Tamara Honey revives her family’s Montecito home designed by a pioneering female architect in the 1950s
The hustle and bustle of L.A. can be both thrilling and exhausting. For interior designer Tamara Honey and her husband, who is a commercial producer, finding the ideal location for weekend and holiday retreats was crucial in maintaining a healthy peace of mind while working in fast-paced creative industries.
The couple, both Canadian with a great love for the outdoors, embarked on a trip to Montecito, where they quickly fell in love with the community, the sacred land and the bohemian state of mind. “It didn’t take much exploring with our realtor to set our goals on a particular area,” says Honey. “We immediately found a mid-century home, which is not a common style in Montecito, and instantly knew it was ours.”
Designed originally by Lutah Riggs, one of the first American female architects who produced many iconic structures in the Santa Barbara area, the style of the home paid homage to Japanese architecture. The three- bedroom, three-bathroom home, which was built in the 1950s, sits down the road from another of Riggs’ masterpieces, the Vedanta Temple, where Frank Lloyd Wright advised her on the garden layout. “She loved creating uncluttered spaces that were livable and beautiful in an understated way and was known for her prominent outdoor gardens,” notes Honey. “A modern blur between indoors and outdoors, which I adore!”
Honey channeled Riggs’ minimalism in her own approach by departing from the layered style she normaly gravitates toward. “I was daydreaming of a small home that felt intimate and allowed our family to be together,” says Honey. “When you have a small space, everything has to have its place and be hidden.”
In a little over four years, they customized the one-acre property by reworking the primary residence and adding two new structures, while preserving the shell. “I appreciated the charming glass and wood, indoor/outdoor flow and warmth of the surrounding woods and greens,” notes the designer. “Upon meeting the first owner, I was convinced I could reimagine this interior while maintaining its original essence.”
The once compact space was expanded with the removal of original walls and the addition of a glass, metal and wood cube that was connected to the main building, creating a new master suite. A guest home was built in the same materials and style to the master suite while a pool, dining area, bocce court and deck built around massive surrounding boulders were added to maximize the weekend splendor.
When it came to the interiors, Honey had to edit her vast collection of antiques, art and curiosities to capture the essence of Riggs’s austerity. “I’m not a minimalist but more of a collector, so it was a tough journey to select my all-time favorite pieces.” An avid traveler, Honey’s recent trips to Japan and Scandinavia inspired her to infuse moments from these journeys. “I recently learned there is a new hybrid trend, the ‘Japandi’ aesthetic, which combines the modern-rustic vibe of Scandinavia with the traditional elegance of Japanese style,” says Honey. “It’s the best of both worlds and an exercise in minimalism.”
Everything in the home has a function and a place, allowing for maximum appreciation. This philosophy continues outside, where Honey installed a Zen garden and clad the exterior of the home with blackened cedar, mimicking the tradition of shousugi ban, a process used to preserve the wood by charring.
Honey and her family, who narrowly escaped the tragic fire and mudslides that crippled the region, have gained a deeper appreciation and love for the community and their future in the home. “We hope to help preserve the neighborhood’s sense of charm and community we have come to love and cross our fingers that our children will as well.”