Too Cool: This Boho Surf Shack Has a Half-Pipe in the Backyard

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Who: Julia and Dusty Wheeler
Where: College East, San Diego, California
Style: Modern bohemian surf shack


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Family — and the namesakes that go with it — means a lot to Dusty and Julia Wheeler. Gunn is Dusty's grandmother's last name, and Swain is the maiden name of Julia's grandmother. Together, they form Gunn and Swain, the online shop run by Julia, with its collection of handmade and curated home goods and clothing meant for bohemian, beach-loving people — like the Wheelers themselves. Then there's Dusty's middle name, Rael, which comes from the seminal 1974 Genesis album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway — and also where Rael Made, his custom wood and metal fabrication studio, comes from.

The couple's two businesses reflect Dusty and Julia's shared aesthetics, which extend to their 1959 ranch-style home in the College East area of San Diego. There, you'll find handmade industrial-modern pieces, vintage treasures, global goods, skateboarding memorabilia, and out-and-out Southern California cool. She curates, he builds. "There is almost nothing in this house that we haven't done ourselves, scored on a vintage hunt, or on our travels," she says. "Everything in it feels like an extension of us with so many memories attached."

It didn't start out that way. When the Wheelers first bought the home in 2010, it was a foreclosure, and almost unlivable, rife with questionable design choices (think bright red wall paint or fireplace bricks painted black). There had been squatters on and off as well. But Julie and Dusty could see the potential. "When we walked in and saw the untouched, original wood ceilings and cabinets in the living room, we immediately fell in love," Julie explains. "The rest of the house was a total disaster." There was the half-acre of property, a garage where Dusty could work, and enough room for their growing family.


Now, with two kids, Gram, age 4, and Lizzy, age 1, the Wheelers' home is a family affair. There's a half-pipe out back and a midcentury living room perfect for family movie night and dance parties. "We aren't the type of people who want to flip their house and move on to the the next project," says Julie. "We want to have our grandkids play in that backyard someday."

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Dusty built the half-pipe for their son Gram's first birthday. It's the cornerstone of the large back yard.

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Inside, the playfulness continues in Gram's room. The custom closets and bookshelves are Rael Made.

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The custom Lego table reflects a lot of Rael Made designs — clean, simple, modern.

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Dusty also built the table and custom industrial bookshelf in the dining area.

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The home is filled with skateboarding memorabilia and art made by friends. The velvet painting is by a Tijuana artist.

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Textiles and warm, bohemian hues are important to Julia. She styled a vintage army cot with pillows from friends at Campaign Living.

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There's also a global aesthetic to Julia's design choices.

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The on-trend macrame hanging in the bedroom is by Las Vegas artist Veronica Torres-Miller.

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The breakfast area features vintage chairs and an Ikea table — a classic high-low mix.

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Before Gram's little sister arrived, Dusty built him this custom bed to help him let go of the crib. In addition to the slide, there's a secret hideout.


Laura Lambert is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle, design, and women's health.