Sunday, February 20

California Dreaming, snapshots of a sunny vacation as interior design inspiration

Under The Pergola Column:
California Dreaming and Hamptons Living
photography by Gabriella Stephenson
just about this time of year with the deluge of sleet and snow and I'm up to my ears in snow boots and layers of dress, I start to think about one of my favorite places, California. Much of this state is an inspiration to me, from the varied topography, myriad of cultural influences, the food, the surf and more. My family and I recently took a road trip from sunny,Southern California in San Diego all the way to the Napa wine country. We headed north through Santa Barbara, Carmel, San Francisco and ending our trip in Napa Valley.  This was one of the most inspiring week long vacations I have had, and I came home fully loaded with an arsenal of new ideas and design tips from all I witnessed.  I don't know about you, but a vacation can really get me thinking about how I live - the good, the bad and sometimes even the ugly eyesore stuff that I have grown accustomed to living with (yes designers live with ugly too).  We tend to get stuck in the doldrums of our everyday life just like everyone else and after awhile we stop noticing some corners of our environment, but a trip away seems to snap me back to the visual day to day picture in my home. 
Highlights of the trip cemented 
design changes in my own home:
We drove through Orange County, Los Angeles and along the Pacific Coast Highway, enjoying many sights, museums, and food along the way.  Once we hit Santa Barbara both my husband and I agreed this was heaven - the Spanish influences tug strongly in this area.  At the Four Seasons Hotel we had one of the best meals of our trip, under the stars on a patio and overlooking the ocean - divine!
So, California dreaming is a thrilling ride sprinkled with ocean, fresh food, artistic materials, Spanish, Mexican and Asian influences, surfboards, vineyards and wine.  After a particular evening we spent in Santa Barbara during this visit, we decided to build a pergola in our beach house over our brick terrace.  Of course we have pergolas here in the east coast, but the memories of that one particular evening we sat amongst the heat lamps in Santa Barbara with bougainvillea flowers swaying slightly over our heads, heat lamps warming us on a patio of a cool evening (oh, and the added touch of the crashing surf in our distance), drove home the point to me to enjoy our outdoor space a bit more.  I created an alcove of sorts with the flower adorned pergola overlooking our pool and yard.  Each time I sit dining outside under the stars I am reminded of that spectacular place and time. I incorporated many California inspirations into a Fourth of July party and wrote about casual summer entertaining on Nest.  We turned a surfboard on its side, creating a raw seafood bar, brought in other nautical inspirations taken from our trip through California here.
The pergola we built over our brick patio n the back yard of
our beach house in the Hamptons was inspired
by our California road trip: 
 inspired by our California road trip
 Take a look at some of the photographs from San Diego to Napa Valley that my daughter took while on this trip.  

zucchini de flora Del Mar farmer's market 
The next phase of our trip was where we experienced the rugged beauty of California.  We drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, hugging the coast through Big Sur.

Hearst Castle is between Santa Barbara and Big Sur in the small town of San Luis Opispo. Talk about Old Hollywood -- I had read about this infamous estate over the years and this is not to be missed.  The Hearst estate is an eclectic home with a mishmash of design inspirations from Egyptian times to European influences, and even boasted a zoo during it's original times.  

The Castle was dreamt up by William Randolph Hearst.  With the direction of architect Julia Morgan, they starting building this estate beginning in 1919 and construction spanned nearly 30 years. In 1957, The Hearst Corporation donated the estate to the State of California. The main house called, "La Casa Grande," is still home today to Hearst's collection of European antiques and art. The castle is a blend of historic architectural styles that Hearst admired in his travels around the world. The main house is modeled after a 16th century Spanish cathedral, while the outdoor pool features an ancient Roman temple. The house has Spanish influences while the gardens and pool are quite different in feel.

A jaunt through Carmel by the Sea.  
It was like stepping into Provence, France and a nice respite from the Southern sunny California vibe, however, the crashing ocean is only a quick walk from town.  Carmel feels steeped in history, and we arrived at L'auberge to find a lovely quiet oasis right in the middle of town.

 l'auberge in Carmel by the Sea
 The ocean smell permeates the air and the town is cool and crisp and cultural.

stop into the l'auburge for a sampling of fine California cuisine

When we thought we had seen a wide range of topography and influences, we came upon  the great city of San Francisco and later the Napa Valley. From the San Franciso food, architecture and rolling hills to Napa's vineyards and design inspirations I was rejuvenated. 

Now what cinched the deal for me (what is the deal you ask, well the deal was to take the California essence home with me and incorporate it into our home) was our stay in the Napa Valley.  It was a serene way to end a very busy trip of navigating and the spa-like feeling of the entire area was lovely.  We especially enjoyed our stay at The Carneros Inn and Spa.  The hotel is a fine combination of cool, hip with country, vineyards and wine thrown in for good measure.  We stayed in separate cabins that felt both luxurious and rustic at the same time. There was something for all of us. I liked the indoor/outdoor shower. Of course my daughter loved the horses that roamed the property and my son loved these darn donuts.  My husband was happy with the spectacular wine choices. The entire hotel has a spa retreat feeling.  

for California insider deisgn tips: 
my friend interior designer Lori Gilder lives and works in Los Angeles -- she graciously shared with Nest some secret design sources in the Los Angeles area.  Lori  is CEO and Founder of Interior Makeovers Inc. She is an award winning Architectural Interior Designer to Hollywood’s elite and is dedicated to providing her clients with a unique set of design standards and expert guidance throughout the home renovation process. Check out Lori Gilder's website here or read her blog Diary Of A Renovation which is chock-filled with design tips and expert ideas. I love her trademark sign off - "Dream It! Plan It! Design It! Do It! Live It!" Thank You Lori and looking forward to seeing you at the Design Blog Conference next week!
5433 Satsuma Ave.
North Hollywood CA 91601
I discovered this little gem years ago while Art and Set Decorating for commercials and movies. Always on the hunt for unique and unusual finds, Scavenger’s Paradise won’t disappoint. Here you can find the most interesting one-of-a-kind architectural pieces for your home.  I discovered a great set of wood panels, salvaged from a bank building and re-used re-stained, and refurbished them by attaching them to a header in my kitchen for some instant character.
3049 South La Cienega Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
One of my favorite places to wander through but it takes some time to absorb everything. The 60,000 square foot warehouse is literally stacked with solid wood doors, windows, columns, railings, carvings and furniture of all kinds imported from 20 different countries. These doors were shipped from Berbere in a container along with many other pieces to a home I was designing in San Jose del Cabo, They were such an integral feature to the entrance of the home that we literally designed and built the entrance around these doors to accommodate they’re massive size.

7505 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90232
I’ve been a fan of Rolling Greens nursery in Culver City for years – for all living greens – interior and exterior. It truly is the best source I know for a vast assortment of live exotic plants with planters from around the world, and a beautiful yet limited collection of home accessories. Sashay on up to the “Arrangement Bar” and a “Barista” will help you create the most spectacular and unusual arrangements for your home or next housewarming gift. My personal favorite is Khall Designs Scent Diffuser in Egyptian Jasmine! Yum!


My Dog-Eared Pages said...

What a great post T! Love California influences and bringing them back home. Gabby's detailed images are just wonderful. She's got it! Thanks for sharing all of the CA beauty. ; )

quintessence said...

Wow - what an incredibly comprehensive inspirational post. Haven't been to California in many years - but you certainly make it look enticing. Your daughter's photos are marvelous! I think travel is so important for inspiration in all aspects of life. You did a fabulous job incorporating it in your fun looking July 4 party!!

Lori Gilder said...


What a great post!!! California Dreaming is what we do best here in Cali. Santa Barbara is a favorite spot for our family as well....and LOVE the pergola extending from your Hampton home. It creates a perfect space for entertaining family and friends in the hot summer months.

And thank you so very much for allowing me to share some of my favorite LA finds with you and your readers!

Looking forward to seeing you soon.


Tamara Matthews-Stephenson said...

Thanks all for you comments - will be announcing details of a pillow giveaway by tomorrow and all those that comment on this post are eligible to win! Thanks for the generous donation from The Well Appointed House -- I'm over there guest posting this week as well about our fun design challenge and fun fun. xo tamara

carriesdesignmusings said...

The ability to travel is not only a gift but a necessity in this business. My trip to Turkey inspired 2 jobs I did and it doesn't matter where you go, there's something visually exciting around every corner! Your daughter is quite the photographer. Looking forward to meeting you at the conference!

Vickie H. said...

Such a lovely post!

jb @BuildingMoxie said...

Hiya -- I mentioned to a few during our recent retreat that I did some time in Cali in my late twenties...

I am far different now than I was then. (ha!). While aware of the "essence" I don't think I came close to savoring it -- let alone being able to put it into words -- even now. Thank you for taking me back briefly.

Love your tip for locking into one element from your travels and incorporating it into the home . . . and why. *thumbs up*

Yay, Lori! your home in the Hampdens is lovely, gorgeous pics (courtesy of your daughter) and enjoy the upcoming blogging conference.


Renae Moore said...

I loved your CA trip...I grew up in southern CA and all of your adventures took me back down memory lane!
It makes me realize I need a drive up Hwy 1 from LA to SF. Big Sur, Montery, Carmel....oh I can feel the breeze now!
Wish I could be with you now on a visit!

Cait said...

just came across your blog! you have some great insight on your posts! i can't wait to see what you come up with next! what a fabulous post- i love all the pictures!

Jan said...

Gabby! Photos are incredible...You have a photographers eye. Great job!