A Newport Beach Designer Infuses a Builder’s House with Charm and Character
For her own growing family, designer Leigh Lincoln of Pure Salt made a brand-new house feel loved, lived-in, and layered with the brand’s signature style.
“Clean, coastal, calm, and simple” is how Pure Salt designer and co-founder Leigh Lincoln describes the home she designed for her own family in Rancho Mission Viejo, California. In late 2019, after an extensive search, Lincoln and her husband found a house that ticked off just enough boxes on their long wishlist. It had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a yard for the kids to play in, and it was within walking distance of her siblings’ houses (Fun fact: Lincoln is a triplet.)
The con list was shorter, but contained two critical points: All of those features were crammed into a relatively small layout, and, more importantly, it was a somewhat generic new build.
Undaunted, Lincoln was determined to up the charm factor, and pack all of her dream details into the floor plan. She added archways to the living room, a white-washed Saltillo tile floor, lots of custom storage, a built-in banquette and small bar in the dining room, and a Roman clay-clad hood over the range in the kitchen. Sliding doors that open to a a dreamy backyard, with an outdoor fireplace and a dining and entertaining area for a crowd, create the illusion of a much larger home.
“When I have the doors open, it makes for quintessential California living,” says Lincoln. “I can seat 20 comfortably without feeling crowded. I’m so happy I took the time to really plan our indoor/outdoor floor plan according to our lifestyle. We use it weekly.“
In short, Lincoln gave the house the Pure Salt treatment.
Lincoln and her business partner, Aly Morford, founded their rapidly growing Newport Beach-based design business back in 2015. And they came into their careers as decorators and designers in a most unusual way.
Originally, they bonded as college roommates at Cal Poly, and painted furniture together on a campus lawn to decorate their dorm room. Lincoln and Morford were instant best friends.
But when a move to Saudi Arabia for her husband’s job prompted a career hiatus, Morford turned it into an opportunity to examine how she wanted to spend her days. If she could create her dream job, what would it be? After a sort of creative epiphany, sparked by memories of their dorm decorating adventures, Morford wrote an email to Lincoln that she describes as her “Jerry Maguire-inspired manifesto.” They should start an interior design business together, as soon as she was back in the states. Lincoln was game from the get-go.
Six years later, their design business and shop, selling an in-house-created line of Pure Salt bedding and decor, and curated vintage and new merchandise, is thriving. Their aesthetic is heavy on creamy white paint—like Chantilly Lace from Benjamin Moore—soft pillows, inviting textures, white marble, and glossy Zellige tile from Clé, and has garnered an avid following on Instagram. Many of their signature design tricks are in play throughout Lincoln’s house.
“We want to set a relaxed tone. It’s important to feel at ease in your space, and have it be comfortable for everyday living,” Lincoln says. Part of that equation is filling a home with welcoming seating with soft, inviting textures.
“We are known for our pillows,” says Lincoln. “Our Hadley is a best-seller and a Pure Salt staple. You’ll see it in practically every design of ours, including my home! We’re always finding new inspiration and gathering new materials, so our pillow line is constantly growing with the most beautiful patterns and textiles. And we take that love for unique textiles to another level with our bedding collection and our signature reversible duvet covers.”
Lincoln is quick to add that sometimes a fresh coat of paint and reorganization is all it takes.
“The first thing you must do is clear out the clutter,” she says. “You can’t feel relaxed with stuff everywhere. The eye needs a place to rest and it is much easier when your spaces are organized and nicely appointed with just the right amount of decor. I also believe in stimulating all of the senses, not just the eye. I play jazz every morning to set a nice, calm vibe as the kids get ready for school, and you will always find a candle burning in my home. It’s fun to have a signature scent, just like that amazing boutique hotel you love.”
Combining fresh upholstered pieces with vintage art and accessories gives any house—even a brand-new builder’s spec home—a lived-in and layered look that doesn’t scream “decorated in a day.”
“My favorite item in the house is the French library ladder in the kitchen,” Lincoln says. “I searched all over Europe for it and when I look at it, it always makes me smile.”