When I think of summers at the beach in Carpinteria, California, I think of the non-existent technological stimulus and the meditative smells of wild roses, the sea, and bacon being prepped for Sunday sandwiches. Sunday sandwiches were a family classic and enjoyed on the brick patio during lunchtime. They were made with homemade brioche buns, peanut butter, mayo, fresh tomato, onion, and a couple slices of thick crispy bacon. Although a bizarre combination of flavors, it tastes delicious. It is a sandwich worthy of eating any day of the week. It was especially tasty with a bottle of Orange Crush soda that left me smiling with an orange mustache. Each week, a truck would arrive filled with six packs of glass-bottled soda ranging from original Coca Cola to grape soda. I would always ask the soda man for Orange Crush. The rest of the day was spent beachside where we fit in every activity possible. Canoeing in the slough, riding bikes, catching crabs, building sandcastles and drip castles, and lounging in the dunes were some of our favorites; adults included. By dinnertime, we would build a fire on the dunes and roast hotdogs and marshmallows on sticks. Without a doubt, someone would manage to drop their dog-on-a-stick in the sand which never sat well with Dad. On Sunday nights, sandy dogs were not in the cards. Sunday dinner brought our family together for a proper meal. We rinsed off the sand and threw on summer dresses while the boys put on coat and tie. My grandmother always looked fabulous and free from any stray of sand. She wore beautiful long flowy dresses and jewels. By 6:30, it was time to walk over to the front house breezeway for cocktail hour. At 7:30, we sat down for dinner and to cap off the night, we gathered in the living room for coffee, tea, and candied ginger. For our family, these moments are what make this house so special and deeply nostalgic. In a way, these memories have attached significance to many of the classical architectural features of the house.
Whether you grew up moving to different homes or living in the same house, a room, a piece of decor, or architectural feature has a way of attaching itself to memories. The memory of your favorite hiding place for hide-and-go-seek or place to read in a vintage rocking chair under natural light resurfaces feelings of that home. This is why designing, renovating, or restoring a home takes so much careful thought and teamwork. What is the personality of the home? How will the space live? How will it host togetherness? How can we make it last? I think these are the questions my grandmother asked herself when she built her Sandyland Cove property in 1957.
To escape the summer heat in Pasadena and be with friends at the beach, my grandmother bought her property at Sandyland Cove. She hired architect, Richard Leitch of Pasadena, California, who built the two adjacent mid-century modern homes that we now affectionately call the “Back House” and the “Front House.” The single story homes made for the perfect space to share seaside moments with family. My grandmother built them to last. The linoleum tile flooring was armor against sandy feet running in and out of both houses. While we only changed the kitchen countertops, the Formica countertops in the bathrooms are still the same lemon yellow and turquoise. This laminated surface from the 50’s withstood the cooking flurry of Sunday dinners, Thanksgiving, and post-beach bathing like nothing else. The cabinetry is all ash wood with classic mid-century hardware. Wood paneling around the house is redwood. From walls to ceilings, the wood gives warmth to each room while maintaining a clean modern look. Some of the windows in both homes have textured opaque glass and were originally framed in aluminum. All these architectural and design elements are a marriage of Richard Leitch and my grandmother’s style. So, how did I keep what is important to my family while freshening it up?
My goal for this project was to keep the simple atmosphere we all loved while enhancing it with things that were beachy and fun yet durable and practical. Everything my grandmother used carried forward through multiple generations. Practicality went a long way. The first big item I changed was flooring. Although the 50’s linoleum flooring was bullet proof (asbestos), new flooring needed to be installed to outlast another generation. I used a vinyl flooring in both houses that was lighter, a neutral, and complimented the original redwood paneling. The well-used yellow and turquoise Formica kitchen countertops were replaced with Pental quartz. I brought back the cheeriness of the yellow and turquoise in the kitchen paint colors. The original O’Keefe and Merritt stove tops and hoods from the 50’s were restored and put back in place. The Formica countertops in the bathrooms still remain and look brand new with a fresh coat of wall paint. Each room was given a new coat of paint. I stayed fairly neutral and brought in fun colors with fresh patterns and new bedding. I merged classic seaside patterns with mid-century geometric shapes. I used a lot of indoor-outdoor fabrics to follow the theme of practicality. These fabrics were used to reupholster my grandmother’s traditional English and mid-century furniture. In addition, most lamps and mirrors were replaced with period appropriate pieces. Lastly, we completely re-landscaped by adding a variety of beautiful grasses and drought tolerant plants, extensive decking, fire pits, and repaving the driveway with cement and brick.
A year later it is complete and our family has been able to return for an eventful summer at our beloved Sandyland. Sunday sandwiches are enjoyed on the new deck on the bluff, family and friends are plopped on the newly upholstered sofas for a post-dinner episode of Game of Thrones, and s’mores are roasted in a new proper fire pit. It is still enjoyed the same way but with a little more oomph. Safe to say, we accomplished our goal.