Jesse & Leia’s Inspired Americana Bungalow

published Nov 29, 2010
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Jesse Keenan, Leia Everett, and our two kitties Libby and Nola
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Size: 585 Square Feet
Years lived in: 4 years

After a relaxing drive up to Santa Barbara, I visited the home of an endearing young couple living in a bungalow community. The row of homes was so quaint and pristine, I felt like I was in a time warp going back many years to when neighbors still borrowed a cup of sugar. It turns out the residents of this small community of homes do still borrow ingredients from each other, hang clothes on lines and carefully tend to their gardens. What makes Jesse and Leia’s home even more nostalgic is that one of the bungalows was Leia’s parents’ first home, which they lived in over 40 years ago.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

As bungalows have become vacant, Jesse and Leia encouraged their friends to move into the community. Having friends nearby means walking home from a dinner party and impromptu movie nights. Every time they consider moving to a larger city, they realize that their requirements for an ideal place describe their current situation. When I closed the door to their home and walked down the narrow road to exit the community, life seemed perfect and a bit simpler.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: An eclectic mix of Mid-Century modern, antique curios, and vintage artwork.

Inspiration:The last room that I lived in had all wood paneling and got very little natural light. So, when Leia and I moved in together I insisted upon a lot of color and was very resistant to any wood furniture unless it was painted (but I’ve since eased up on this).

With that in mind, we ended up creating a colorful space that has drawn inspiration from everything from Wes Anderson films, to the designs of Jonathan Adler, and Charles and Ray Eames. We were both pleasantly surprised at how well the pieces we had been collecting separately over the years organically blended together in our small space. Reading Jonathan Adler’s book, “My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living,” was a vindication of sorts for me as I realized that I wasn’t the only one who appreciated what my Dad lovingly called my style – “old lady style.”

In addition, many of our wonderfully creative friends have become favorite sources of inspiration for us. Specifically, Chris Sewell and his wife Kenny Osehan, who own and operate a local modern boutique motel, The Presidio Motel, where they also recently opened a shop within the motel called The Supply Room. They are two of the most stylish and inspiring people you could hope to meet and they are usually involved in (or responsible for) most of the hip events in Santa Barbara.

Also, our friends Jim Huff and Janel Holiday, who live in San Francisco and both work in the design field, have been inspiring us for years with their impeccable taste. They have also been tremendously encouraging to us in fostering our own unique style. We love visiting their stunning home (and adorable teacup Chihuahua, Lulu) in the Mt. Davidson neighborhood of SF.

Favorite Element: Currently I’m loving our pull out turntable shelf that is part of the TV unit/bookcase that Leia’s dad made for us. It’s been so nice listening to vinyl with breakfast or with some friends and an evening cocktail. Rarely does the iPod get any use in our home anymore. The only downside is that now we need to figure out how to create more storage for our burgeoning record collection. (I’ve got some ideas).

Biggest Challenge: Lack of space and storage. Our bungalows were originally built as vacation homes, so closet/storage space is extremely limited. We both have a lot of belongings, plus we have a hard time getting rid of things. However, we’ve come to realize that we are always finding new things we love, so it’s been easier lately for us to just let stuff go. In addition, we have several friends and neighbors who have been kind enough to give homes to several pieces we don’t have room for (it’s a bit of a win-win). Plus, in order to continue justifying our thrifting addiction, we’ve recently opened a booth in a local antique store, Cominichi’s, where we offer those items that we just couldn’t pass up despite our lack of space (or older items that have been swapped out for something new).

We also love to entertain, so another challenge was being able to accommodate a lot of people in our 11’x14′ living/dining room. By creating a dining area behind the living room seating, we are able to have a small dinner party at our table (or on our outside patio), and then adjourn to our sofa and theater chairs to watch a movie (we can seat 12 “comfortably”).

What Friends Say: Most of our friends seem pleasantly overwhelmed with our place. We often hear that they could spend hours looking around and still not notice everything. It’s gratifying to have frequent visitors that appreciate different details each time they visit. One friend likes to mess with me by moving stuff around slightly to see if I’ll notice that it’s been misplaced. I notice.

Another friend called our place “Baroque Modern” while another commented that it was like “Jonathan Adler on steroids.” While I appreciate both comments (I’m pretty sure they were intended as compliments), I feel like neither quite describes our aesthetic. If anyone has any suggestions on how to characterize our style, they’d be welcome.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our back storage closet (behind Leia’s craft area) is pretty bad. We’ve reorganized it a couple of times, trying to make it more functional, but it still ends up being a dumping ground when we don’t know where else to put something. Every time I pull the vacuum out, while trying to navigate the precariously piled boxes I mutter, “this is the WORST setup.” We usually just instruct our guests to not look back there.

Proudest DIY: I’m not sure if this necessarily counts (since we didn’t quite build it ourselves), but our TV unit/bookcase has been a storage lifesaver. Leia’s dad Craig is a gifted carpenter and we told him exactly what we wanted and he built it for us (I helped hold and lift things). In fact, he had to sort of build it twice (three years apart) as we recently upgraded our old 27″ TV with a 40″ flat screen, so Craig gave the old unit a retrofit. Plus, he was able to add our beloved turntable shelf (our record player was purely ornamental before this point).

Recent actual DIY – Not nearly as impressive as the TV unit, (but actually done by me) was the insulation wall I made between our fridge and stove. In an effort to combat the energy inefficiency of having the fridge next to the stove, I got some outdoor insulation, a piece of plywood and attached a piece of sheet metal to it and mounted it to the fridge. A pleasant surprise was that the sheet metal actually acts as a pretty good dry-erase board. Bonus!

Biggest Indulgence: Our 4 Eames Eiffel chairs were a bit of an indulgence for us. We had a really hard time picking which color we wanted, but settled on white since we had so much color everywhere else. We’ve been quite happy with our choice. At the time though, it felt like such a monumental decision that we likened it to how one must feel choosing a tattoo. (As such, it’s probably not a huge shock to learn that neither of us is sporting any ink.)

Best advice: Make use of your vertical space. We are constantly trying to find more storage space (I’m looking at you records) and since we can’t fit any more furniture anywhere, there is nowhere to go but up.

Also, if you find something that you really like, but you don’t know where it’ll live, just get it. I’ve had too many things that I later regret not purchasing. If you don’t end up using it, you can always gift it to a friend (or just open a booth in an antique store if you’ve already filled all of your friends places with cool stuff).

Dream source: I just asked Leia what she thought we should put for this and she answered, “somewhere in Scandinavia?” In other words, we don’t really have a single dream source for stuff. But we enjoy having distinctive pieces and some of our favorite shops (other than thrift and antique stores) in which to find them are:

  • Canoe in Portland
  • Spartan in Austin – (also be sure to check out it’s sister store Bows and Arrows right next door)
  • Warbler Records & Goods, which a a great new record and gift shop in Santa Barbara. It is owned and operated by our very nice friends, Kurt and Leigh.
  • Moon River Chattel in Brooklyn
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


  • Built-in TV unit/bookcase: Handbuilt by Leia’s dad, Craig Everett of Custom Closets of Santa Barbara (805) 895-5717
  • Sofa: Old Town Antique (local shop)
  • Bertoia Chair: eBay
  • Eames Chairs: DWR


Most of our accessories come from local thrift stores – Alpha Thrift is our favorite. Another resource is a local antique/vintage shop, Cominichi’s, located downtown Santa Barbara. Jesse has a booth at Cominichi’s. The fox/racoon pillows are from Push Me Pull You Design.

Most of our artwork is from local thrift and antique shops as well as Estate sales. Some of the art is from Cominichi’s. The Bear Print in the kitchen is from Rifle Paper Co. The animal portraits are Ryan Berkley. The Dog Portraits are from Old Town Antique in Santa Barbara.

Most hardware is original to the house.



  • Floor Lamp: Target
  • Pendant Lamp: Santa Barbara High Flea Market
  • Papiro Floor Lamp: DWR
  • Wall Sconces: Original to house


Thanks Jesse & Leia!

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Re-edited from a post originally published on 11.29.10 – AB