California Coasting

By Degen Pener

Veranda, April 2010

Outdoors and indoors freely commingle at this California beach house—so much that it’s almost as if the residents had let the breathtaking natural environment colonize their Santa Barbara home, situated on a spectacular sliver of land clasped between the ocean and a tidal bird sanctuary. A bowl of sand dollars on the entry table greets guests. A rough-cut limestone coffee table is strewn with fine flotsam: an African shell necklace, shell-encrusted bowls, terra-cotta doves and eroded stone spheres. And the multitude of pelicans, curlews, sanderlings and herons that poke and wade and idle outside in the marsh appear to have found new niches inside, represented by a growing collection of avian sculptures and figures that nestle on tables, shelves and books.

“It’s not cutesy beachy,” says former computer engineer Barbara Siemon, who lives in the three-bedroom, wood and glass house with husband Greg, a retired software entrepreneur. “All the things in here look like they were swept in by the ocean of the wind.”

It was Richard Hallberg and Barbara Wiseley of Los Angeles-based Hallberg-Wiseley who actually did the sweeping in. their work subtly captures the rough grace of the Pacific seashore. Indeed, sun-bleached off-whites, beiges and grays rule the interior color palette as surely as they blanket the beach. For the combined living and dining areas, the designers commissioned a rug of antique linen that picks up the shifting values of sand. There’s an earthy, almost sensual feel to the furnishings, which include driftwood spheres, a reproduction of a chunky stalactite fashioned as a side table and a bench of woven iron—all by Formations, one of the designers’ two furniture companies, along with Dennis & Leen.

Antiques chosen for their rustic authenticity—such as a Spanish leather chair and a rumpled leather trunk just as old—fit comfortably into the mix in this house.

“Part of design is responding to nature,” says Hallberg. “All of our work is grounded in that it gives you a connection to the earth. I think that’s why we’re obsessed with spheres.”

The shore-hugging, one-story house—redesigned by Mary Andrulaitis of Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects in Carpinteria, California, six years ago—communes with the outside via wall-to-wall windows looking out on the ocean, nearby Santa Cruz Island and the Santa Ynez Mountains. “It’s all about enjoying the scenes and not getting too stuffy about it,” says Siemon, who has become a friend of both interior designers.

“We all come down here at least twice a week with our dogs and run on the beach,” says Wiseley. “It’s my favorite place in the whole world.” Serendipity is the order of the day, with time devoted to collecting stones and shells, playing Frisbee and watching the always-fascinating flocks of birds.

And because sand is an inescapable fact of life here—”This is my third vacuum today,” jokes Siemon—Hallberg and Wiseley covered all sofas and chairs in outdoor fabrics. “You just brush it off,” says Wiseley.

Says Siemon, “Some people have a house at the beach, but this is a true beach house.”


California Coasting