheless on improvised carretas made with ball bearings and wood, our joint laughter painting the streets with year-end mementos, devoid of social barriers. 

I witnessed vast differences in the way people lived: some with heartfelt smiles showcasing brown, rotting teeth, and others who spent their weekends shopping in Miami. Nonetheless, friendly demeanors hinted at how Venezuelans, from all walks of life, seemed grateful to live in such a majestic country. The years I lived there, in conjunction with those spent in the United States and England, helped shaped my worldview, and I am grateful for the grit, determination and compassion with which those experiences have armed me for adulthood. 

But Venezuela today is a far cry from the land I once knew, the wealthiest in all of Latin America. Venezuelans have collectively lost twenty-five percent of their body weight due to food shortages, while ninety percent live in poverty (Reuters). Civil unrest, hyperinflation and crime have sadly become synonymous with Venezuela since the turn of this century. To date, three million people have fled, including members of my own family, most leaving behind a country deeply loved.  

Today, however, I celebrate the nation’s beauty, stand by its people, and wish for healing and peace in the years to come.

Today I celebrate the nation’s beauty, stand by its people, and wish for healing and peace in the years to come.

Honing your Christmas Decor

Alina de Albergaria

 
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As a designer obsessed with creating beauty, the aftermath of ribbons, needles, flour, paper, tinsel, tape, and all the trimmings of the season can easily become a source of mayhem.

Still, year after year, with a prevailing scent of Thanksgiving still floating through the air, we pile into the family car in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Dusty boxes which haven't seen the light of day for eleven months emerge while the children argue about who gets to put the angel on the tree, apple cider simmering in the distance.

Note to self: Next year it’s our son’s turn.

Note to self: Next year it’s our son’s turn.

Changing up the decor from year to year can definitely spark an interesting conversation, but I love items that can stand up to the test of time, not to mention the joy that unfolds as we open an old box and unravel the tissue paper within to reveal seasonal treasures.

 
 

This year our youngest pleaded for us to buy Christmas stockings, a tradition our family hadn't embraced as my husband and I grew up without them in our childhood homes. One look at her beaming smile as I pondered the idea was all it took for me to welcome her proposal.

Both Fig and Dove and One Kings Lane, trusted sources of mine, had several options but neither convinced me that they should author our newest gem. Neiman Marcus and Sferra Linens offered a few contenders which paired together well, though they fell short of the quintet our family required. 

And then a lightbulb went off.

If year after year Anthropologie manages to pull off the perfect Christmas window, surely they would have a stocking (or five) that I’d like. Voilá!

 
North Pole Stocking  from Anthropologie

North Pole Stocking from Anthropologie

 

I couldn’t locate enough coordinating stockings to round out the lot so I headed over to my local craft store in search of accessories to personalize them, my favorite being small rounds of birchwood onto which I hand-wrote initials with a calligraphy pen.

 
 

It’s late…the Christmas trail I left behind in my studio can wait until morning, but the smile I saw on my daughter’s face when I pondered her idea? Hmmm, if I sign off now, I just might get another one of those!

And to all a good night!

 
CHRISTMAS DECOR DESIGNS BY ALINA