A cre­ative cou­ple keep house on Cal­i­for­nia’s coast.

Cottages & Bungalows - - Contents - BY KRIS CHRIS­TENSEN

Want your home to re­flect your per­son­al­ity and in­ter­ests? See how this Cal­i­for­nia home showcases per­fectly the pas­sions of the home­own­ers, mak­ing peo­ple want to see more.

a home is many things, but when you treat it like a cre­ative play­ground, in­spir­ing things hap­pen. And Carol and Steve Cook of Ventura, Cal­i­for­nia, cer­tainly do. Not only is their al­most-90-year-old cot­tage the place they hang their hats, it’s also a gallery to show­case and sell Steve’s art­work in­spired by the ocean and their coastal community. But first they had to turn the cot­tage around.


“I al­ways wanted to live by the sea,” says Carol. “At 16 I was on va­ca­tion, and I re­mem­ber sit­ting on the beach and think­ing, ‘When I’m an adult, I’m go­ing to live at a beach.’” Although the cou­ple have lived near the shore for most of their lives, they set­tled into their 832-square-foot coastal cot­tage in 1997 and have en­joyed close prox­im­ity to salt air and sandy beaches ever since.

The lit­tle beach cot­tage was built in 1928, one of the first of its kind in the neigh­bor­hood. “We as­sume our home was built by a lo­cal farm­ing fam­ily to es­cape the in­land heat in the sum­mer.

We base our as­sump­tion on the lack of stor­age,” laughs Carol. Liv­ing in a small house has its chal­lenges, but the pros out­weigh the odd quirks, and the Cooks ap­proach de­sign with a sense of hu­mor and a can-do at­ti­tude.

Pos­si­bly the odd­est of the quirks is that the house was quite lit­er­ally turned around. “It was de­signed to face side­walks that ran down to the sea. Those side­walks were closed off by the city in the 1960s and the prop­erty was deeded to the houses bor­der­ing them,” Carol ex­plains. What were once rear-ac­cess al­leys run­ning be­hind the homes in­stantly be­came neigh­bor­hood lanes with this ad­just­ment. Back­yards be­came front yards. For­mer front yards with for­mal en­tries lead­ing from the old side­walks were fenced off as new back­yards. Since then, most of the orig­i­nal cot­tages have been torn down and re­placed with larger, luxury beach houses built to suit the new lay­out. But the Cooks love their lit­tle house, so rather than tear it down, they de­cided to ren­o­vate to make a func­tional en­try and add curb ap­peal.


These days, vis­i­tors ap­proach the cot­tage by what was orig­i­nally a back door to the rear-ac­cess al­ley. “When we bought the house 20 years ago, that red door opened right onto our laun­dry room with the washer, dryer and wa­ter heater,” says Carol. The cou­ple de­cided to build a more wel­com­ing en­try by re­mov­ing the wall that sep­a­rated the laun­dry room from the din­ing area. This de­ci­sion added pre­cious space to the din­ing room, and now guests are greeted by a hos­pitable set­ting.

“It re­ally opened up the house, but it’s also been

a chal­lenge to cre­ate curb ap­peal from what is ob­vi­ously a back door,” Carol says. The Cooks, how­ever, have ar­ranged a charm­ing ex­te­rior with bold blue trim, a cherry-red Dutch door and items they found at their lo­cal beach. From a life­time of beach­comb­ing, Carol and Steve have amassed quite a col­lec­tion of shells, sea glass, drift­wood, net buoys and even a wooden oar. Many of these finds are used as raw ma­te­ri­als for artis­tic dé­cor pieces through­out their home. “We love the beach, and it’s ob­vi­ous to any­one who walks down our lane,” she says.

When Steve took up paint­ing full time in 2000, the Cooks added a stu­dio so he could have his own workspace. The re­cent ad­di­tion matches the rest of the home’s ex­te­rior with its blue trim and tim­ber­ing. The in­side ar­chi­tec­turally echoes the home’s ex­te­rior with mul­lioned win­dows, but it also has an orig­i­nal stained glass win­dow that Steve him­self de­signed. The rest of the dé­cor is as one might ex­pect from an artist in the midst of cre­ation, com­plete with paint­brushes, easels and works in progress.

The same shade of yel­low in the stu­dio once cov­ered ev­ery room in the house, but as de­mand for Steve’s art in­creased, Carol saw the need to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date the paint­ings in their home gallery. “The yel­low didn’t work,” she re­mem­bers. “It caused some of his paint­ings to blend into the walls, so we had the in­te­rior painted white. Steve is known for his use of color, and his work pops against the white. Oddly though, his stu­dio re­mains yel­low. I think he hates to give up the paint­ing time to have it re­done,” Carol says.


Through­out their cot­tage, Carol’s vin­tage style and love of bold pri­mary colors is per­fectly paired with Steve’s col­or­ful nos­tal­gic art­work. “He calls this house his muse,” she says. With plenty of nat­u­ral light, lush out­door spa­ces and Carol’s de­sign savvy, it’s easy to see why.

She loves the sen­ti­men­tal mean­ings and his­tory be­hind vin­tage fur­nish­ings and ac­ces­sories, like her grand­par­ents’ enamel-topped ta­ble in the kitchen and the bright red hospi­tal cart turned side ta­ble in the liv­ing room. “It is im­por­tant that a home re­flects the per­son­al­i­ties and in­ter­ests of the own­ers in a way that is com­fort­able for both the fam­ily and their guests, with de­tails that make peo­ple want to see more,” she ad­vises.

Carol dec­o­rates to tell the story of their lives and to har­mo­nize with the mo­ments and colors cap­tured in her hus­band’s art­work. Few of the paint­ings grac­ing the cot­tage walls are there per­ma­nently. The dé­cor needs to be flex­i­ble be­cause art­work can leave just as of­ten as it is hung. She is con­stantly ar­rang­ing and re­ar­rang­ing the fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories, but this turnover suits her style, and she thrives on the ever-evolv­ing na­ture of her home. “It’s a work in progress. I’m al­ways re­dec­o­rat­ing, and I don’t think I’ll ever be fin­ished,” she laughs. Her reg­u­larly chang­ing in­te­rior keeps every­one look­ing for­ward to what will hap­pen next.

COASTAL CURB AP­PEAL. Prior to the 1960s, this en­try would have been the back of the home, but sub­se­quent de­vel­op­ment in the area and the clo­sure of cer­tain beach-bound side­walks turned the neigh­bor­hood around. The Cooks’ ren­o­va­tions turned this into the front en­try­way, where bright blue trim and a cherry-red Dutch door of­fer vis­i­tors a warm wel­come. Carol and Steve found the drift­wood on which they wrote “To the beach.”

VIN­TAGE VIGNETTES. “I love num­bers. I think it’s the teacher in me,” says Carol, ref­er­enc­ing the themed vi­gnette she set up on a lit­tle yel­lowand-green ta­ble in the liv­ing room. She started the ar­range­ment with the zinc box, added the large green num­ber 2, and be­gan find­ing that the num­ber 2 popped up fre­quently in her col­lec­tion of odds and ends. “It’s just the two of us here, Steve and me. We also have two grown kids,” she says, “but re­ally, I just thought it was funny.”


from the din­ing room into the liv­ing room shows just how well Carol has de­signed for

the small space.

|BE­LOW| NICELY AGED. A dip­tych of a hill­top

view out to the Channel Is­lands hangs promi­nently in the liv­ing room. Un­der­neath, the vin­tage stor­age cabi­net dis­plays a set of cro­quet balls from Carol’s child­hood and two

cricket balls from Steve’s days as a coach.

CRE­AT­ING SPA­CES. Nat­u­ral light is essen­tial for an artist, and the mul­lioned win­dows in Steve’s stu­dio pro­vide it in abun­dance. The space is densely or­ga­nized with ev­i­dence of cre­ativ­ity hard at work. He paints his mas­ter­pieces here, in­spired by the lo­cal scenery.

WHITE WASHED. The guest bed­room is a heav­enly vi­sion for those who love the look of white on white. Af­ter a fresh coat of paint, Carol hes­i­tated be­fore nail­ing any holes in the wall and de­cided to cen­tral­ize most of the dec­o­ra­tions on an old door. She found it at her lo­cal Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Re­store, which sells do­nated ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage. She had the solid wood door dis­tressed to suit her vin­tage style and now it’s the room’s cen­ter­piece. An old French door is also used as a head­board.

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