Santa Barbara Green Home Makeover

Door Before

New Front Door and Skylights Allow More Light

Outdoor Shower

By Robin Bisio

When Harold and Dorrie Powell suggested some simple, fast strategies to spruce up my beach house, I accepted their leadership. I had seen their award winning green houses over the years, especially a beach house they renovated across the street on Shoreline Drive in Santa Barbara.I had house envy of their stylish, harmonious and beautiful abodes. Now it was my turn. Here is what happened in a month!

1. First step. Gulp. My girl is off to college so out went her backyard hogging trampoline. Harold and his crew replaced the play area with river rocks lined with large beach stones. Now when we go to the beach, we look for shells and stones to the to the backyard gathering spot. The plants have all been cut back (bringing more air and sunlight) and the mulch has been spread. (and the irrigation system fixed) so water use is much more economical. Some plants have been moved and I have been instructed not to over water next to the wooden house which can cause mold. We spread the stone motif to the front and side of the house over previously raked ground. (which tended to get muddy) Not only does everything look beautiful and beachy, there is much less sand and dirt tracked inside. Oh and we now have an outdoor shower conveniently attached to an existing fence  over the new river rocks with an elegant bamboo water line running from a preexisting water heater. It is amazing that just the presence of an outdoor shower invites more surfing, snorkeling, beach walks and kayaking.

2. Ah Yes. Mold. Ask anyone who lives by the beach– this is a big problem. Here are some of our solutions. We changed out a solid front door for a door with windows to bring in more light. We trimmed back light blocking bushes and vines next to windows and, in some cases replaced the plants with white roses redolent of shore front Maine cottages. Workers also scrubbed the dirty and somewhat moldy exteriors with a simple soapy solution. The house looks so clean now that the new paint job I was contemplating is off. Just certain areas that show weather damage will have to be addressed with a new coat of no VOC paint.

3. In the mold fight, we paid special attention to our attached guest cottage which had shown itself to be especially vulnerable to the seafront blight. First step was to throw away the futon which had a surprising but awful rim of mold where it had rested directly on the tile floor. In its place is a bed  designed by Harold made with reclaimed wooden corbels as legs which beautifully lifts the mattress off the ground and with the use of a slatted platform allows air to flow around all surfaces.  We replaced closet doors and cabinet fronts with fresh curtains to allow air to circulate. Banished was the toxic vinyl shower curtain. In its stead is a washable natural fiber curtain that does not output gas. Harold also put up a high curtain between the bedroom and bathroom to block steam from entering the room wholesale and contributing to the mold party. Everything was scrubbed clean with vinegar and repainted with no VOC paint. The results are so fresh and cheerful it is nothing short of a miracle.

4. Harold adjusted the washing machine to agitate properly and cleaned out the dishwasher with vinegar and other solutions to guarantee better use of utilities and power. He also refocused some vents so they do not blow directly against the house with their humid enterprises.

5. Now that there is so much light flooding into the house, we do not need the artificial variety all day long. Dimmer switches and energy efficient light bulbs are part of the new deal here. THe worm composters my daughter made for her senior project are in full kitchen use with another compost pile in the yard for leaves.

6. And I almost forgot the piece di resistance…a clothes line. It is portable so it can be taken down for a party, say, but everyday it reminds me of the past when family grandmas hung their wash out. It feels good to see this line in use just for those memories.

7. I look forward to our next phase which will be glassing in the front overhang to make a new sun porch. This will allow for more heat and light, and a place to hang hammocks. In the meantime, the house is renewed, a beacon of light on the coast that invites play and reflection.

8. My long-term to do list: as time and funds permit, there will be additional skylights, solar panels, bamboo flooring and a changing of the guard to more energy efficient appliances.

9. Your turn! Surely you will find the process as fun and educational as I did.