Amy Gray

Extended Family

Extended Family Beach Session Coronado

The Hotel del Coronado was the venue for Kimberlee’s family’s celebration of her parents’ 50th anniversary. Here’s what Kimberlee had to say about our session:

We wanted to have photos done to commemorate this milestone!

Family Photos San Diego

Our favorite thing to do in San Diego is to visit the beach. We had family traveling in from Arizona and Colorado, so the beach is a special place for us to enjoy.

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Our favorite memory of the photo session is watching the little cousins play together and run on the beach. It was their first time seeing each other in over a year.

Children running on the Water
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Boy on the Water
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Family Beach Day

Our favorite image was one of our parents walking away on the beach. It is a special photo to document their 50th!

Couple Walking on the Beach

Children on the Beach

Hotel del Coronado Photography | San Diego Professional Portraits

I met Ivy and company for the first time two years ago, and I was so happy to see them again at the Del, a favorite vacation spot for their family. This year’s session has a whole different vibe than the 2019 photos because of the difference in the weather. This time it was cloudier and cooler, but the kids still had fun, and you can’t really tell we were freezing from looking at the photos! To see the 2019 session, click here. The photos still look dreamy on overcast days, and I love the texture of the cloud reflections that are possible on these May Gray and June Gloom evenings.

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Magnolia Market Flowers Boho Bedroom

Boho Chic Dorm Room | Joy Elben Design

If there’s anything we like around here, it’s a project. My big to-do list of 2021 included a very big project: Lissa’s Bedroom. 

Lissa was six when we moved into our home, and she brought her little girl furniture and paint colors from when we decorated her room in our previous home for her fourth birthday. In 2011, Lissa’s room looked like this.


Little Girl Bedroom 2011

We called it her sunshine room and were delighted. This worked till she was twelve. For her twelfth birthday, we redecorated. Lissa got to choose two new colors for above and below her chair rail. We rearranged the furniture, got some fun new bedding, and added a collage of family and friend pictures above her bed. At one point I do remember mentioning that we might go a little more subtle with the blue, but her response was, “Mom, I’m not subtle.” Okay, so true.


Twelve Year Old Bedroom 2016


Just before the pandemic, we discovered a refrigerator leak, and one thing led to another, and pretty soon we were painting the interior of the house. It had been four years since Lissa chose those two colors, so she got to choose again. This is where things got tricky.

Once the two new colors were on the walls and Lissa had ordered a new bedspread for her vision of a Hawaii-beach themed room, things kind of ground to a halt. We did nothing. We were uninspired by the background we had created, and we had extreme decision paralysis.

As a fitting complement to canceled drama performances (including a lead role she didn’t get to play), endless hours of online school, and a canceled mother-daughter 16th birthday trip to see Hamilton on Broadway, this was the backdrop for Lissa’s pandemic spring, summer, and fall—drabby, peach-colored everything and a general feeling of “blah.” She added some fan art to one wall (with tape) and a string of playbills above the closet, but it was clear that her little girl furniture had passed its prime, and the mostly-bare walls were in a constant state of limbo. Every time I went into her room, I complained about it, but I couldn’t get Lissa to express any interest in anything else. We knew we needed change, but we didn’t know what kind of change.

the transformation

If you’ve read my previous decorating posts, you know that interior design is not my gift. Once I determined that Lissa’s room needed work, I contacted my dear friend Joy Elben of Joy Elben Design for help! She is a design genius and always has the best ideas.

 I sent her photos of Lissa’s room, filled her in on the situation and Lissa’s likes and dislikes, and offered up what I thought were well-informed suggestions. Lissa was still undecided about her preferences, so I just took over. Joy made a beautiful Pinterest board. 

It was classy. It was age-appropriate. It catered to Lissa’s love of music and theater. It used her current favorite color. I was ready to get started!

Lissa remained unenthusiastic. 

I questioned my own parenting.

I complained about her entire generation of humans.

I whined to my friend Everin.

Everin (whose daughter is Lissa’s whole-life bestie) asked to see the Pinterest board.

“Oh,” she said. “I see the problem. That’s not Lissa. That’s YOU.”

Joy Elben Design Mock-up

changing directions

So Everin deputized Sascha (Lissa’s bestie) to figure out what Lissa loved, since Lissa couldn’t figure it out for herself, and I certainly couldn’t! The two girls Pinterest-gawked a bit, and before we knew it, we had a new direction, and JOY was off and running! “Oh, I get it!” she said. “She’s a boho girl!” 


And apparently boho girls stick pictures directly to the walls (no frames!), enjoy brown furniture (when we had just eradicated brown furniture from our home when we ditched old world for transitional decor), and string twinkle lights everywhere! I was simultaneously aghast at the atrocities and delighted at Lissa’s newfound passion for our project! And with Joy’s incredible knack for making things beautiful, it wasn’t long before I was in love with the vision

It was a cohesive blend of retro-boho fun, the bright colors Lissa loves, and the classy sparkle of gold and rose-gold (and twinkle lights). It was appropriate for a girl who has been accused of being “20% glitter.”

It has taken three solid months, and we didn’t even get it all done before Lissa’s 17th birthday ten days ago, but as of yesterday we hung the final shelf and plant, and we are officially finished! Ta-da! We’re hopeful that this iteration of Lissa’s room will see her through college (hence “dorm room”), and she’ll be able to take the quality furniture into adulthood. 

Pinterest Board

I mentioned to Lissa that I started a blog about her room.
"Without me?!"
So I let her write the rest.

lissa on lissa's room:

I honestly never thought that I could have such a Pinterest-worthy room! I’m so glad my mom pressed me to change it, and Joy’s ideas were incredible! I had no clue what I wanted, yet she gave me exactly what I needed.

Along with providing a comfortable and beautiful space, this room was also a huge project that got me to spend quality time with my family! Building a bed, hanging up those aforementioned frameless pictures, putting together a vanity . . . twice—

Not only does the final reveal look stunning, but I also got some wonderful experience in decorating and learned a lot!

This was such a thoughtful gift, and I love having a bright and beautiful room again!

Thank you so much, Mom!

Lissa Gray
Boho Chic Bedroom
Collage Wall
Boho Bedroom

So. Many. Pillows.

But they all look spectacular and really sell the “dorm room” feel!

Pillows World Market
Pottery Barn Boho Bedroom

I’ve never had a full-length mirror in my room before, and this one has Hollywood-style lights around it and opens up to provide jewelry storage!

Magnolia Market Flowers Boho Bedroom
Tangled the Series Bedroom
Vanity with Flip Up Mirror

We built this same vanity TWICE. Yep, you read that right. 
The first one had some issues, so they sent us another one completely free! It’s a really awesome concept to have a flip-up mirror, and it’s a great space-saver for my makeup! 

Vanity Table with Flip Top
Makeup Brushes Teen Bedroom
Boho Bedroom Decor

We’ll see how long that calendar stays at April 25th. Hopefully it won’t be longer than a week! 😂

The hat wasn’t originally decor, but it works well with the color scheme, and it just so happens to be my favorite hat!

Playbill Display Ideas

I’m a theatre kid, can you tell?

The playbills were quite a process to put up, but my mom was persistent, and they look great! I’m so happy with how it turned out!

The light-up cinema box was a gift from my brother (an amazing one!). The sign is referring to my school production of Godspell! We open in 4 days!!

Cinema Box Godspell
Boho Bedroom Details
Keeper of the Lost Cities

I insisted on having some of my favorite books on display, and you can probably tell they’ve been very well-read! Keeper of the Lost Cities is a great book series if you’re into fantasy!

Classic Book Display

And we can’t forget about the classics, of course! Anne of Green Gables is especially one of my favorites!

Verse Art Everin Pezdek

The signs above the dresser were made by Miss Everin, my best friend’s mom.

It was so sweet of her to make these, and I even got to choose my favorite Bible verses! The colors and fonts all look fantastic!

Having my guitar on my wall makes it so much easier to play. I’m looking forward to taking guitar at school next year. 🎶

Guitar Displayed on Wall
Boho Bedroom Dorm Room for Teen
Record Play for Boho Teen

My record player sits record-less for the time being, but it connects to Bluetooth, and the speakers work great! 

If there are any Broadway or Disney records out there—I’d snatch them up in an instant!

Collage Aesthetic Wall

THE WALL! This was my favorite part of the whole thing!

It’s got some aesthetics along with pretty much all of my favorite fandoms! My mom color-balanced everything to make it work with the colors of the room. Putting over one hundred 5×7 prints up took a while, but it was an enjoyable time to spend together, listening to show tunes while we worked, and we were both really happy with how it turned out!

Fan Art Tangled the Series
Pom Pom Curtain Fringe
Platform Bed with Storage

“Act natural,” she said. I tried…

But the bed I’m sitting on is the real model, here.

It took practically all day for Papa and me to build, and for once I was actually part of the process! It turned out better than I ever thought, and the storage underneath is such an awesome feature!

The big round rug is another favorite thing. It uses all the colors and ties everything together. 

Giant Collage of Fan Art
Under Bed Storage Platform Bed
Full Length Mirror with Jewelry Storage
Newsies Flash Tangled the Series
Everin Pezdek Art
Boho Chic Bedroom

To see more of Joy’s magic, check out last year’s decorating blogs (baby steps!):

Family Walking on the Beach

Family Photography Coronado | San Diego Photographer

It was a blessing to see Amy’s family again this year as they emerged from the pandemic lockdown and took to the beach on Coronado. Their oldest daughter, Maddy (17), has Rett Syndrome, a genetic, neurological condition that requires her to use a wheelchair and makes it difficult for her to make her body do what she wants it to do. In spite of her disability, Maddy has a bright and sweet personality, and she is clearly adored by her parents, siblings Anna (15) and Luke (8), and nurse Jenna, who accompanied the family on their trip. It was a little chilly on the beach that March evening, but this family is big on making memories and celebrating special times together. I love that they were able to rent a beach wheelchair for Maddy so she could be right in the middle of all of our crazy beach escapades at sunset.

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Proposal Hotel Del Coronado

Valentine’s Day Proposal at the Hotel del Coronado | Photographer San Diego

I have a feeling that Ishita was a little suspicious about the evening’s events when she and Sarthak showed up at the Hotel del Coronado on Valentine’s Day for a couples photo session with me. They actually hit traffic on the way, and they ended up being pretty late. I was sweating it since “the sun waits for no man,” but Sarthak was unfazed. Instead of popping the question where I had suggested and convincing both Ishita AND me(!) that this was *not* the evening for the proposal, he found his own gorgeous spot on the water and dropped to his knee. I have never toggled my camera settings so quickly, but I am delighted with the way that pop-the-question image turned out! And the 40 minutes we had left offered PLENTY of time to do all of these fun poses and more, because they are both natural models! Check out Ishita’s story below and find out more about this couple:

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The year was 2017, and we were both pursuing our master’s degrees at Illinois Tech, Chicago. While I was working on campus, Sarthak would often walk by with a smile. He was also hosting a radio podcast at the college radio station, and he played ping-pong really well. I was attracted to his jovial, joyful, and charming demeanor. One day we started chatting while waiting for the college shuttle to student housing, and talked until we reached our destination. A few days later we became friends on Facebook and soon he asked me out to dinner at my favourite restaurant. I said a flashy “Yes!”

Engagement Photography San DIego
Engagement Photographer San DIego
Hotel del Coronado Photographer
Hotel del Coronado Proposal

The best memory from that night was the sunset photography. I never imagined that Amy would turn them into the best photos in my gallery. I loved every bit of the session from beach photography to sunset photography to sandcastle photography.

Dancing Silhouette on the Beach
Couple Walking on the Beach
Proposal on the Beach
Walking on the Water Reflection
Sunset Silhouette on the Beach
Hotel del Coronado Photography
Ring Shot | Weddings at the Del
Dancing on the Water | Weddings at the Del
Sandcastle Man Hotel del Coronado

My favorite photo from our session was the picture taken in front of the sandcastle. I would never have imagined a castle engraved with ‘Will you Marry me Ishita?’! The backdrop of the Hotel Del Coronado and the castle in between was just perfect.

Sandcastle Man Hotel del Coronado

Toddler Travels | San Diego Beach Photos

We’re mostly barefoot around here, but scroll to the end to find out more about this traveling family’s very appropriate business! Here’s what Krista had to say about her family’s adventures which, I’m happy to say, included a stop at the Hotel del Coronado and a photo session on my favorite beach!

Globetrotting Toddlers | Travel Photography San Diego

Our family loves to travel! When my husband and I started talking about marriage and dreaming about our future, we decided that we wanted to leave our traditional workweek jobs and focus on work that would allow us the freedom to see the world. We got married, quit our jobs, sold most of our possessions and left San Diego on an around the world adventure.

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Together we traveled to 6 continents and almost 40 countries. (Separately we’ve been to many more, and Krista has traveled all 7 continents.) We love to immerse ourselves in new cultures and we always look for a new or unique adventure in the places we travel. We have swam with whale sharks, dived the Great Barrier Reef, hot air ballooned over the Serengeti, photographed the Northern Lights, eaten Kobe steak in Kobe Japan, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, learned to drive tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka, and heli ice climbed Franz Josef Glacier. We have been sky diving, hang gliding, rafting, zip-lining, blokarting, jet boating, luging, horseback riding, spelunking, microlight flying, and kayaking all over the world. There’s not much we won’t try!

After having our daughter, we have continued our adventures. One of her first words was “Go!” She has road tripped with us from California to Maine and we plan to visit all the US National Parks together. We cherish the time and experiences travel allows us to have together, and we encourage family and friends to meet us along the way!

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What prompted you to have photos done?

A year ago one of my best friends lost her battle with cancer. She was 39 and has a son a few months older than my daughter. The old adage “today is a gift, tomorrow is not promised” is so true. I (Krista) prefer to be behind the camera, so we have a ton of pictures of my husband and daughter but only a handful of us together. I promised myself I would do better. Knowing we were going to be in San Diego this month, we decided to pause time for an hour and capture our family in this sweet moment at the beach. Children grow so quickly and I want to be sure we document this time in our family’s life. Amy did such a wonderful job photographing us – we are not an easy group as none of us particularly love to be in front of the camera.

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Family Photography San Diego

What was your favorite memory from your photo session?

It was freezing! I must have picked the coldest night of the month for our photo session. I think we will look back and laugh at running around in the freezing cold water.

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Toddler Photography San Diego

Describe a favorite image from your session. Why is it your favorite?

I chose Amy for her signature reflection shots and she did not disappoint! She is a master at timing, lighting, and composition. We will definitely book another session with her in the future.

Reflection Photo San Diego Coronado
Reflection Photo San Diego Coronado
Reflection Photo San Diego Coronado
Reflection Photo San Diego Coronado
Reflection Photo San Diego Coronado

Krista’s family’s business combines their love of travel with supporting vulnerable communities. John Candor shoes are crafted out of the highest quality materials, designed for lasting comfort, and supporting vulnerable communities in South America. They are shoes you can feel great about buying and wearing. Find out more about John Candor here >>

Beach Photos in San Diego

Engagement Photos on Coronado | The Sandcastle Man

Eli and Brenna showed up to a “photo session,” but he had something more up his sleeve (or in his picnic pack, as the case may be). Eli had contacted the Sandcastle Man to create a beautiful castle, requesting Brenna’s hand. We started with a few posed images, found the castle, and then celebrated with some reflection photos on the shore.

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Reflections Engagement Photos San Diego

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