how to make a modern home work when you are a cottage girl at heart

For those of you who follow me, you know I moved to California from a traditional home in New England… a  1917 stone and stucco Connecticut cottage to be exact.  I grew up in older homes with lots of character and even lived in a historic brownstone building in NYC when I was first married.  “Modern” just wasn’t part of my vocabulary.  When we decided to buy a house in Santa Barbara, I was at first drawn to the older Spanish homes that oozed charm.  I searched for nine months and knew every new listing as soon as it hit the market.  One day while I was scrolling through endless pictures of homes on the internet, a new listing caught my eye.  It was described as an “airy, informal, and romantic home… a stunning mid-century modern shaped to embrace the outdoors”.  Hmm. Well it looked promising. It was bright and open in the photographs.

I called my realtor and was scheduled to see it the next day at the broker’s open. Not a patient person by nature, I plugged the address into my navigation system and went to check it out.  What a disappointment!  I couldn’t even see the house from the road… only the garage was visible.  It had zero curb appeal in my opinion.  I was used to quaint cottages and New England weathered shingled exteriors.  This was a stucco wall and a flat roof tucked into what appeared to be a small lot.  Honestly, if I hadn’t seen some photos of the interior,  I would have never given it a second look.

The next day with incredibly low expectations, I attended the broker’s open. My first impression was how bright it was.  It was completely open to the outside with curtains billowing and no screens on the numerous French doors.  I was smitten and put in an offer that afternoon.  My husband was still in Connecticut, but trusted me when I told him that this was the one.  It wasn’t until later when our offer was accepted that I realized I had no idea how to furnish and decorate this style of house.  It was completely foreign to me…this strange place of glass and metal doors and windows!

There were lots of obstacles to overcome before we were actually able to acquire the house.  I won’t bore you with the gory details.  Long story short, we weren’t able to move into the house until almost five months later.  At the time, it was terribly frustrating.  But I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and it gave me time to really think about this little house and how we would live in it.  My sweet hubby’s only request was that it had to be comfortable, oh,  and it had to have a hot tub…fair enough.

I scoured books, shops, and catalogs trying to figure out how I wanted to decorate our new California home.  I knew what I didn’t want.  I didn’t want it to look cold and sterile, and I certainly didn’t want it to look like a midcentury set from a Mad Men episode.

It was a little shop called p o r c h that ignited my decorating scheme for what I dubbed my “California look”… natural, organic, and yes, modern.  After all, the p o r c h tag line is “where shelter and nature converge”. Perfect!  I knew I wanted clean lines and nothing too cottagey and so I began gathering furniture and things for our new home.  Our rental condo became a glorified storage unit!

Here’s what I have learned. Just because you have a modern home, It doesn’t mean you have to furnish it with all modern stuff. True, a Victorian settee probably wouldn’t have worked, but a few rustic and vintage pieces definitely brought some soul into our Little Glass House.

I wanted to draw attention to the stunning California vistas so I painted most everything white and used very little pattern so that the outdoors became the star.  I used art to bring in  color and personality.  I really love ocean themed art and have been steadily collecting it over the years. With limited wall space, a gallery wall seemed the perfect way to showcase it.  It continues to grow…DSC01061

I had always wanted a big farm table to gather family and friends.  With our open space concept, there was plenty of room for one. I bought ours from Restoration Hardware . It fit the bill because even though it was rustic, it had clean lines and extension leaves so that we could seat up to 10-12 people!FullSizeRender-281

For my hubby, I bought a plump clean lined sofa and chairs from Pottery Barn.  I do think we will eventually replace the sofa with a sectional for even more seating and lounging.DSC02496

But my favorite furniture purchase were the two cool chairs we bought at p o r c h for in front of our fireplace.  They are modern and organic at the same time. I’m a little obsessed with them if truth be told.IMG_1159

Fresh flowers and plants (see story flowers and plants, and trees, oh my!) further warmed up our home. They are readily available year round and add so much life to our abode.IMG_6351

Recently I scored some vintage tins for the kitchen from Mate Gallery that look like they came straight out of the fifties.  I love the green color and that they can actually be used. They bring such energy to our kitchen!  Sometimes it’s the smallest details that can make the biggest impact.IMG_1241

I’m never finished decorating.  Tastes and needs change and things need to be replaced and updated… like the master bathroom.  But that’s another story.  So while I’m still a cottage girl at heart, I’ve made this modern home work for us and after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?




5 thoughts on “how to make a modern home work when you are a cottage girl at heart

  1. I love everything about your setup!! We’re planning on moving houses in a couple of months and all the ones we’ve seen haven’t been quite the style we’re looking for, so it’s great to know that we can make it our own!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How exciting! You definitely can make it your own. I can’t believe I was so intimidated by this little modern house. Now I absolutely love it and our “California style”. Change can be a good thing. Best of luck! Would love to know how it turns out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you!! I agree. I’ve moved a few times in my life and I always find that I’m changing my decor to fit the place, when in fact I should be adapting to my personal tastes. Will definitely keep you posted! Have a great day!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely story, Elizabeth! I always try to get just a little outside of my comfort zone, when decorating. I am a cottage girl at heart myself and live vicariously my cottage life through others (until we actually move into the cottage of our dreams), so your post is spot on for me. Adapting our style and making surroundings work with our lives opens us up to new possibilities! And by the way, those chairs in front of the fireplace are amazing, I’ve been admiring them for awhile now on Insta 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Eva. It’s amazing how much more creative and how much we grow when we step outside our comfort zone. Not only in decorating but in our everyday life. If someone had told me years ago that I would be living in a mid century modern house in California I would have though they were loopy! And yet here I am very much at home here in Santa Barbara and at our Little Glass House. I guess we just have to be open to life’s possibilities! 🙂


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