Bungalow Haven

mapWhat started out as a simple opportunity to socialize with neighbors and get to know a little more about American bungalow style architecture and restoration has quickly morphed the Bungalow Haven Neighborhood Association into a vibrant, politically active neighborhood watchdog group.

Bungalow Haven was formed about two years ago by neighbors Dee Duncan and her husband Steve Dowty, and Judy and Sayre Macneil.

“The original intent was social,” said Cheri Rae, another member of the association. Rae said the group has a couple of hundred members representing about 125 households and meets once a month at Duncan and Dowty’s home. They also have an active email list and several subcommittees, including a political action committee that is currently reviewing its position on the proposed development of the former St. Francis Medical Center property.

The Bungalow Haven neighborhood — roughly bounded by Alta Vista, Laguna, Anapamu and Micheltorena streets — began to mobilize when they learned of a plan to construct 18 new units on the 1400 block of Laguna Street and relocate five bungalows. The project — developed by Capital Pacific Holding LLC and designed by architect Detlev Peikert — was well underway before the neighbors really became aware of it. However, at least in part from their efforts (including numerous appearances before the planning commission and the architectural board of review) the project has been scaled back to retain three of the existing bungalows on the property, along with plans to build the 15 new units in craftsman style rather than the originally planned red tile roofs.

“We’ve shown up 50 at a time and I think that was part of why we’ve been so successful. People were so amazed to see such a large bunch of people who were very articulate,” said Rae, who has been sharing strategies with other neighborhood associations.

Mike Jogoleff, who has lived in Bungalow Haven since childhood, fears continued encroachment by developers would ruin the neighborhood’s character. “If somebody’s working against us like these big development companies, they just come in and screw everybody,” he said.

One of the steps the neighborhood association is taking to prevent more “condo mania” is working to establish Bungalow Haven as a Historic Landmark District. Regarding the Laguna Street project, Rae said, “… we’ve all had a steep learning curve on what the rules are, and we want to prevent it from ever happening again.”

To obtain historic status, the group must first finish a neighborhood survey cataloguing the historic elements throughout the approximately 300 homes in the neighborhood. “We’re modeling our approach on the El Pueblo Viejo and the Brinkerhoff Districts. They are (the) only two historic districts in the town so far, so we’re doing the same thing that they did,” she said.

Rae admitted, “It’s a little ironic when we say with disdain, ‘they’re putting in million dollar condos’ when our houses are creeping up toward million dollar houses. It’s just (that) what you get for your money is not stucco and brand-new efficient appliances, but you get some charm.”

Jogoleff is also keenly aware that the working-class neighborhood he grew up in has changed. ” As my neighbor says, the people that buy our houses are not going to be painters and teachers. It’s going to be lawyers, doctors, accountants.”

While development projects have been catalysts, they aren’t the primary reason for the group. “The group is to preserve this style of life, simple and kind of a calmer way of life. None of us chose to go live in a tract house in Goleta. That’s just not what we wanted. … We’re not out there recruiting members. … The whole idea is for peaceful coexistence and neighborhood protection,” Rae said.

“We’re not anti-development … it’s just within reason and it’s within scale and size and having respect for the neighborhoods that are already here. It makes no sense whatsoever to develop for new people who come in when you ignore the neighbors that are already here and have built Santa Barbara to be what it is. … We feel like we’re part of the fabric of this town and we want to be able to stay here and not be run out because we can’t have the kind of life that we want to have here,” Rae said.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Make Mother’s Day Special

Give mom what she really deserves this year, a weekend of rest and relaxation at one of the Central Coast’s unforgettable resorts, bed and breakfasts or hotels.

Villa Toscana Bed & Breakfast

Fulfilling owner David Weyrich’s vision for a “quintessential wine country retreat,” this Tuscan-style village sits smack in the middle of the Martin & Weyrich vineyard in Paso Robles. Each of the eight suites (named after the vineyard’s wines) has unique Tuscan-inspired decor, and all have huge baths with whirlpool tubs, spacious sitting areas, and balconies overlooking the vineyard. Spa treatments can be arranged in your suite. For the ultimate pampering, rent the Winemaker’s Residence: a 3,500-square-foot apartment with a full kitchen and a private balcony with hot tub. For more information call 238.5600 or visit www.myvillatoscana.com.

Courtesy The Carlton

Courtesy The Carlton

The Carlton Hotel

For a completely different kind of getaway, take mom to the newly restored historic Carlton Hotel in downtown Atascadero. It has a big-city luxury hotel feel (think San Francisco, Boston or Washington, D.C.) without the long flight or parking hassles. The 52 tastefully designed guest rooms reflect the charm of yesterday but have all of the amenities of today, including spectacular spa tubs, 24-hour concierge services, a gym, several excellent restaurants and a roof terrace garden to enjoy. For more information, call 461.5100 or visit www.the-carlton.com.

Suite Edna Bed & Breakfast

Located in San Luis Obispo County’s wine country, this charming restored farmhouse is the perfect B&B for people who aren’t necessarily B&B people. There’s no forced socializing, you have the entire house to yourself, with the option to bring up to six people total (three rooms) in your group. Mom can make herself at home with a good book on one of the two delightful porches and end her day with a relaxing massage in a private garden cottage that’s just steps away. Owner Pattea Torrence is an antiques aficionado, and her attention to detail will please even the most meticulous moms. For more information call 544.8062 or visit www.oldedna.com.

Post Ranch Inn

This luxurious, 30-room Big Sur retreat, designed exclusively “for adults to relax, rejuvenate and nurture relationships,” features a series of redwood guesthouses with views of the sea or the mountains, blended almost invisibly into a wooded cliff 1,200 feet above the Pacific. On-site offerings include everything from yoga to star gazing, with the whole experience designed to preserve a sense of serenity. Known for its oneness with nature, Post Ranch Inn has been described as a “luxury resort that is a playground for the soul.” For more information call 1.831.667.2200 or visit www.postranchinn.com.

Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort

These hot mineral springs, which bubble up amid gorgeous oak and sycamore trees, have rejuvenated thousands of spa guests since 1897. An environment dedicated to healing and renewal, each room and suite has its own private balcony with a hot tub and about half of the rooms have mineral water piped into the tubs.

The treatment center offers an array of hands-on healing therapies, while the yoga institute offers classes in yoga, Pilates, meditation and associated wellness disciplines. The beautiful gardens, labyrinth, walking/hiking trails, and the communal hot springs are also wonderful places for mom to relax and refresh herself. For more information call 595.7302 or visit www.sycamoresprings.com.

Ventana Inn & Spa

Nestled in the heart of Los Padres National Forest in Big Sur, the romantic Ventana resort is a perfect getaway. In fact, when celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Robert DeNiro, Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves want to get away from it all, they visit these 243-acres of tranquil forest overlooking the Pacific.

The rooms are so gorgeous — with ocean and mountain views, spa tubs, flat-screen televisions and porches equipped with private Jacuzzis and peaceful hammocks — mom may never want to leave. If she does venture out, she can sunbathe, walk or ride horses in the nearby hills, do yoga or tai chi, take a photography lesson or a painting class, or pamper herself with spa treatments.

“There’s nothing that we won’t do for our guests, period,” said general manager Paul O’Dowd.

No wonder the stars like this place. For more information call 1.800. 628.6500 or visit www.ventanainn.com.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Java Joys

Courtesy Daily Grind

Courtesy Daily Grind

Ah, that rich, strong aroma of coffee. For some of us it’s the only thing that makes getting out of bed worthwhile. Even if you’re more interested in soaking up the atmosphere than the caffeine, it’s fun to know the 411 on local coffee houses.

Here’s my two cents. I’m sure others will disagree, and I’d be happy to debate them, as long as it’s over a latte.

Best overall

Red’s (211 Helena) – the “anti-Starbucks” in the heart of the Funk Zone, this place gets an A+ for funky ambiance and friendly staff. Red’s has an individual’s vision and personality written all over it, with eclectic art pieces, jewelry and purses for sale. Red’s serves lattes in handmade ceramic cups that are as individual as this fun new hangout. They also serve breakfast and lunch, as well as wines by the glass. This homey spot attracts an artsy neighborhood crowd that makes for interesting people watching. If only the chairs were a little more comfortable I would never want to leave.

Good Cup (1819 Cliff Dr.) – this coffee house reflects the upscale, healthy, family-oriented neighborhood the Mesa has become. In additional to first-rate coffee, they also offer gelato, smoothies, sandwiches and a great-looking quiche. The halo over the logo and the “good karma” tip jar gives you a taste of Good Cup’s spiritual bent. They offer a cool selection of things to buy with a bit of a new age/feminist bent, including a “smart women thirst for knowledge” cup and a Virgin Mary beach bag. The crowd is a mix of Mesa moms (think cute kids and Yoga pants), students and professionals from both the white and blue-collar crowd.

Best lattes

Northstar Coffee (918 State St.) – their foam is indeed a work of art. A little more expensive, but this is the place to go if you want to really treat yourself. Unfortunately, the decor is upscale generic and the place is mostly packed with tourists. Just close your eyes and pretend you’re in Italy.

Muddy Waters (508 E. Haley St.) – the service is “pierced and tattooed with attitude” and the decor is straight outta Santa Cruz, but the lattes are among the best in town. Not a bad people watching spot either.

Good strong, cups of Joe

Peet’s Coffee & Tea (3905 State St.) – Peet’s is almost a religion in the Bay Area, but here on the South Coast we tend to prefer our coffee with a little foam, and our coffee houses with a few more amenities, which is probably why there’s only one of the Peet’s chain in this area. The beans are excellent and other than at 8 a.m., there’s almost never a line.

Jeannine’s Bakery (1253 Coast Village Rd., 3607 State St. and inside Gelson’s at 3305 State St.) – also serves Peet’s coffee, along with the best carrot cake in town.

Santa Barbara Roasting Company (607 Paseo Nuevo and 321 Motor Way) – ROCO has gentrified its look with a new Paseo Nuevo store but the coffee still gets an old-school A+. It’s strong, hot and rich. On weekends I prefer the locals-only crowd on Motor/Lower State, which fills up with adorable young ballerinas (and their parents) from the nearby Gustafson Dance School.

Best ice blended drinks

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (3052 De la Vina St., 811 State St. and 5745 Calle Real) – this is where the iced blended mocha trend started and they still make the best. Plus, the staff on State Street is goofily friendly and the De la Vina and Calle Real chains are great places to run into old friends.

Best people watching and eavesdropping

Coffee Cat (1201 Anacapa St.) – it’s cattycorner from the courthouse and right across the street from the county staff offices. Need I say more?

Starbuck’s (1046 Coast Village Rd.) – the only place in town where you simultaneously see Hollywood types discuss the latest hot screenplay with the same passion that Westmont students discuss “the word.” For some strange reason, this Starbuck’s is also a great place to see unusual breeds of dogs.

Hot Spots Espresso Company (36 State St.) – not only is this the only 24-hour coffee house in town, it’s also a living, breathing student UN. Definitely the only place in town you can routinely hear French, German, Russian and Chinese spoken simultaneously.

Vices and Spices (3558 State St.) – one of the oldest coffee places in town, this is a great place to run into old friends and find out the latest San Roque gossip. People still play checkers, read books and write in journals here, as opposed to talking on their cell phones and scanning the headlines.

Friendliest service

Mojo Coffee (7127 Hollister Ave.) – When the Beacon was in Goleta, Mojo Coffee was right downstairs. I started every day with good Mojo thanks to the friendly smiles of Chris and his staff, the only college students without attitude in town.

Espresso Roma (1101 State St.) – while the one near De la Guerra Plaza has closed, the one near the Beacon is still thriving, thanks in part to the truly nice people that brew these beans. The staff is always ready with a smile, and a fast cup of good, strong, reasonably priced coffee. Plus they make their own delicious muffins, croissants and cookies and sell them for half price at the end of the day.

Starbuck’s (Five Points Center) – Starbuck’s coffee and the decor might be consistent throughout the known universe, but the staff in Five Points is truly a notch above the others in the chain. If only it weren’t so hard to park …

Best lunch

The Daily Grind (2001 De la Vina St.) – their sandwiches are delicious and big enough to split. They also make really good soups; don’t miss the chicken and dumpling. Goleta Coffee Company (177 S. Turnpike Rd.) has the same menu but the San Marcos High School crowd and strip mall location gives it a totally different vibe.

Best breakfast

Jeannine’s Bakery (1253 Coast Village Rd., 3607 State St.) – fabulous baked goods, impeccable presentation. They have a full, cooked breakfast menu, as opposed to just muffins and burritos, and the coffee’s pretty darn good too.

Neighborhoods most in need of a coffee house

Cabrillo Boulevard – it’s hard to believe that this tourist Mecca lacks even a Starbucks, but the closest coffee house is at Hot Spots on lower State.

Milpas Street – sure there are donut and bagel places, but there’s not a single coffee house to be found on this bustling street.

Westside/San Andres – another mixed use neighborhood without a coffee house.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Engineered for Success

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is one of the first questions Ed Ware asks his computer engineering students at Dos Pueblos High.

A software engineering department manager at Raytheon for 23 years, Ware offers students a view of engineering from the workplace, rather than the classroom. With the support of his employer, Ware spends three mornings a week allowing students to “try on engineering and see if it’s something they really like.”

Clearly engineering is something Ware really likes.

“A rewarding part is being able to take a subject matter that I love and convey it to somebody else through teaching,” said Ware, who is beginning his second year with DPHS’ Engineering Academy.

“Ed is an unbelievably fantastic teacher,” said Dos Pueblos principal David Cash. “He knows students well and relates well to them.”

It’s selfish really, said Ware, the father of two daughters (one at DPHS and the other at Goleta Valley Junior High).

“I enjoy being on campus, especially when I have a daughter … I think we’re a lot closer. I understand what her life is like … and she’s not ashamed of me,” he laughed.

“It’s just been a great partnership all around,” said Cash.

The idea for the engineering academy started about four years ago. An essential part of getting funding for the program was being able to demonstrate active partners in the business community. Raytheon — which had already adopted DPHS through the county Partners In Education Program — was the first business the school went to talk to, said Cash.

Raytheon responded by getting involved in the engineering academy in a big way.

“It’s just a perfect avenue for us,” said spokesman Ron Colman. “Our big community involvement push is math and science education. This is a great way for us to impact the community via the schools, also a great way for us to, in effect, recruit future employees.”

Ware described his teaching experience as being very rewarding.

“I love the old Wide World of Sports ‘the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat’ slogan (as an analogy for) watching the students with their first project,” he said.

When students start his class, “they’re great end users,” said Ware. “But they don’t know what’s inside the box, how it works, or what’s behind the screen.”

In his last class Ware had the students tear apart a computer to really understand what the CPU is.

“We learned how to program, we learned the language of computers,” said senior Karla Ortiz, who is participating in the engineering academy for her second year.

Raytheon views the program as a good way to light the imaginations of students, such as women and minorities, who wouldn’t always be exposed to engineering opportunities.

“I think it’s an awesome program because I think a lot of girls didn’t know that much about computer networking,” said Ortiz, whose father is an engineer.

Ortiz particularly enjoyed a field trip to Ware’s office. “It was a really great experience to see how the environment works at Raytheon,” she said.

Ortiz was also a fan of the guest speakers.

“He brought this girl engineer named Candy (software engineer Candy Lou) into class. It’s a really great program because it’s advocating for girls that ‘hey, it’s not just a guy thing,'” said Ortiz.

“I give them a thumbs up for Raytheon to actually put that program out there,” said Ortiz, who is considering a career in engineering or medicine.

And when Ware grows up?

“I think I want to be a software engineer,” he said.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon (2003)

Handmade cards help to say you care

Looking for that perfect card to tell your Valentine how much you care? Local artist Emily Chan’s handmade cards, Twinkle Toes Greetings, could score you big points in the romantic thoughtfulness category.

Shy and introverted as a child, Chan said she started making handmade cards to express gratitude and appreciation to people who did nice things for her.

“It started when I was really young. They just mean so much more when you take the time to make a card,” she said.

“Now I’m really glad that I get to share this thing I love to do with more people. It’s fun. Each card, I always try to make it a little bit better than the last one.”

Chan makes every card by hand, with a sharp eye for color and texture and an impressive attention to detail. In addition to Valentine’s Day greetings, Twinkle Toes has a large selection of design themes, including baby, birthday, flowers, friends, get well, graduation, holiday and seasonal, insects, kids, thank you, religious, remembrances and more.

Cards can be customized for include prewritten messages inside, like “my thoughts are with you,” “I love you” or “hang in there.”

Expanding on the theme of thoughtfulness, Twinkle Toes is offering to donate 25 percent of all proceeds made through February to the La Conchita Mudslide Memorial Fund.

“With so much tragedy in our world, Twinkle Toes strives to always make a positive difference,” Chan said.

Reasonably priced, the cards start at about $6.50 and can be ordered on the Web site, www.TwinkleToesCards.com, by writing to Twinkle Toes, P.O. Box 2392, Santa Barbara 93120 or by e-mailing contact@twinkletoescards.com.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 20, 2005.

It’s all about hue!

Image by gubgib freedigitalphotos.net

Image by gubgib freedigitalphotos.net

Gone are the days of a one-color-fits-all approach to decorating. Now homeowners are choosing colors to illicit a mood and perk up a room’s decor.

Wall color is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to add some color to your home, said Pat Musarra, owner of Affordable One-Day Design.

Ralph Lauren even offers Color Testers, a new product line that allows you to sample the complete palette. Each Color Tester packet provides paint coverage in a satin finish for 2-foot by 2-foot sections of wall, retails for $3.99, and may be purchased online at www.rlhome.polo.com.

Even if you’re leery of paint, with so many varieties of home accessories available, it’s easy to start small and experiment boldly with color on items like throw pillows, vases, candles, slipcovers, candy dishes, sheets and towels and table linens.

“New lighting is very important. Just changing lampshades can have an enormous impact,” said Musarra, who also recommended taking a look down at your floors. “Area rugs or maybe pulling up wall-to-wall carpeting and laying down a hardwood floor or some kind of new laminate floor … Especially if the wall-to-wall carpeting is old or the color’s outdated.”

In addition to freshening your home’s look, colors can be used to create a mood.

“Red will wake up a room,” said interior designer Rosemary Sadez Friedmann. “It should be used as an accent in accessories, part of a pattern in upholstery or one impressive chair or bench. Red is a good color to have in a nursery because it stimulates and aids the development of neural connections in an infant’s brain.”

Musarra said she’s seen red — and other bright colors — used a lot as a kitchen accent color, with coffee makers, mixers and other small appliances now available in a wide variety of colors.

Orange is another color that is “uplifting, stimulating and enlivening,” according to Barbara Richardson, director of color marketing for ICI Paints. “It has the ability to raise our spirits and to make us feel optimistic — a quality that is in high demand right now.”

“Yellow would be a good color for a workout room, particularly if aerobics were involved. It’s also a good color for a game room, study or office because it helps to keep you attentive. A yellow bathroom will take the chill out of the air,” said Friedmann.

Whatever color you choose to update your home’s look, experts advise you start small, with maybe a few throw pillows or some new kitchen linens.

“It’s amazing how many inexpensive ways there are to update your home,” said Musarra, who specializes in quick and cost effective design strategies.

Musarra charges a flat fee of $200 for her services, which include a two-hour home consultation, followed up with a written design plan.

“I also restyle the room for you while I’m there,” she said. “Move furniture in, move some out, re-hang artwork, re-group accessories, and give a room a whole new makeover, using basically what the client has and at the same time, offering suggestions as to what she or he should buy to complete the look they’re trying to achieve.”

What colors are hot

“It” is either Violet Tulip, Coraly Orange, Full Bloom (a Salmony Pink) or Turquoise Blue, depending on which expert you ask about the “it color” in home decorating this year.

“I’m seeing a lot of pinks and salmon and turquoise and brown, not my favorites, but I am seeing a lot of those colors,” said Pat Musarra, owner of Affordable One-Day Design.

Pantone – the company that crowned violet tulip as this year’s queen – has even created a new color system called Colorstrology, which “infuses elements of astrology and numerology with the spirituality of color.”

According to Michele Bernhardt, creator of Colorstrology, 2005 will resonate with spirituality and healing.

“The year will begin with a heavy influence in regard to foreign affairs, education, religion and sports. Peace, balance and cooperation in all types of relationships will be a major theme and can also be a major challenge. Violet tulip can help us see past our differences while dissolving our feelings of separateness,” said Bernhardt.

At www.colorstrology.com, you’ll find your personal birth color, along with a personality profile and advice on your color vibe. September, for example, is Baja Blue, “a divine and alluring color that resonates with beauty, purity and wisdom.” This color “can help ease tension and promote tranquility,” making it an ideal choice for a bedroom or a yoga studio.

Taking the color horoscope a step further, a Virgo born on Sept. 8 would have Etruscan Red as their personal color for the year, a color that “corresponds with depth, vitality and passion.”

According to the site, “wearing, meditating or surrounding yourself with Etruscan Red inspires you to move through life with energy and wisdom.”

Sounds like a good color to decorate the office.

What color is your mood?

Here are some color guidelines based on the type of mood you want to create.

RED__Use red for excitement. It is associated with power, passion, dominance, activity and heat. It represents youthfulness, impulse and intensity. Red is also a grounding color and can make you feel secure.

ORANGE__Orange represents excitement and can be stimulating. It can make you feel like hurrying and that is why it’s usually a color used in fast-food places and quick mart-type stores. They want you in and out quickly. Happiness, liveliness, exuberance and boldness are also associated with orange.

BLACK__Use black to evoke drama, elegance, power, sophistication and mystery. Black is also associated with death, fright, aloofness, fatigue, cold, darkness and bereavement.

YELLOW __Yellow is eye-catching, inspirational and raises ones spirits. It is also said to aid digestion, communication and sharpen memory. Design experts advise you treat yellow like sunlight. You want it around for the happiness it produces but you don’t want it to be overpowering.

GRAY__Gray is said to be steady, resigned, stable, deliberate, guarded, dignified, indecisive, disciplined, protected, cool and neutral.

PURPLE__Purple can be used to increase spirituality and enlightenment. It evokes feelings of elegance, restfulness, supremacy, creativity, royalty and reverence. Purple is also said to promote peace, quiet overactive glands and lower blood pressure.

BLUE__Blue is a breath of fresh air, evoking feelings of openness, tranquility, serenity, restoration and well being. It is also said to lower respiratory rates, promote relaxation and increase healing.

BROWN__Brown reminds us of nature and the earth. It is also said to be restful, rich, casual, tranquil, safe, homespun, reliable, stable, sturdy and simultaneously cool and warm.

GREEN__Green reminds us of harmony, balance, compassion, wealth, security and growth. It is said to promote relaxation and refresh the spirit. Green is also a good color to promote health, although it may not reflect well on all skin tones.

WHITE__White evokes feelings of cleanliness, simplicity, safety, purity, enlightenment, individualism, idealism, optimism, joy, innocence, hope and reflection.

Want to find the real hue?

Take this completely unscientific quiz to find out which color (or colors) suit your inner self.

Check off all of the descriptions that apply to you, then count how many A, B, C, D, E and F personality traits you had. That’s your true hue.

B. I frequently rearrange my furniture and repaint my walls.

B. I love jury duty.

E. I always tell the truth, even if it hurts.

D. I often engage complete strangers in conversation.

E. I feel overwhelmingly compelled to pipe up during city council meetings.

B. I burn the midnight oil at work and volunteer for extra tasks.

F. I am a back-seat driver.

D. I would rather shop at a farmers’ market than a mall.

C. The hardest part of throwing a party is deciding the menu.

F. I am the boss, or I should be.

F. I feel good about me, especially when I compare myself with others.

B. I love details.

D. I define myself by my parenting skills.

A. I was never good at sharing.

B. Someday I’m going to chuck it all and go live in the wilderness.

C. Home is the center of my world.

D. When friends call, I can be counted on to help.

E. Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.

A. My friends and family say I’m stubborn. What do they know?

F. Some might find me arrogant.

A. Hallmark commercials make me cry.

A. I’m the first to volunteer for charity functions and luncheons.

C. Pushover doesn’t even begin to describe how easy it is to talk me into things.

Your True Hue

A. Seeing green.

You are confident and caring, and would feel good in a room of sage, basil or celadon. The new greens for 2005 will lean toward the seashore tones. Botanical-inspired greens remain popular.

B. Yellow fellows.

You will feel energized in a room with buttery walls and mahogany furniture. Let in the light with minimal window coverings. The new yellows for 2005 will lean toward ochre and gold.

C. Purple people.

Forget practicality; celebrate your spirit with shades of violet, lavender and silver. Use eggplant or plum as an accent.

D. Orange you glad.

You love food, home and entertaining. Surround yourself with pumpkin, copper or muted auburn. Orange will bring cheerfulness and order to your home.

E. Blue you.

Your dependable, serene nature will feel at ease in rooms washed in shades of gray-blue and soft turquoise — both popular colors for 2005. Definitely use blue in bedrooms for a peaceful night’s sleep.

F. Red hot.

You like to be in charge. Choose red for accents: think floral arrangements rather than carpets. Or start small in the kitchen with a new fire engine red coffee maker.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon (2003)

First Time Home Buyers: Adventures in Home Buying

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Sometimes the first house you have your heart set on isn’t the one that you’re meant to have. That was the lesson Gloria Herrera and Martin Ibarra learned during their recent home-buying adventure.

After losing bids on several homes, the couple, who share a home with their daughter and Ibarra’s mother, was ready to compromise on their dream house. While they really wanted to stay in Santa Barbara, they also looked at properties in San Ynez and Buellton. Plus, they needed at least three bedrooms and they didn’t want a condominium.

This market is very competitive and difficult, said their Realtor Nicole Dinkelacker, who’s with Remax in Goleta. “It’s a lot more complicated than just finding a property.”

In the case of Herrera and Ibarra, Dinkelacker was ready with the check for a “compromise house,” when she found out that another property they had bid on earlier was available for an additional $5,000.

“Usually $5,000 you’re like oh my God, $5,000,” said Herrera. “At this point, $5,000 was like $5 to me … for a bigger property and an extra room.” Herrera said she thought the fact that she and Ibarra are both native Santa Barbarans (who met at Santa Barbara High School) was what sealed the deal for the home they eventually purchased for $700,000.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a 900 square foot lot on Noma Street in Carpinteria was a good buy, compared to what was available in Santa Barbara. “We lucked out,” said Herrera, noting that in addition to more square footage, most of the house had new carpet and had been newly painted.

Regarding making home improvements, “It’s not like you have much money left after buying the house. You pay your bills and you pay your mortgage and then … Home Depot,” said Herrera.

“Yeah, we tend to be at Home Depot a lot more, that’s for sure,” laughed Ibarra.

“When we first got the house, it wasn’t as pretty. I put in palm trees and flowers. … I think a year from now it will definitely be a lot more how we envisioned it. …You only have the weekend to really do much.”

Although fixing up the house is an ongoing project, Herrera said she’s ready to relax and enjoy the house for a while. “Even though it’s a very tight budget, … you kind of spend your weekends here at home. Sometimes it’s by choice and other times because you really have no other form of entertainment you can afford. But at least it’s yours and you know that little by little, it will get easier. … We have something that a lot of people have a hard time trying to obtain.”

“I know she had her heart set on the first house … and I know when that didn’t come through she got down. But like I told her, it’s either meant to be or not,” said Ibarra. “(I told her) we’re going to find something down the road that’s going to be much better. And soon we were able to find this.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

First Time Home Buyers: Going Condo

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

The quest to buy a condominium on the South Coast can be grueling on the nerves. “It was crazy. You’d go out and at every open house … you’d see all the same people all the time,” said Cari Thomas, who recently purchased a San Roque condo with her husband Sam. “They started looking like your competition. Like you didn’t want to smile at anybody.”

“I think our biggest surprise was the amount of demand and the fact that there were multiple offers over the asking price,” said Sam. The Thomases looked at dozens of condos and were outbid on six different places before purchasing their new home at 3663 San Remo Drive for $560,000.

We feel like we lucked out, said Cari.

“Once you get a firm understanding of the market, your standards change a little bit. There were places the first weekend we looked that were significantly less money that were not as nice, but a month and a half later we were wishing we would have made offers on those ones that we saw early on,” said Sam.

As is the case with many first-time homebuyers, the two-bedroom, two-bath place the Thomases purchased was more expensive than what they originally budgeted for. When their realtor, Judith McDermott from Village Properties, urged them to “Just drive by and see what you can get for that amount,” they immediately liked it enough to call their loan broker and make the arrangements to make an offer.

“We put five percent down and are using an interest only loan. Some of the money was from savings, some was from a previous 401K plan, and some was an investment from friends,” said Sam.

Part of what sold them on the condo was its immediate livability. “The paint, it’s amazing what paint and color can do. And it was decorated really nicely and the mountain view was pretty,” said Cari. She also liked the fact that the condo overlooks a pool and the rooms were pretty spacious compared to other condominiums.

“It definitely felt modern and we liked how they redid all the architecture on the outside,” said Sam, noting that the kitchen appliances were upgraded three years ago when the complex was converted from apartments to condominiums.

The fact that the association fees were comparatively low was also a plus for the Thomases. Another advantage was the location, close to downtown and their workplace, Cima Management.

At the time of their purchase, they simply saw the Hope School District location as a plus for the condominium’s resale value. However, the Thomases have since learned they’re expecting their first child in November.

“It (the school district) wasn’t something we were searching for initially, but now it worked out great,” Cari said.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

First Time Home Buyers: Lowered Expectations

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Like many first time homebuyers, Jennifer Cartwright and Bob Freed had to lower their expectations a bit when they set out to buy something on the South Coast. When they originally saw their condominium at 235 Aspen Way in Santa Barbara, they didn’t like it. “After seeing what was out there and the locations and prices, that’s where everything kind of just clicked that this had pretty much everything we wanted,” said Freed of the two bedroom, one and a half bath condo they recently purchased for $453,000.

Price was definitely part of what influenced the purchase, said Cartwright. In October, the then-engaged couple (who wed in late April) were “just kind of investigating options” with realtor/friend Bob Curtis. “We didn’t care if it was a house or a condo. We didn’t think we would be able to afford anything in the first place,” she said.

“It was all timing. What we basically wanted to do is stop paying the man. It’s just a different way of looking at savings,” said Freed.

The money for their down payment was an inheritance from Cartwright’s grandmother. “We got really lucky,” said Freed, who was sharing a house with roommates at the time, while Cartwright lived in a studio apartment. The condo had been recently painted and carpeted and didn’t need much work.

The couple also gave a lot of credit to their realtor. “Bob is an excellent real estate agent. He really took the time to kind of teach us all there was to learn about,” said Freed.

“And we had a lot of questions. Poor Bob, we were calling him daily almost,” added Cartwright. “Before we even looked at things, he set us up with Metro City Mortgage, which was our mortgage broker and told us all the right things to do. … Then when we went out to go look, we knew what we could afford. We weren’t in the dark,” she said.

The condo they purchased had been on the market for several months, unusual in Santa Barbara. “It was overpriced … It was on the market for 180 days or something like that. People were thinking that it was a lemon because no one had bought it right away, but that was because they listed it way too high,” said Cartwright.

The sellers lowered the price and Cartwright and Freed took the plunge and made an offer — after looking at places for only about a week. “I asked Bob at that time, I said are we moving too fast and what if we wait until the wedding,” said Freed. “Bob said, ‘You know, my gut instinct, if you wait, you’re going to pay $30,000 to $40,000 more.’ And actually condos of this size and this location are going for about 500 now,” said Freed.

While clubhouse amenities weren’t much of an attraction for the couple, who both work for the YMCA, what appealed to them about the condo was its secluded feel and location within the complex. “It’s off the street, further away … with the creek in the back, you’re guaranteed no one’s going to build,” said Cartwright.

“I feel more relaxed when I get home, I don’t know how I’m going to explain this but it’s like you’re really going home,” said Freed. “It’s just a neat feeling.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

First Time Home Buyers: There’s Nothing Like the First Time

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Image by phanlop88 freedigitalimages.net

Here on the South Coast — where multiple bidders compete to buy $1 million generic tract houses that “need work” — first time homebuyers are definitely in the minority. But a surprising number of working professionals are getting into the market via some very creative configurations, both in terms of financing and sometimes even living situations.

“It’s a lot more complicated than just finding a property,” said Nicole Dinkelacker, a realtor with RE/MAX’s Goleta office who’s been in the business for 20 years. “Anybody with less than ten percent down, it’s very competitive and difficult.”

Difficult, but not impossible.

“You can get 100 percent financing. You have to have beautiful credit, of course, but it isn’t like you have to come up with a huge amount of money, or at least you should talk to a realtor before you decide that,” said Rebekah Mulder, a realtor with Prudential California Realty in Santa Barbara.

A former teacher and principal at Cold Springs School, who got out of education to become a financial planner and real estate agent, Mulder said she still finds a lot of her job involves educating her clients about the tax advantages of investing in real estate, as well as the many creative ways to make buying a house possible in the Santa Barbara market.

One of the unique financing methods she often teaches first-time buyers about is equity sharing, where a parent, an employer or a third party will invest in buying a house in partnership with the person who will live there.

Recently, Steen Hudson (the Director of the Rescue Mission) and his wife Trina entered into an equity share agreement with his employers, said Mulder. “The mission is realizing money on its investment and if the Hudson’s so choose they can steadily buy the mission out. It’s a great way for employers to help out their employees and make an investment as well.”

“Equity sharing is a great investment. You pair up older people who really don’t want to go out and buy an apartment house or something. Most people are unaware that if you own a residential income property, you can depreciate that property. Even if its actually appreciating, the tax code allows you depreciate it, which then shelters that much of your earned income from any taxes at all,” said Mulder. The IRS allows you to treat one physical property as both a residential property and a residential income property (divided proportionately), she explained.

Rather than asking parents or others to “help” with a down payment, Mulder advises approaching it like a business opportunity and will often make the presentation to parents as a neutral party. “We have (37-page) contracts where you negotiate every horrible thing that could happen.”

“Another thing that piggybacks on that is that buying a property with a rental on it is really good option, especially for someone that’s maybe got high income but maybe no money down, said Sharol Mulder, Rebekah’s daughter and business partner.

“A lot of times if we have people with a lot of money down, it’s a better bottom line if they buy a more expensive property with a rental on it. So let’s say they could go buy a $600,000 condo, they could probably buy a $900,000 house with a rental on it and actually come out paying less per month,” said Sharol, who recently made this type of deal with buyers Dave and Eliza Reed and Kate Russell (Eliza’s sister). “They bought a neat old turn of the century Craftsman plus an additional duplex on West Sola. … They rent out the main house for maximum income.”

In addition to financing options, first-time homebuyers often need to be educated on the basics about realtors. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t know how realtors get paid. We’re seeing people walk into open houses and work with the realtor who’s there without a recommendation. … As a buyer you’re not going to pay the realtor’s commission but you really need a good realtor, so you need a good recommendation. … It’s a great benefit to you as a buyer that the seller is going to pay your realtor’s commission but it doesn’t take away the responsibility that you have to find someone who’s really good to represent you,” said Sharol.

Having professional, experienced representation is even more important with the current climate of multiple offers being made for any given listing. “Houses are going really quickly,” said Gloria Herrera, one of Dinkelacker’s clients who recently purchased a home in Carpinteria after making an offer on another. “The whole thing has really been a learning experience.”

There’s nothing like the first time … starting next week, our South Coast Homes section will feature case studies of local first time buyers. We’ll go inside their homes to see what they were able to buy and how they were able to do it.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon