A Shore Thing
California dreamers turn a charming beach cottage into a comfortable home bursting with patriotic colors, family heirlooms, oil paintings and treasures from the sea.
Patriotic colors, heirlooms and vibrant artwork bring charm to a West Coast beach cottage as the owners convert it for comfortable year-round living.
Carol and Steve Cook can’t resist the song of the sea. Growing up in Southern California, they frolicked in the Pacific. Volunteering for the Peace Corps, they explored Jamaica. When they became parents, they returned to the West Coast to raise their family and pursue passions in education and art. As grandparents, they’ve enjoyed traveling to Hawaii with their family in tow. And now, as retirees, they’ve downsized to a beach cottage in Ventura, California. For the Cooks, life by the sea is simply intuitive.
Since taking up residency in their cottage, Carol writes and dabbles in photography and Steve fine-tunes his artistry. Carol’s inspiring blog, artandsand.blogspot.com, chronicles her love for their coastal community. Steve is a talented painter who captures breathtaking scenery at home and abroad. His paintings are highly sought by collectors, and Firestone Vineyard in nearby Santa Barbara County has showcased his work on their wine labels.
To transform the two-bedroom cottage into a comfortable family home, the Cooks tackled some renovations. The cottage’s front door originally faced a sidewalk leading to the beach; however, the city reconfigured the public access decades ago. As a result, the home’s address changed, and the back door became the dwelling’s new main entry. This new configuration was awkward, so the Cooks improved the circulation by replacing the back door with a handsome Dutch door and removing a wall and a water heater to create a foyer that leads to the dining room. Other improvements included replacing windows, remodeling the kitchen, installing pull-down stairs that access the attic, incorporating custom shelving, and building an artist’s studio.
The unique blend of country furnishings and coastal accents makes the Cooks’ home stand out. Many of the antiques are heirlooms that traveled with relatives from the Midwest to California. These family treasures and the memories tethered to them add heart and soul to the cottage. Carol says, “I was fortunate to inherit many family pieces. That means that my home decor isn’t always in style, but it works for us. I decorate with pieces I love, that have a story and fit with our casual beach lifestyle.”
Carol prefers to work with treasures she already owns rather than seek out additional pieces to add to her collection. She finds fresh inspiration from magazines, Instagram and other bloggers. “My favorite place to shop these days is my attic. I’m at a point in my life that I don’t want to bring in new items,” she explains.
Carol’s approach to decorating is simple and celebrates individuality. She says, “Your home should have meaning. Decorate for you.” For example, each room of her cottage features white walls and neutral carpets that serve as a backdrop for vignettes fashioned from painted furniture accented with ceramics or textiles, white slipcovered seating graced with handcrafted pillows and quilts, and vintage props set here and there. The walls are adorned with Steve’s vivid artwork, which provides a visual account of their travels. As Carol says, “Steve paints memories.”
To round out the art and country furnishings, the Cooks also include items gathered while beachcombing. Their many finds include driftwood, buoys, oars and small furnishings that washed ashore. All bear the hallmarks of being tumbled in the sea. These whimsical treasures, family heirlooms and paintings combine to create a deeply personal space that reflects the couple’s sunny spirit. “What you see in your home should make you smile,” Carol observes.