I had the pleasure of writing the Santa Barbara Independent special “Schools of Thought Issue once again in fall of 2022. To read the entire issue online, click here. I
I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again in 2022. It’s always a fun project and it’s always a huge amount of work — but a little every time I do it. People are always so excited to hear they won, so that part is definitely fun. You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the images below.
These stories were originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent in August 2022.
Our Annual Edition Dedicated to Ideas and Design, Both Indoor and Out
Welcome to our annual Home & Garden special issue, the edition run each spring where we explore ideas and designs for indoors and out.
In this year’s collection, we feature a new book all about that most iconic of Montecito gardens, Lotusland, and explain how you can create your own sustainable garden in the backyard. Then we turn to a new Home & Design Collective in the downtown Arts District, head to the library to find free decor resources, and take a look at what it takes, and why, to electrify your house.
Destination Downtown for Design: New Santa Barbara Arts District Home & Design Collective Brings Biz to State Street
Home Design Inspiration for All: Free Resources Galore from the Santa Barbara Library
Electrifying Your Home in Santa Barbara: How to Flip the Switch Away From Natural Gas
Looking for some inspiration for your next home improvement project? For when Pinterest isn’t quite cutting it, our Santa Barbara Public Library librarians Lisa Neubert and Kimberly Crail (have curated this list of books to check out.
Small Space Style: Because You Don’t Have to Live Large to Live Beautifully by Whitney Leigh Morris: Interior design maven Morris shares her ideas and practices for making any tiny space efficient and stylish — whether it’s a rustic A-frame in the woods or a chic micro apartment in the city.
150 Best Tiny Interior Ideas by Francesc Zamora Mola: A smaller living space doesn’t have to mean sacrificing sophistication or comfort. Here are loads of ideas for maximizing space while creating warm and inviting homes.
Design a Healthy Home: 100 Ways to Transform Your Space for Physical and Mental Wellbeing by Oliver Heath: Simple, practical advice on how to design your home for health and happiness through modifications in lighting, air quality, acoustics, temperature, color, and more.
Design the Home You Love: Practical Styling Advice to Make the Most of Your Space by Lee Mayer: A fresh and accessible guidebook to the complicated world of interior design.
Made for Living: Collected Interiors for All Sorts of Styles by Amber Lewis: Tricks of the trade from a trendsetting designer known for creating effortlessly layered looks and modern eclectic styles.
Home Stories: Design Ideas for Making a House a Home by Kim Leggett: Everyone has a story worth telling, and every room can become part of that story. Learn how to create rooms filled with warmth, meaning, and your own unique story of home.
Feels Like Home: Relaxed Interiors for a Meaningful Life by Lauren Liess: Explore the emotional connection between home decoration and one’s daily life through the lens of a popular social media and TV star.
House to Home: Designing Your Space for the Way You Live by Devi Dutta-Choudhury: A modern guide to home improvement that will help you create a dynamic, comfortable space that supports your life and the way you want to live.
Hygge & West Home: Design for a Cozy Life by Christiana Coop and Aimee Lagos: These notable tastemakers have curated a look into 20 covetable homes designed to promote feelings of coziness, companionship, and comfort.
Bringing the Outdoors In
Home Sweet Houseplant: A Room-by-Room Guide to Plant Decor by Baylor Chapman: Houseplants have the ability to instantly elevate the look of your home and add your own special flourishes. This book shows you where — and how — to begin.
Wild Interiors: Beautiful Plants in Beautiful Spaces by Hilton Carter: A journey in greenery led by the bestselling author’s unique eye and love of plants to show you how to create luscious interiors that not only look amazing but are good for your well-being, too.
Decorating with Plants: What to Choose, Ways to Style, and How to Make Them Thrive by Baylor Chapman: Nothing can add energy, style, and that essential “lived-in-ness” to home spaces better than a little bit of green. Chapman shows us where to begin.
Houseplants for All: How to Fill Any Home with Happy Plants by Danae Horst: A useful guide to selecting and growing plants for your home, including a plant profile quiz.
Handpicked: Simple, Sustainable, and Seasonal Flower Arrangements by Ingrid Carozzi: Organized by season, Carozzi’s book reveals her secrets for creating flower arrangements that are modern, original, and organic in style.
Mindfulness and Minimalism
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson: In Sweden, there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning (dö =“death” and städning = “cleaning”). Magnusson gives instructions for this surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings sooner, rather than later.
Minimalista: Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Better Home, Wardrobe, and Life by Shira Gill: Help to find your own style with this fresh and accessible guidebook to the world of interior design.
The New Mindful Home: And How to Make it Yours by Joanna Thornhill: Our spaces can play a big part in our emotional well-being. This book explains how to harness the power of mindfulness to help your home support a more considered lifestyle.
The Home Edit Life: The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organizing Everything by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: The New York Times best-selling authors of The Home Edit show you how to contain the chaos and organize every aspect of your life.
Living Simply: A Teen Guide to Minimalism by Sally McGraw: A discussion of minimalism as a way of living for teens, this book provides a number of suggestions and resources for young people who want to scale down their carbon footprints.
Color and Creativity
A Colorful Life: Gere Kavanaugh, Designer by Louise Sandhaus and Kat Catmur: The designer Gere Kavanaugh is an irrepressible force of nature who epitomized the craft and folk vibe of the ’60s and ’70s California design scene and remains a larger-than-life personality today.
My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation by Donald M. Rattner: Written by a noted architect, My Creative Space turns the rich trove of psychological research on workplace productivity and innovation into practical techniques for shaping a home.
Jungalow: Decorate Wild by Justina Blakeney: A guide to designing creative and personal interiors with bold choices in color and patterns, cues from nature, and inspiration from personal heritage and travels.
Wonder Walls: How to Transform Your Space with Colorful Geometrics, Graphic Lettering, and Other Fabulous Paint Techniques by Phoebe Cornog and Roxy Prima: Learn DIY wall-painting techniques to help discover the possibilities of paint and see walls as a canvas. This book covers wall preparation and paint selection, as well as step-by-step instructions.
Living in Color: Color in Contemporary Interior Design by Stella Paul and India Mahdavi: An inspirational visual journey along the color spectrum, brought to life via the best contemporary residential interior design.
A Sense of Place
At Home in Joshua Tree: A Field Guide to Desert Living by Sara Combs and Rich Combs: This beautifully illustrated lifestyle guide from the creators of The Joshua Tree House shows you how to infuse your life with desert vibes, from home designs and entertaining plans to wellness rituals.
Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home by Danielle Postel-Vinay: A lively, sophisticated, and practical illustrated lifestyle guide that shows how to live like the French every day, transforming your house into a home defined by beauty, family, and accessible elegance.
The California Casa by Douglas Woods: A sumptuous and comprehensive look at Spanish Colonial Revival design, presenting a lavish portrait of the style through more than 300 color photographs.
Living in Mexico by Barbara & René Stoeltie: A breathtaking look at some of Mexico’s most remarkable abodes. The authors have traveled far and wide, from Costa Careyes to the Yucatán Peninsula, seeking out homes to surprise, delight, and inspire.
Red Tile Style: America’s Spanish Revival Architecture by Arrol Gellner: A comprehensive survey of one of the most widespread and popular forms of American architecture. From bungalows and mansions to gas stations and government buildings, Gellner explores this diverse category of design.
Santa Barbara Style by Kathryn Masson: Explore the work of such architectural luminaries as Addison Mizner, Bertram Goodhue, Reginald D. Johnson, and George Washington Smith, among others.
Santa Barbara Living by Diane Dorrans Saeks: A beautifully photographed book that takes readers inside the mansions and estates of contemporary Santa Barbara.
Making Midcentury Modern by Christopher Kennedy: This book features 100 tips for bringing the principles of midcentury modern style to any home, from the acclaimed interior designer.
American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter: Showcasing two dozen American houses that capture the bungalow spirit that enticed thousands of buyers during the form’s heyday from 1880 to 1930.
Spanish Colonial Style: Santa Barbara and the Architecture of James Osborne Craig and Mary McLaughlin Craig by Pamela Skewes-Cox and Robert Sweeney: An ode to these influential architects, whose designs included the historic Casa de la Guerra and the Plaza Rubio complex across from the Mission Rose Garden.
Private Gardens of Santa Barbara: The Art of Outdoor Living by Margie Grace: A peek into 21 distinctive private gardens: large estates, modest homes, and surf retreats that run the gamut from sublime and naturalistic to bold and urban.
Organization Tips and Tricks
Martha Stewart’s Organizing: The Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routines by Martha Stewart:Tips, projects and ideas on how to organize everything from America’s most trusted lifestyle authority.
In addition to a wide selection of books, the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Databases & Resources page has information on how people can get signed up for free with LinkedIn Learning, which offers a number of courses on interior design and related skills. It also has information about accessing Skillshare (provided courtesy of the California State Library’s Career Pathways initiative), which has a great offering of interior design courses as well.
The road to zero carbon is being paved by elected officials, builders, and activists. And an increasingly important part of the journey is getting rid of gas furnaces, water heaters, ranges, and other appliances and replacing them with electric alternatives that make buildings safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly — especially as more renewable power is added to the grid.
Last summer, the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to enact a new building ordinance (known as a “reach code”) prohibiting natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings (with the exception of restaurants and applications where there isn’t yet a viable electric alternative to gas). There are also many rebates and incentives available for existing homes to make the switch to electric.
Heat pumps, which control household climates by extracting and moving the heat in the air, are extremely energy-efficient. According to the Department of Energy, installing an air-source heat pump can cut your electric bill in half, and heat pumps are generally considered more comfortable than traditional heating and cooling. “The other big advantage that heat pumps offer in our warming climate is that they can provide both heating and cooling in your home, so they can essentially be used to replace both a furnace and an air conditioner,” said Michael Chiacos, energy and climate program director at CEC.
If you’re considering a new furnace or installing air conditioning in your home, TECH Clean California is currently offering up to $3,000 per unit rebate on central heat pumps or mini-split heat pumps. That same group also has a $1,000-$3,100-per-unit rebate on heat-pump water heaters. Other vendors offer incentives for air sealing, insulation and ductwork, whole house fans, smart thermostats, and electric backup power units (see switchison.org/incentives for more information).
Heat induction cooktops are another innovation that has come a long way in recent years. Unlike traditional electric stoves that heat with coils, induction cooktops use magnets to transfer heat directly to the pan through the process of induction. These ranges heat up faster (they can bring water to a boil in half the time of gas), allow you to cook at very specific temperatures, and are safer. Induction burners only heat the pan and not the cooktop surface, which means the rest of the stove remains cool when it’s on. Without an open flame, people are less likely to burn themselves or accidentally start kitchen fires.
“I am a total covert,” said Dennis Allen, founder of Allen Construction. He’s been cooking on a five-element magnetic induction cooktop for more than a decade. “It is fabulous,” he said. “It’s so responsive, and it is so good for the environment because it’s about double the efficiency of natural gas, because natural gas is heating all of the air around the pot and this power only heats the pot.” He also likes that it’s safer to cook with his granddaughter because she won’t get burned by the cooktop.
If you’re interested in trying before buying, many vendors offer portable models to take home and test. The Santa Barbara Public Library’s Library of Things also has an induction cooktop you can check out.
As more and more information comes out that electric homes are safer and healthier to live in, they are also becoming more practical and affordable, especially with the various incentives. There are some federal incentives for solar installation that are expiring soon, so the time to act is now, said Chiacos.
“Having an all-electric home with solar is definitely the way to go, because then you are using your locally generated sunshine to run your house, and hopefully power your car, too,” he said.
Longtime Santa Barbara Wholesaler Takes a Voyage into Retail
Boho chic meets vintage flair at Tamara and JP Cajuste’s colorful new Indian Pink store (indianpinkpillows.com), a home furnishing haven stocked to the rafters with an inventive assortment of goods.
Pillows made from exotic textiles from around the world are the mothership that launched the couple’s wholesale enterprise in 2007, and there is certainly a vibrant collection of these one-of-a-kind creations. But with the new store (their first) comes a plethora of new merchandise, including tablecloths, napkins, upcycled lampshades, throw rugs, and a variety of vintage furniture covered in the same gorgeous fabrics that first inspired Tamara when she traveled the world as an American Airlines flight attendant.
“We take 19th-century old-fashioned chairs and couches from France and England, so they’re really well-made, and then have them reupholstered in a pretty fabric,” says Tamara. With supply chains still a mess from the pandemic, “the fact that you can get something that is repurposed and beautiful and available is a big asset,” she explains.
During lockdown, she even created a new line of super-comfortable yet still fashion-forward dresses (with pockets!), pajamas, and reversible robes — all of which are on colorful display at the store. “I wanted to have something cute to match my house to put on,” she laughs. “I had no idea they would be so popular.”
These days, Tamara sources her fabrics from four different vendors in Rajasthan and Shahpur, India. She relies primarily on instinct to make her selections. “I just fall in love with certain things when I see them,” she laughed. “I could never be an interior designer, because I can’t do modern things. I can only do what I do and what I like.”
Michelle Beamer’s Retail Showroom Is a Beautiful New Space for Inspiration
Being in the right place at the right time is often the key to success.
As the principal designer at MB Interiors and a faculty member of the interior design department at Santa Barbara City College, Michelle Beamer had long toyed with the idea of opening a retail showroom. Lonetree (lonetreesb.com), her stunning new space stocked with upscale yet comfortable home furnishings, lighting, art, and accessories, comes on the scene just as the downtown Arts District is seeing a renaissance in home design shops and services.
Cleverly merchandised as a series of vignettes and “rooms” combined with a spacious, courtyard-facing design studio, Lonetree is actually based on Beamer’s master’s thesis at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C. The plan included having ever-changing curated vignettes where clients could sit on furniture and touch fabrics and envision what it would be like to live with them. Check. She also envisioned storytelling design opportunities such as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art–inspired Van Gogh desk display now on view. Check. And she wanted to be able to provide a space for community engagement such as 1st Thursday parties — featuring a recent raffle to benefit CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) — and collaborations with community groups like Jane Chapman’s Communal Table gatherings (communaltablesb.com). Check.
Not to mention, a beautiful space for her to create, work with her team, and meet clients. Checkmate.
A Nebraska native, Beamer says the name Lonetree is a nod to her hometown. “When I was doing research, I found out about traders in the 1800s traveling by boat along the Missouri River to bring their goods to market,” she said. “The trader was told that once he glimpsed the lone tree on the hill — there weren’t a lot of trees in Nebraska — he knew they were close to the right place to sell their goods.”
Downtown Santa Barbara has cemented its place as a design destination, and several businesses have banded together to form the new Santa Barbara Arts District Home & Design Collective. The cooperative marketing efforts by six businesses within walking distance of each other — all located on the 1200 and 1300 blocks of State Street — is quickly making an impact.
“You can park once and shop easily,” said Michelle Beamer, owner of Lonetree. “The community is very supportive. We’re always talking each other up. Stephanie Payne-Campbell at Domecíl sends people over here all the time. We’re really reaching out to designers too, and they’re sending people over. Even people from out of town. We’ve given maps to people from hotels and things like that, too.”
This appealingly illustrated map (by graphic designer Irene Ramirez; orangeladybird.com) guides shoppers to visit:
Domecíl: This shop showcases items for the home that highlight both traditional and contemporary craft, including fiber arts, ceramics, woodwork, fine art, and original bespoke, small-batch clothing. (Victoria Court #7, 1221 State St.; domecil.com)
Lonetree: This showroom for interior designer Michelle Beamer of MB Interiors features furniture, art, and new and vintage home decor items. (Victoria Court #24, 1221 State St.; lonetreesb.com)
Sofa U Love: Choose from more than 1,000 fabrics and dozens of sofa styles to customize or reupholster couches, chairs, ottomans, and other furniture. (1227 State St.; sofaulove.com)
Celadon House: This full-service interior design studio and furniture/decor showroom serves residential, hospitality, and commercial design needs. (1224 State St.; celadonhouse.com)
Indian Pink: This home and lifestyle boutique features reimagined vintage furniture, tabletop accessories, lighting, art, handmade pajamas, robes and bathrobes, and a gorgeous assortment of pillows. (1307 State St.; indianpinkpillows.com)
Maune Contemporary: This new gallery specializes in limited-edition fine art prints and unique works by renowned international artists whose work has been exhibited and is in the collections of museums worldwide. (1309 State St.; maune.com)
Part of being an artist is bringing pieces of yourself into your work, but painter Christina LoCascio ‘01, whose work is featured in “Gauchos Gone Grape,” takes this connection to a new level. She is truly living her creative life among the vines, painting with wine as a medium and working exclusively with wines from her family’s Larner Winery in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon, where LoCascio, her winemaker husband Michael Larner, and their children Steven (10) and Sienna (8) make their home.
When LoCascio began experimenting with wine painting in 2002 she couldn’t find any information about how to do it. “That was before Instagram or Facebook. Now if you search the hashtag #wineart there’s a bunch of artists that are painting with wine, but I feel like what makes what I’m doing special is that it’s such a part of my life.”
Double majoring in communication and art, LoCascio got her first real exposure to the world of wine in her junior year as an intern for Touring & Tasting Magazine. “It was my 21st birthday and they sent me home with a bottle of wine.” That job also had her researching and writing about wineries and grapes and very quickly she was hooked.
After graduation she worked in the wine industry in Temecula for a short time, until 2002, when Sunstone Winery scion Bion Rice lured her back to Santa Barbara wine country with an offer to work at Artiste Winery, a new venture featuring art-inspired blends that perfectly combined LoCascio’s interests in wine and art.
The idea for painting with wine grew out of classes she would host for wine club members at Artiste that used wine in a similar fashion to watercolor.
Those first few paintings led to a group exhibition in Santa Barbara and then an offer to create wine labels for Artiste. “The exposure of working at the tasting room, having my art on display and then having my art on the wine bottles was great for me,” says LoCascio, who went on to have nine shows at Artiste.
She continues to show her work at the tasting room gallery, although she stopped working there in 2008, when the family opened Larner Winery. They now have a tasting room in Los Olivos, where LoCascio’s art is on display. “From the very beginning, I was drawn to wine and all the wonderful things about it and how it combined art and science and history and so many things,” she says.
Wine remains a consistent media for her work — the many shades of red comprise her color palette and she uses white wine to “lift” color in a similar way that watercolorists use water to soften their paint. And while wine is a frequent subject, she also delves into figurative art and architectural paintings. “I think that in the time that I’ve been painting with wine my art has evolved and it continues to change. I have gone through a lot of different types of things,” says LoCascio, who has recently begun experimenting with leaves as well as the fermentation process of the wine itself. Exploding wine bottles and incorporating spills into female forms are some of her other recent artistic explorations.
Of course, when harvest calls, the paintbrush comes down and it’s all hands on deck for the family business. “We’re really busy, but I’ve come to realize that that’s all part of the process. So, when we’re bringing in grapes and doing the punch down and I’m helping with the wine, and watching the fermentations, it’s just kind of part of it and it all inspires me to think of different ideas,” she says.
“I think the act of being in the winery making the wine is inspiring for the art, too.”