A Fashion Line for a Lifeline

Morgan Lexi Mitchell (top, right) donates half of the profits from her Only Kid fashions and accessories to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Looking to combine her artistic expression with suicide awareness and prevention, 17-year-old Westlake High School junior Morgan Lexi Mitchell designed the Only Kid (only-kid.com) fashion line. “I wanted to find a way to support National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” says the Assisteens of Conejo Valley volunteer, who donates 50 percent of the profits from the sales of her colorful stickers, iPhone cases, hoodies, and beanies.

“I had been playing around with the idea of Only Kid for some time,” Mitchell says. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I had a lot of time on my hands, and that idea became a reality. Quarantine gave me the time I needed to develop designs and products.

“I wanted to make a difference in a way that personally relates to me,” she explains. “I have struggled with depression, and I wanted to showcase my art in a way that would raise awareness for suicide prevention, which is often a silent struggle.”

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

UPcycle Chic

Designer Kate McHale Jensen in one of her creations, photo by Steven Krebs.

Designer Kate McHale Jensen in one of her creations, photo by Steven Krebs.

Everything old really is new again in the hands of fashion designer Kate McHale Jensen. Inspired by the timeless style and comfort of men’s shirts, Jensen’s KMJ (shopkmj.com) line came about after the designer, who says she “has lived and breathed fashion and clothing since I can remember,” took a shirt from her husband’s closet and remade it into something for herself.

Each one-of-a-kind women’s style is fashioned from a vintage men’s shirt and hand cut by the designer herself in her Santa Barbara studio.

So “no two are alike,” says Jensen, who suggests that their popularity may be partly due to the fact that “sustainability is so much at the forefront of fashion these days.” Her most-sold design is the Bon Voyage, a feminine twist on the classic button down, with a three-quarter-length puff sleeve.

“I get the biggest rush,” Jensen says, “from pulling the next batch of vintage shirts to offer them another life—digging through, seeing the potential of an otherwise forgotten shirt to be repurposed in the hope of making women feel empowered and alive.” She’s also excited by special commissions, when people send her sentimental favorites—such as a father’s wedding tuxedo—to be refashioned into something new.

805 Living Cover, October 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, October 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Catch the Short Shorts Wave

805 Living Summer 2020, Catch the Short Shorts Wave, story by Leslie Dinaberg. Hammies photos, clockwise from top, by Annabelle Sadler, Grant Nestor and Tony Kozusko.

805 Living Summer 2020, Catch the Short Shorts Wave, story by Leslie Dinaberg. Hammies photos, clockwise from top, by Annabelle Sadler, Grant Nestor and Tony Kozusko.

The rad, retro beachy spirit of the 1970s and ’80s lives on in Hammies Shorts (hammiesshorts.com). Named after Hammond’s Beach, a favorite Montecito surf spot of co-owner Grant Nestor during his formative years, the Santa Barbara-based brand is inspired by the era’s classic OP corduroy shorts, which Nestor wore long after they stopped being manufactured in the 1980s.

For years, he says, he thought, “If somebody doesn’t start making these shorts again then I’m going to have to.” He and his wife Sarah Kozusko started Hammies to bring the retro style back, and their timing turned out to be right on trend, with short shorts coming back in a big way.

Hammies are available at Coco Cabana in Montecito and Canyon Supply in Ojai, as well as online.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

This story was originally published in the summer 2020 issue of 805 Living. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

 

Creative Inspiration for Home Improvements

Where Santa Barbara’s Pros Go to Find Their Muse

If sheltering in place has made you eager to do some home improvements, but your creative fire needs some kindling, we’re here to help. From architects and interior designers to landscape experts and event planning pros, we asked a variety of creative professionals what they do to get inspired.

Penny Bianchi

McCormick Interiors, MCCORMICKINTERIORS.COM

What inspires you? Each house I do, I take a lot of inspiration from whatever the architecture is. Almost all of the houses have some kind of architectural theme,and I always work with that instead of fighting it. I stay away from trends.

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? Casa del Herrero is amazing; it’s like the original owners just walked out the front door. Lotusland also is very inspiring, the exterior of the house with all that landscaping. I also love the landscape at El Encanto.

What about online inspiration? Pinterest has been an enormous boon. I keep so many pamphlets and papers and idea files, and they organize them for you,and it’s right at your fingertips. Some blogs are very, very helpful and inspirational,too. I love Velvet & Linen, from Brooke Giannetti of giannettihome.com. [Brooke and her husband, architect Steve Giannetti, have a store, Giannetti Home, in downtown Santa Barbara.]

Merryl Brown

Merryl Brown Events, MERRYLBROWNEVENTS.COM

Where do you go for inspiration? Lotusland is the place that some of my best ideas have come to me. There really is something so magical and spiritual about that place. Almost every time that I see movies at the Riviera,I leave with a new idea. I always keep a pad of paper with me.

Nature is huge. Being away from electronics is huge. Putting on music and sometimes putting on new music and just sitting quietly and closing your eyes and listening to it is such a good thing.

Books for me are probably really one of the most important pieces, just having beautiful books and a nice big table where I can sit and look through them.

Going to the farmers’market, just walking around and looking at the colors and looking at people, how people are dressed and listening to all of the different sounds. I find inspiration in the funniest places, you just never know, so it’s important that you’re not just doing research in books and online but also by getting out in the world and looking around.

Billy Goodnick

Billy Goodnick Landscape Design, BILLYGOODNICK.COM

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? I enjoy visits to Terra Sol for their great collections of succulents (including over 50 varieties of agaves and aloes) and Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria for plant combos. [Goodnick also likes to bring his adult-education classes to this versatile place, which has 11 garden vignettes with an around-the-world sampling of plants that thrive in our coastal environment.]

Margie Grace

Grace Design Associates, GRACEDESIGNASSOCIATES.COM

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? You have to clear a space. You can’t be thinking about the grocery list;you have got to clear your head. For me, it’s always a walk on the beach. I can tell when my head’s getting clear because I start observing things on a minute scale.

I will hit the used architectural salvage places or nurseries. Sometimes just a single great urn is the key to a garden that is just such a great thing. You can put four trees on the corners, gravelon the floor and a beautiful object in the middle —but it’s about that thing. It’s like finding an amazing piece of jewelry,and the surroundings are the little black dress.

I feel the same way when I find an extraordinary tree. Plants are not like otherthings we build with. They are ever-changing and each one is the only of each of these living things. When you find a really great specimen is usually when you’re not looking —it finds you. It’s kind of like dating:When you’re not looking,it shows up.

Isa Hendry Eaton

Isa Bird Landscape Design, ISABIRD.COM

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? Lotusland offers one of the finest examples of how drought-tolerant plants can look lush, glamorous,and architectural. It also teaches one of the most importantprinciples of plant design: masses of one type of plant grouped together create a much stronger design than mixed hodgepodge varieties. On the opposite end of the design spectrum, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden offers a stunning example of how to designa natural look with our local native plants.

Are there any movies that are great examples of design? Clients ask me all the time to reproduce the vegetable garden in It’s Complicated. It’s also one of my favorite movies,and the French-style potager garden is mouth-wateringly gorgeous (even if it’s too-perfect, Hollywood unrealistic).

Any online inspiration? I am a Pinterest garden junkie but am careful to avoid it when I first start a project so I can create a strong original point-of-view and thenuse online images to help inspire some of the details. Gardenista.com and Garden Design Magazine online are also great garden sources.

Tammy Hughes

Emerald Eye Designs

What inspires you? Style inspiration can come in so many forms depending on the architecture that I’m working with. Most often for me, finding a strong architectural piece or two launches the avalanche of ideas. From that point, I can’t stop the wheels from turning in my head until the entire project is visualized down to hardware, plumbing fixtures,and paint colors. It’s a very exhilarating process that will often keep me up at night, in the best possible way.

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? I always feel like a better person after a visit to Lotusland or Casa del Herrero. Sometimes just driving past a George Washington Smith house or a Lutah Riggs house is enough of a thrill to make me do a double take and slow down for a closer look at the subtle detailing that lends itself to the perfect scale and proportion of that ageless architecture.

What about digital inspiration? Belgian Pearls (belgianpearls.be) was one of the first design blogs that I followed and remains one of my favorites. The understated Flemish designs stand the test of time and are so exquisitely layered in their simplicity.

Laurie Romano

Arcadia Studio, ARCADIASTUDIO.COM

What inspires you? Things that inspire me are nature, which I know is a vast topic. The natural beauty of landforms, flora,and fauna. I am also inspired by my observations, photographs,and other renowned landscape architects and architects and artists.

Any Santa Barbara spots? Cathedral Peak, Lizard’s Mouth, and Shoreline Park are always inspiring.

How about movies, TV shows, or books? The movie The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces and all kinds of books by architects/landscape architects worldwide.

What about digital inspiration? I use Google as a search engine: type in topic you want to study. Landscape Architecture Magazine, The Dirt, and Landezine are also go-to’s.

Jeff Shelton

Jeff Shelton Architecture, JEFFSHELTONARCHITECT.COM

What inspires you? Everything inspires me;that is one of my problems. It’s hard to focus when I want to go in every direction. Nature of course is the basis of all ideas: balance, strength, rhythms, mystery, beauty, and joy. But people screwing things up also inspires me. Just when I feel worn out and exhausted, I see some terrible design somewhere, and my inspiration comes back.

Any Santa Barbara places? I am inspired by living on this narrow stripof land between the cold Pacific Ocean and 4,000-foot Santa Ynez Mountains, covered with chaparral, where the fog rolls in during the summer and the air is dry and clear in the winter so we can see the islands.

Digital inspirations? No, I don’t need or want any additional inspiration. I look at succulents or throw the Frisbee for inspiration.

Caroline Thompson

Cabana Home, CABANAHOME.COM

What inspires you? Walks! Whether in nature or a bustling city, I can find interesting colors, patterns, textures, shapes, or a reminder of something that adds an entire new layer of inspiration.

Any Santa Barbara spots? Lately, walking has not only been an exercise but a meditation. There is so much to take in along the way —neighborhoods with trees budding and flowers blooming. All the senses are engaged. The beach with tides going out and in, bringing shells and frosted sea glass to the shore and showing kiwi-colored moss on the rocks. The sand changes color in seconds as the water covers and uncovers it.

Barry Winick

Winick Architects, WINICKARCHITECTS.COM

What inspires you? Expansive, celestial spaces; sculptural forms; and materials with textural qualities.

Any Santa Barbara places? The great arch of the County Courthouse view toward the sunken garden, the Chapel at St. Anthony’s, the high ridge of East Camino Cielo where you can view the Santa Ynez Range looking north and peering over Santa Barbara out to the Channel Islands when looking south. The Playground up on West Camino Cielo is amazing, with these gigantic boulders strewn all around the ground, and you can go there and just perch and kind of be mesmerized looking off to the west.

What else? Probably the biggest, most impactful cultural performance that I have attended in the last few years was David Byrne’s American UtopiaTour at Santa Barbara Bowl. I was inspired by the modernity, elegance,and expansiveness of the stage, along with impeccable choreography and lighting.

Thinking of the pandemic, are there any different things that are inspiring that you didn’t think of before? Maybe I’m breaking the rules,but I still ride my bike, solo; I don’t ride with friends. For me,getting out into nature has been really great. But I’m getting out solo, so that’s been a different experience. Normally if I were riding my bike,I would be riding with a bike buddy. Now it’s a little bit more meditative and introspective in these same places.

Josh Blumer

AB Design Studio; ABDESIGNSTUDIOINC.COM

What inspires you? I am inspired by people doing exactly what it is they were always meant to be doing. There is nothing more inspiring than a human being who is filled with gratitude and pulsing with passion!

Any Santa Barbara spots? I love watching the Santa Barbara foothills ignite with color and depth in the late afternoon and evenings. The position of the mountains in the east-west orientation allows the ridges, fingers,and valleys along the entirety of thefoothills to come alive with depth as the late-evening sun reveals their absolutely mesmerizing beauty.

Any digital inspirations? I really enjoy following #simonstalenhag Simon Stalenhagon Instagram. Simon’s digital paintings are full of detail and imagination; they make me dream about other worlds and endless possibilities. I also follow WSL (World Surf League) on Instagram. I seem to need to look at their feed about once every hour! I wish I was surfing right now.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020.

Stay at Home and Garden

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR DESIGN EDITION WHEN HOME MEANS MORE THAN EVER

Welcome to the Santa Barbara Independent’s annual Home and Garden special issue.

With all due respect to the very serious health and economic issues facing us right now, finding the joy and beauty in everyday life is also so important —maybe now more than ever, when our worlds have become so much more insular.

As Alice Walker wrote, “Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”

We hope you’ll find some restoration and inspiration in these pages. From practical stories about solar panels and ADUs to garden advice from experts and creative musings from some of our town’s top architects and designers, there’s a whole lot here to help light your creative spark or just inspire you to dream about a new project.

Enjoy!

Advice to Grow By

Santa Barbara’s Master Gardeners Keep Calm and Garden On

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer Discuss Small Garden Style

Premier Party Planner’s Home Entertaining Tips

Dishing With Merryl Brown, Event Designer Extraordinaire

Solarizing Made Simpler

CEC Makes Sun Power Easy and More Affordable

Is an ADU for You?

Allen Construction’s Ryan Cullinen Discusses Granny-Flat Rules

The Original Garden Wise Guy

Landscape Architect and TV Host Billy Goodnick

Creative Inspiration for Home Improvements

Where Santa Barbara’s Pros Go to Find Their Muse

A Monthly Guide to Mastering Your Garden

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara

2020 H&G

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This special section of the Santa Barbara Independent (May 14-21, 2020) contained the following stories. Click on each one to read it, or view the entire section here, with additional web exclusive content here.

Premier Party Planner’s Home Entertaining Tips

From Santa Barbara Independent, May 14-21, 2020. Photo by Megan Sorel Photography.

Dishing With Merryl Brown, Event Designer Extraordinaire

While wow-worthy fundraising events may be in our rearview mirror for a while, anyone who’s ever attended the Pacific Pride Foundation’s Royal Ball, the Community Environmental Council’s Green Gala, or the Bellosguardo Foundation’s inaugural Great Gatsby–themed soirée knows what a thoughtful, creative touch that Merryl Brown and her team bring to every event.

While we’re all so eager to have our friends and family once again able to join us in our humble abodes, here is some entertaining advice from the expert.

How do you plan a small house party? I sit and I think about who is coming and who I want to be there and who will interact well with whom. Then I think about the flow of the party and what it’s going to feel like.

It starts with the invitation: What’s it going to tell you? How are you supposed to dress? Is it going to be a dinner? Are you going to get cocktails and hors d’oeuvres? You want to convey the theme and really give a sense of the party — without giving too much away.

Make sure everything is spotless in your home, that the bathrooms have a candle lit and that everything is clean and tidy. Make lots of space on your counter if you’re having a caterer. I’m a big believer in that it’s really hard for people to cook, make food, and be able to entertain their guests simultaneously.

If you want to cook, then have some extra help in the house. You can always enlist people who can take some of the burden off of you, so you aren’t stressed. That’s probably the single most important thing: The host or hostess really leads the mood. If a person is really stressed out when they’re entertaining, I think it really kills the mood of the party.

And when the party starts? It’s important to have a bar that people can get to right away and get their drinks. I think it’s really fun to have a couple of fun, interesting drinks and create a drink menu that you can put on your bar. Get interesting glassware and have interesting things that you can put in the drinks: edible flowers and interesting ice cubes where you invent something inside of them, glowing straws, or metal straws. There’s all different kinds of things that you can use to make your drinks look and feel great — and it becomes a point of conversation. You want to make sure to give that to people, particularly people that don’t know each other.

You can also have a person with a tray passing drinks if you have a bigger party, to take pressure off the bar. My favorite way to entertain is to traypass hors d’oeuvres and keep everything really neat and tidy (so people aren’t sharing germs). If you go online, there’s a million different recipes.

If you are limited in your budget, you can have custom cocktail napkins done very reasonably. Have some little quote or some funny little saying, or some sort of image. I did a memorial one time, and there were lyrics from a song that the person loved on the napkin, and it was meaningful.

What if I don’t have a bar? You can create a bar. You can take a six-foot table and put a linen on it; you can get some PVC and you can cut four pieces exactly the same size, and you raise that table up a little bit so that the front bar’s a little higher; you put another six-foot table behind it. And then you display your bottles; you display your artifacts; you make some cool things. Everybody should have a hot-glue gun — what you can do with a hot-glue gun is a beautiful thing. You can find fun stuff [Michaels, Art From Scrap, and Art Essentials are her go-to places] and make cool things that are in the theme of the party.

You have to get creative and have fun with it, and don’t be so nervous that it’s not going to be good enough. When you make an effort and you have fun with it and are not all nervous and stressed about it, people are psyched. They just want to have a nice time and they want to have a new experience and they want to be a part of something meaningful.

I think people really want to connect. The more that you give people things to connect about, to talk about, the more fun people are going to have.

What about the tablescapes? I try to layer things. For example, if you’re setting the table, it’s not just about the china and the linens and the glassware and the flatware and the floral. Those things are part of it, but there has to be something more, those little lovely surprises that make things pop. Have the beautiful calligraphed menu tucked into the napkin and this beautiful flower, and then they lift the napkin up and there’s a lovely little fortune or some little surprise, some little special poem or whatever it is.

What’s your most critical piece of advice? The single most important thing when you do an event is just to do it with love, infuse it with love.

I can’t wait to go to your coronavirus containment party. I want to throw that party. You’re going to have to come with your own hand-painted mask and your own gloves that you created yourself. We’ll all carry a six-foot scepter pointed out, so that everybody is six feet away from you, and then it’s a dance party in a great big space where everybody is far apart. And there’s no buffet at all; everybody gets their own individual food when they walk in the door.

See you there!

See merrylbrownevents.com.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Chef Ink

Chef Ink Cover, SB Independent January 2, 2020

Chef Ink Cover, SB Independent January 2, 2020

Talking Tattoos With Decorated Chefs From Los Alamos to Coast Village Road

It was so much fun to interview local culinary wizards and talk tats. Check out this week’s cover story in the Santa Barbara Independent, or click below to see the PDF.

Chef Ink

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on January 2, 2020.

Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide 2019

 

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Uptown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Uptown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Barbara Waterfront, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Barbara Waterfront, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Montecito, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Montecito, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Goleta, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Goleta, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Ynez Valley, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

GLAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS (OR ANY DAY)

Showbiz ties run in the family of The Starlet Studio owner Ashley Ann Harris, granddaughter of 1940s–era dancer and background actor Marilyn L. Rieses. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

Showbiz ties run in the family of The Starlet Studio owner Ashley Ann Harris, granddaughter of 1940s–era dancer and background actor Marilyn L. Riess. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

The golden age of Hollywood glamour is alive and well at celebrity-makeup artist Ashley Ann Harris’ new The Starlet Studio (thestarletstudio.com) in Westlake Village. Taking inspiration from her grandmother Marilyn L. Riess—a dancer and background actor who appeared in films starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra—Harris says, “The studio was designed to emulate a starlet’s dressing room, but with a modern twist. It is a lush, old Hollywood atmosphere, where you can escape from the everyday and feel like a star with your own personal makeup artist in your private dressing room.”

Harris, who has worked with Brooke Shields, Anna Kendrick, and Hilary Duff, among others, says, “Just like your favorite celebrity getting ready for a red carpet event, you can now enjoy personalized makeup services.” Book early to glam up for the season’s holiday celebrations.

Leslie Dinaberg

Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, December 2019 805 Living Pulse Dec 2019.

805 Living cover Dec. 2019