Tell us about your home in California.
Tommy: We live in Santa Barbara in a Mediterranean, bohemian style home. Santa Barbara faces directly south – not west, like most of CA. Because we’re south, the water is a lot calmer, it’s less windy, and you get sun all day, from morning till night.We bought the last lot in an open space with spectacular views called the Mesa. When we were younger and dating, we visited the area several times, sitting and staring at the stars because it was such a nice view. I told Nakisa that if we could ever build a house, this where I wanna do it.
Nakisa: We were both born and raised in Santa Barbara, but there was something special about the views there… such a sheer dropoff. I felt like we were flying. The Mesa because it has a very laid-back feel. A lot of people know Montecito which is more exclusive and gated, think big hedges. The mesa is considered “old Santa Barbara” and is different than that. It’s a central area with a hippy, outdoorsey feel. It’s normal to see surfers walking around. The Mesa is neighborhoodey, family-oriented, and draws the nature-loving, organic-eating types of people. Apparently that’s us.
How long till you bought the plot of land in the Mesa?
Tommy: After dating in Santa Barbara, Nakisa moved to NYC. I joined her there after a couple of years. It wasn’t until 2013 – 10 years later – that we moved back to California, saw the area was being developed, and purchased the plot of land. Santa Barbara is very anti-development so the building guidelines are very strict. Each home had to have 1.2 acres, and they wanted to keep 5 acres of open space in the grouping of houses there.
How did you approach the build?
Nakisa: We wanted a place that felt clean and lived-in. We built a one-story, ranch style home with an open plan. There are lots of white and wood elements like paneling, moulding, coffered ceilings, etc. However, we tried to keep the wood warm and cozy vs. traditional or stuffy through simple, clean lines – nothing intricate or too ornate – to keep things feeling casual.
Tommy: We tried to build the house in a way that highlighted nature and the location… eg bi-fold French-style doors that frame the ocean in several rooms, big beautiful old reclaimed beams that frame the headers of the doors. Also, each ceiling in each room is different to create different moods. We lowered the ceiling in the dining room and coffered it to make it feel cozy. We installed batten board in the kitchen and the main sitting area to add a beachy feel.
Nakisa: Any time I can use wood, I will. I love how it softens up all of the white and marble. For example, we put wood floors in our master bathroom instead of tile. It was an unusual choice, but I thought, ‘how cool, this makes a bathroom feel so inviting, you’re not standing on a cold floor!’
What was your vision for the interiors? Did you use a designer?
Nakisa: Because our home is Mediterranean, and Santa Barbara teems with Mediterranean and Spanish homes, I wanted to do something different. We are informal and have eclectic, bohemian style. Anything overly designed doesn’t feel like us. The design vision was an eclectic California coastal feel – think shabby chic and farmhouse touches. It was important to us to incorporate things from our time on the East Coast as well as souvenirs from special trips visiting friends in the South. Memories and experiences are what make a home unique! Moods differ by room. Our daughter’s room is shabby chic, our son’s room is nautical, the master bedroom leans more French.
We worked with a designer, but only for 5-10 hours per month. I was cost-sensitive and wanted to be involved. She gave us resources and websites to figure out how to utilize the space, and I selected the furniture and fixtures. To be honest, we’re still not finished decorating! We still need art for the walls. I was so wiped out after the process of building that I got lazy…. but in some ways, it’s nice to have time to curate pieces over time rather than do it all at once.
Favorite pieces and why?
Tommy: Two paintings of the ocean and Big Sur (see one below) that were my grandmother’s. It’s mesmerizing to see a violent ocean… I can sit and stare at it and feel like I’m there. I get bored easily so it’s awesome to be able to look at them for action and movement! These pieces always bring me peace, particularly when we lived in New York and I was so far from home.
Plus, I love the story behind them. The artist was Bennett Bradbury whom my grandma met. She was a very bohemian type of woman who lived in the Santa Cruz woods on 200 acres. When she met him, Bennett was a bohemian hippy and homeless. She offered him lodging in exchange for paintings. He agreed and the rest is history. He went on to become one of the most famous seascape artists in California and the Smithsonian features his pieces! My grandmother knew I always loved his paintings, so she gave these to me when the time was right. This meant a lot to me.
Nakisa: Our bed. I wanted a 4-poster bed ever since I was a little girl! A designer helped me with it. It became a passion project. The wood is sage and we upholstered a fleur-de-lis fabric on the backboard. Any piece you design with love becomes special, right? I love this piece. It is simple and elegant.
I also love our tufted leather couch. It’s industrial looking, so we upholstered the slipcover cushions in green velvet to give it a bohemian, unexpected vibe. The interplay of masculine and feminine is fun.
Can you share your regular spots/insider picks in Santa Barbara with us?
- The best things in SB are along the mountains or the coast. We love the San Ysidro Ranch hotel – it’s where Jackie O and JFK stayed for their honeymoon. The food is farm to table. It’s in the foothills and is a magical spot for dinner, drinks, and special occasions.
- The Funk Zone is a cool, former warehouse district with a lot of little boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and wine tasting where Main Street meets the ocean. The Funk Zone encompasses a square mile and has the sensibility of Brooklyn-meets-California… eg super bohemian, full of art, and great restaurants. It’s such a fun area!
- Santa Barbara is full of amazing hiking trails. The mountains go from sea level to the 4,000 feet in 2 miles! Hot Springs Trail is our favorite and a must-try.
- Padaro beach is a wonderful beach to wander.
What prompted this second act and move to Paris?
Nakisa: My second act in Paris was a long time coming. I knew I needed to do this. My parents worked so hard but didn’t have the opportunity to travel. They were practical, and it was a “follow the formula” mentality. I knew those weren’t the right steps for me. My parents understood it, even though it was so different for them.
I made the decision to move to NY alone (Tommy decided to join after I’d been there several months) – I bought a one-way ticket, no job and didn’t know a soul there when I left California. I’ve always had this side to me… maybe it’s wanderlust, I’m not sure. But I knew I wanted to do it on my own and that I need to change and experience life. I don’t always know what I’m searching for, but I don’t know if that matters. If you have a strong desire, you sometimes have to listen and go for it.
Tommy: I came to Paris for Nakisa! I did it to fulfill her dream she has had since I first met her. As a kid I was constantly uprooted and moving, her upbringing was stable… so we came at this from very different perspectives. What made me feel most complete was having a home. Then I married Nakisa, who wants to be a nomad. 🙂 I am happy wherever we are as a family, but I definitely need the gravity of having our home in Santa Barbara to go back to.
Nakisa: When I start feeling too comfortable, I get uncomfortable.
Tommy: I’ve realized that when you live in a place where there isn’t any change, you need to reinvent yourself constantly to feel like you’re evolving. In a place like Paris, you don’t need to reinvent yourself because there is so much change around you. It’s calming because you just evolve with the city itself.
Tell us about your place in Paris (note: I might need to do a 2nd blog post to show photos of their place in Paris … it’s equally interesting!)
Tommy: We live in the heart of Paris in the 7th arrondissement. It’s a completely different world from our home in California and we’re having so much fun! We still hold Santa Barbara dear to our hearts. We’ve been surprised at how much Paris has a village feel. Paris has a more relaxed vibe than most other cities we’ve spent time in. I’ve learned so much here. Here we live every day as we want to – it’s very inspiring. It’s all about beauty, culture, taking your time, enjoying your life and savoring every moment. We’ve really slowed down.
Nakisa: California tries to espouse a lot of those same ideals, but in our experience most Californians don’t always live that way in practice (us included when we were there!). They drink kale juice and go to the gym, but Americans don’t make time for themselves like the French do. And creating that time and space to just relax, with no agenda and no plans, is what really reduces stress. And increases spontaneity. There are endless opportunities here for soaking it all in with the culture and art alone…
Can you share your regular Parisian hang spots/insider picks with us?
- Soul Kitchen in Montmartre: Soul Kitchen is owned by three sisters. They feature a simple menu of three options (that change out every day). We eat lunch there every week, and it’s amazing every time. The food is fresh, organic, seasonal, and made with love.
- Mokonuts: it’s a French Mediterranean, cozy mom & pop coffee shop with only 8ish tables. We typically go with groups of 5 or so people, order everything on the menu, and then share. They also have a great wine selection.
- Fragments coffee: Fragments is in Place des Vosges, so it’s an awesome place to hang out. They have coffee and a great patisserie chef. Their flourless chocolate cake, sweet potato cake, and carrot cake are to die for!
- Strolling Pont Neuf during sunset
- Meandering through Île Saint-Louis anytime – it’s the most charming area of Paris, the true center of Paris, and there’s not a car there! If you’re a romantic, you can’t miss it… you’ll want to write a poem while you’re there. There’s a famous gelato there called Berthillion Glacier that you can check out.
- Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a beautiful rolling park in Paris’s 19th arr – take a picnic or go to Rosa Bonheur, a charming funky restaurant in the park for drinks and snacks and late night dancing