Name: Cissy and Richard Ross
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Size: 2,200 sq/ft
Years lived in: 32
Wouldn't it be amazing to live one block from the Pacific ocean? Where your dining room is fashioned from a green house, a vivid sign collection is hung salon style, freesias burst from the window boxes year-round and you sleep outside four months of the year? Cissy and Richard let the Southern California light, natural greenery and a lifetime love of travel inform their unique, throw-caution-to-the-wind sensibility.
Cissy and Richard, a writer and photographer, also both University professors have lived in their Santa Barbara abode for thirty two years. They've seen styles come and go, but always held strongly the belief that their home's biggest triumph, is that it serves as the location where their friends and family feel comfortable. The rest is just gravy. And such juicy, glorious design gravy it is! Richard's career as a photographer has taken him to the ends of the Earth, and he always barters for a handmade sign, the result is a cacophony of symbols in different manifestations and languages. Being a teachers and friends to many artists, the couple has a wonderful art collection, from celebrated artists such as Ann Hamilton, Marion Post Wolcott, Keith Puccinelli and VIto Acconci to undergrad and graduate students' work. Every new piece acquired is situated into the salon-style hanging, with a little reshuffling and diligent use of a level.
Cissy and Richard live a very green lifestyle in the sense that they were repurposing, recycling, collecting heirloom objects, gardening and taking the bus long before it became cool to do so. The couple dreams up a new table of reclaimed wood from an abandoned warehouse in Portland (where their two grown kids live), they bring it back with them, sand it in the woodshop, add metal legs from a table found in a friend's trash can, and boom, the most gorgeous (and gigantic, it seats 14 people!) table is born. When remodeling their kitchen a few years ago, they needed an island, so they bought a slick stainless-steel toolbox (very affordable) from Costco, added wheels to it and a wooden chop block to its top.
Cissy composts regularly, tends to her potted succulents (red pencil trees and jade trees galore!) and many meals come from the efforts in their edible garden. Their creativity, passion for hosting (hardly a day goes by where a student, friend, visiting artist or friend of a friend isn't staying in the guest room) and incredible way with color and art make their home a place of wonder and beauty. This is a space that truly reflects joyful years together, an aesthetic no design magazine or blog can teach.
Our style: California eclectic
Inspiration: Art and Nature, huge dinner parties, walking our dog, poetry, our children, getting out of town, sitting in the hot tub.
Favorite Element: The kitchen and dining room are perhaps the crown jewel of the house -- we spend a lot of time hanging out, doing work, eating and entertaining in this open space. The green house dining room is full of endless light and watching the trees sway. It's a great spot for a nap.
Biggest Challenge: Our daughter, living in the house while remodeling. She and her husband would be awakened by our coffee maker going off at 6am, then the work crew tapping on the guest bedroom window by 6:45. Despite this, she's always scheming her next visit to Santa Barbara.
What Friends Say: Thanks for a lovely dinner.
Proudest DIY: Dining room table, made from salvaged fir that I found in an empty warehouse in Portland, OR -- in my kids' old neighborhood. We needed a new table because our dinner parties and our graduate class dinners started to crowd our old table (which I made as well, over 25 years ago). THis new one is so beautiful and it seats 14 comfortably!
Biggest Indulgence: Coffee maker. It's our life force! Morning cup, afternoon cup, after dinner cup, it's our favorite child.
Best Advice: Live in your home that your feel comfortable with.....don't buy someone else's dream.
Green Elements/Initiatives: Compost, solar room, skylights, vegetable garden, on demand water heater, taking the bus.
Furniture: Unmatched chairs and dishes picked up from places like Ikea, art galleries and off people's curbs. I once found two gorgeous Eames Chairs in the street, ready for trash collection!
Accessories: Art from around the world, art from my daughter and son-in-law (both artists), art from students, friends and colleagues.
Lighting: folk art planes rewired with lights (in dining room), Dutch designer lamps (can't remember exact make)
Rugs and Carpets:
• Persian, found online: Rugman
• other carpets haggled over for 3 days in Tunisia and Turkey. My daughter and I sipped tea and wound up at these rug dealers' houses for dinner by the end of our bartering session. Great fun!
Tiles and Stone:
• sheets of pebble stone grouted outside
• porcelain tiles rather than granite
• subway tiles were seconds (minor aesthetic flaws) sourced from another friend's kitchen (she was throwing them away)
• greenhouse room attached to house
• curtains made from muslin, made by a friend 25 years ago
Beds: All double beds rather than queens -- we sleep outside all Summer and into early Fall in a canopy bed with a mosquito net. It's great to fall asleep under the stars.
Artwork: Extensive and purchased from graduate students or traded with friends. Portraits by David Kilpatrick
Paint: Tijuana special palette - we embrace bright colors. Our friends are painters and they hooked us up.
Flooring: Pecan parquet refinished. 1954 original.
• Richard's Photography: Richard Ross
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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)