Laurel’s Flower-Filled Country Garden Studio (With a View!)

updated Feb 20, 2019
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Name: Laurel Martinsky
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years; Rented

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Perched up in the hills above Santa Barbara, Laurel’s flower-filled home evokes the English country garden aesthetic of which she is fond. When she moved to the studio in 2011, instead of buying new pieces, Laurel worked with her existing collection of beloved furniture, taking on the challenge of making larger-scale pieces work in the one-room, multi-functioning space. Through artful, strategic arrangement, she was able to create a private bedroom, living room with seating for several guests, and dining area, all carved out of one small room. There’s no denying it’s a tight fit, but to Laurel it feels just right, cozy, and personal.

(Image credit: Sarita Relis Photography)

Laurel grew up in a 1930s English Tudor on the East Coast. The detail and craftsmanship in her childhood home made a lasting impression on her that still influences what she looks for in a living space to this day. “I could never live in a nondescript dwelling. I always look for character and unique spaces,” Laurel explains. Laurel’s mother loved antiquing and fine fabrics and linens, which was certainly an influence on her own style. “She always had stacks and stacks of decorating magazines around that I loved looking through as a girl, and I have definitely carried on with that tradition today,” shares Laurel.

Fresh flowers are a must for Laurel; they help brighten her space and bring the garden feel she is drawn to inside. Bountiful cherished bits of decor adorn her small studio, from beloved objects and art to scarves and textiles. Minimalism is not for her. To Laurel, places that are too sparse lack personality. She likes to see what people surround themselves with in their homes, relishing the story told by what is on display. Her own studio, a deeply personal space, most certainly offers more than a glimpse into her colorful and soulful life. Photos of her with Ram Dass are displayed among the many of her with musicians. If you look closely enough, you’ll know that it is her love of art, music, children, and gardens that enrich her life the most. Much of the artwork is by artist friends or is of places that are meaningful to her. And, as an early childhood Waldorf School teacher, her home is sweetened in many places by handcrafted gifts, offerings from her adoring students.

Prior to moving into her studio, Laurel lived in a one-bedroom cottage downtown for nearly nine years. The convenient location was walking distance to almost everything anyone could need, so the news that mold remediation issues would necessitate a move came as a bit of a blow. It isn’t easy finding housing in the extremely low-inventory and high-cost rental market of Santa Barbara. However, as often is the case, what initially felt like a loss has, on reflection, turned out to be a gain. The peace of being up in the Mission Canyon area, with sweeping views of the neighboring hillsides and the Pacific looming in the distance, is suiting her well, and she feels supremely grateful for her studio with a view, or, to borrow a phrase from Ram Dass, to Be Here Now.

(Image credit: Sarita Relis Photography)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: English Country Garden that has evolved into more of an Eclectic California Casual

Inspiration: Rachel Ashwell, shabby chic, European country house casual, Anthropologie, floral prints, and textiles

Favorite Element: The view from the chaise. I feel like I’m in Provence from my perch looking out the windows over the landscape

Biggest Challenge: The water goes off in our neighborhood rather frequently

What Friends Say: “Can I housesit when you’re away?”

Biggest Embarrassment: Clutter…a lot of it is stashed in the garage

Proudest DIY: Filling my house with personal things and styling it all—and the pillow coverings are a DIY I made using scarves.

Biggest Indulgence: The daybed… I purchased it from The Pacific Design Group in Los Angeles, back in the day when I had more money to spend on furniture.

Best Advice: Be consistent with color. Don’t buy it unless you really love it… no impulse buys.

Dream Sources: Antique shops in Connecticut, if I could afford to ship things back.



  • Pillowcases: DIY by Laurel using silk scarves
(Image credit: Sarita Relis Photography)


  • Daybed: Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles
  • Tapestries on chaise lounge: Lewis & Clark in Santa Barbara
  • Paintings: The Introduction (this is one I NEVER get tired of looking at!) by Patrick Shields
(Image credit: Sarita Relis Photography)


  • Painting: Coconut Grove by Patrick Shields


  • Victorian bed: from a friend whose parent liked to antique and found it at a farm in Ohio
  • Linens: April Cornell from Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Lamp: Westport Antique shop
  • Lampshade: Anthropologie
  • Small oil paintings: most from flea markets
  • Paintings: Sun and Morgan Lake by Laurel’s friend Bob Richter
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Well-tended flower pots line the steps to Laurel’s place. (Image credit: Sarita Relis Photography)

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Thanks, Laurel!