Name: Julie Montgomery and son, Henry
Location: Carpinteria, California
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: 3
Julie and her young son, Henry, were offered the chance to live at the base of a tropical fruit farm in Southern California, about a mile from the Pacific ocean. Included in the deal was a small studio within the packing facility to create her large–scale abstract paintings. Too good to be true, right? The only catch? She'd have to rehab an existing Airstream trailer and garden shed as her home. The resulting living situation is imaginative, inviting and absolutely wild.
After living abroad in a handful of European locales as well as several cities in Japan, Julie saw how much of the rest of the world lives. Upon returning to the States, she moved to San Francisco and was an active member of an artist collective. About four years ago, the opportunity to move Southwards to a cherimoya, avocado and guava farm in Carpinteria, California presented itself and she went with the flow. Julie and son Henry live in a way that is intertwined with the land and natural rhythms. Dirt, animals, plants, moderate weather — it's all there for Julie and Henry to explore and take part in.
Julie took on a dilapidated Airstream and shed located on the farm with gusto and style. The creativity and vision it took to imagine a home from such rugged elements is astounding. Julie transformed her space into what can only be described as a dazzling gypsy caravan. As a world traveler with a taste for handmade items with history, Julie incorporated trinkets, boxes, furniture and textiles from all over the world in a lovely, cohesive fashion. She covered the interior of the trailer with painter's drop cloth, creating a cocoon–like warmth and coziness. The effect of this simple DIY is elegant.
The kitchen is also wonderful, equipped with a petite Wedgewood stove, mini kitchen for Henry to play with and comfortable booth for dining. This mixed–use room is a galley kitchen meets old–fashioned diner. With the tall ceilings and colorful personal decorations, it actually feels as big as it does unconventional. A five minute walk up a dirt road, Julie's studio is nestled into the fruit-packing warehouse. In this space, Julie creates abstract paintings that are exhibited internationally. Of all the homes I've toured in this work that I do, this is by far the most eclectic, creative, interesting space I've had the opportunity to peek into.
Note: I didn't get any great images of Julie's teeny tiny sleeping nook, but she and Henry do have a space to sleep. It's just tucked away behind image number 7 within the tour.
Our style: Bohemian
Inspiration: Nature, antiques, Asian (buddahs)
Favorite Element: Living here has enabled me to raise my little boy from 2-5 yrs old instead of getting daycare while I worked. I have been able to thrive as a fine artist.
Biggest Challenge: The Airstream was in bad shape, the walls painted like a giant wave. I needed something the speed of lapping water. I had to change the walls without painting over it. So I took three drop cloths 9' x 12' from Home Depot, a cotton poly blend that looks like canvas and linen. I washed and dried them in a commercial washer and dryer, then stapled them to the interior, and made curtains. I even upholstered the closet shelves, creating a very peaceful quite space.
What Friends Say: They love it and feel like they're on vacation. Mexico meets Europe.
Proudest DIY: Along with the upholstering, I built a bench seat in the kitchen. It takes up the whole allowed space and creates a very comfortable space in the kitchen. You can even lay down all the way. Nothing like a rest in the kitchen!
Biggest Indulgence: A computer that could fit the space and serve as my main office, the stereo, television (Netflix streaming), and telephone.
Best Advice: With some creativity and thought, any space can become a little palace. Abundance for us is a full fruit bowl and spending time with my son. Time is the new money.
Green Elements/Initiatives: Small space makes for low heating cost. A clothesline helps, too.
Appliances: Small fridge from Sears.
Furniture: Thrifted, secondhand or found.
Accessories: Dropcloths, 12' x9' Home Depot or Paint supply, approximately $20 each.
Rugs and Carpets: Sea Grass carpet from Pier One.
Artwork: In bathroom, my own unfinished painting, other items gifts/traded with friends.
Flooring: Amazing roll out linoleum from Home Depot in the kitchen. It looks like "nothing special" in the store. Design looks like small planks about 2" x 14" and comes in a roll of 10' (I think) maybe 12' but looks amazing and holds up to serious foot traffic and kids playing. Never looks dirty. Made in Germany.
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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)