Robin's Beachy Chic Abode

Robin's Beachy Chic Abode

Leela Cyd
Jun 15, 2011

Name: Robin Bisio
Location: Santa Barbara
Years lived in: 35

Robin's home, just a block from the Pacific Ocean in sunny Santa Barbara, California radiates true personal style that stems from a life-long love of nature, dance and ritual. She uses materials from the surrounding beaches, parks and forests as decorative touches throughout her home, reminding us that great green style doesn't necessarily come from an expensive shop.


Passion for the natural environment that surrounds her, handmade objects from trips abroad, and artwork made by friends meet sustainable style in the home of Robin Bisio. The bones of her house are great, but it's her penchant for creating thoughtful, elegant vignettes with materials gathered on beach walks and hikes that make the the space come alive. Little altars and poetic moments adorn almost every room, dazzling guests with perfect imperfection. This effort costs nothing, just time and attention to cultivate beauty. Robin shows us that these small gestures can make a home magical, we simply have to make time and see what materials surround us. To me, this is the most inspired, elegant way to decorate because there's nothing more stunning than natural materials. Nature does it better!

Robin's green backbone shows up in her lifestyle as well as her home. An avid cyclist, she can be seen riding her bike downtown or to the beach to meet one of her dancers. Many of her dances take place outdoors, in gardens, parks or in the sand, kinetic feet joyfully moving through the water's edge. Robin is also a filmmaker, co-creating a documentary on one of California's plein-air grandfathers, Ray Strong. A sketch he did at the age of 100 hangs in her hallway. Most artwork in the home is by local artists, traded or gifted. Robin's green thumb is apparent in her relaxed garden, where an assortment of pots and vessels give way to multiple varieties and colors of flowers and edibles. Robin doesn't drive, hardly uses her dryer (what with all that southern California sunshine, she just hangs her clothes from a line!), and her garden/windows are all designed to create more airflow and maintain a comfortable temperature.

A few years ago, Robin enlisted the help of Telios Environmental to make several green changes to her home, among them enclosing her porch (turning the space into a dining area), adding more skylights and windows, creating a better flow of air and more light. She also hired a master gardener who helped get rid of a mushy lawn, trimmed back large, jungly plants and rethought the garden to help the house stay dry, a challenge when the humidity of the ocean is only a block away. These changes and efforts made a huge impact on the health of the home, a truly wonderful space to dwell.

Re-Nest Survey:

Our style: Arty beach cottage

Inspiration: Stones, birds, flowers nature, surfing, dance, art

Favorite Element: New dining room indoor/outdoor space, dance studio

Biggest Challenge: Keeping the house clean with all the doors and windows open a lot, termites, nightly visitations by skunks, wildlife

What Friends Say: "This is a sanctuary."

Proudest DIY: Hammock brought home from Guatemala and hung in new garden, replanting succulents all over the yard (when I needed a pick me up), laid the flooring in my dance studio myself

Biggest Indulgence: Outdoor shower

Best Advice: Look for your home decorations in the park or at the beach and change every week to create an overall home altar. No cookie cutter houses! Where you live is an art.

Green Elements/Initiatives:

Water issues:
• Sprinkler and watering system evaluated and adjusted/repaired so that nothing was being over-watered. Sprinklers redirected so that they watered plants, and not the building.
• Landscaping replaced or adjusted to allow light into windows and keep water out. 
• Grass replaced with stones to save water.
• Appliances adjusted to save water.
• Solid doors in studio replaced with light curtains in closet and bath to allow light and air flow. Water absorbing salts added to keep moisture and mold at bay.
• Improved fan installed to keep moisture down.
• Stones placed on walkways to keep dirt and mud from constantly being tracked into house.
• Outdoor shower installed so beach goers could rinse themselves and their wetsuits, then dry off before tracking water and sand into the house.

Energy Efficiency:
• Light bulbs replaced with LEDs or CFLs.
• Front door replaced with glass door to let in natural light.
• Patio enclosed to create sun room which brought in more natural light (greatly reducing the constant need for electric lighting) and passive solar heat.
• Laundry line put up in a sunny area of the yard so that clothes could be hung instead of always using the dryer.

Lifestyle/ Health
• Toxic vinyl shower curtains replaced with washable (and dry-able) fabric curtains.
• Rooms repainted with no VOC paints.
• Organic edibles added to landscaping to encourage on site food production.
• Compost beefed up to keep raccoons and other critters out.
• Entire outside of the house washed to remove mold. Areas that needed repainting were painted with low VOC paint.


Furniture: Found, old, collected over years with nothing matchy: some homemade tables, some antiques, some gifts from friends.

Accessories: From nature, sticks, stones, branches, shells; Indian blankets, tribal art from Papua New Guinea; wooden carvings from New Mexico.

Lighting: Collected over time, garage sales, chandelier from Italy.

Rugs and Carpets: Travels all over the place, rugs from the Middle East bought in Sedona, Arizona.

Tiles and Stone: Some from beach.

Beds: Hlanket from Anthropologie.

Artwork: Collected over time, California artists and photographers, Arna Bee photos.

Paint: Zero-VOC throughout house.

Flooring: Tile, wood

Visit Telios Environmental: Telios Environmental

(Thanks, Robin!)

Interested in sharing your home with Re-Nest? Contact our editors through our Green Tour Submission Form.

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

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