Big Style, Small Space: Smaller Place/Greener Lifestyle

Posted on Aug 29 by SEASONS Magazine

Story By Jane Ellison/Photographs By Jim Bartsch

Ron and Eileen Avolio’s home offers one surprise after another—an enormous sash window, exceptional ceiling height, a light-filled interior and the feeling of spaciousness that these bring to their 875-sq.-ft. condo.

After years of commuting to jobs in Santa Barbara and Montecito from their home near Hope Ranch, the couple moved to their current address, near West Beach, in 2005. “It doesn’t seem far,” Ron explains, “but driving to and from our jobs took a minimum of 20 minutes each way, and moving here translated into more leisure time.”

“Being closer to the center of town, we were able to eliminate one car,” Eileen adds. For a couple genuinely interested in leaving smaller footprints, this was a big plus. Cycling to work and on vacations is their preferred mode of transportation.

“When we first saw it, the walls were the color of custard cream and the floors were a patchwork of different designs that only made it look smaller. The first thing we did was to paint the entire space white and then extended the Tecate tile from the porch through the living room, dining room, kitchen and entryway,” Ron explains. “It brightened immediately and made it appear much larger.”

The ceiling height adds unexpected drama to the space and provides a counterbalance to the limited square footage. While the overall affect is contemporary, a nod to Santa Barbara’s earliest days can be seen not only in the floor tiles, but also in the placement of reeds that cover a portion of a lowered ceiling at the entry and recall their use at Casa De La Guerra.

Other touches—a lantern, carved wooden chest and floral streamer placed casually above a painted sideboard—are also reminiscent of Santa Barbara’s past.

With limited space, everything becomes potential storage. The couple’s “office” is contained within a former wet bar where files, laptop, printer and books are stored for convenient access, while a decorative chest hides a collection of footwear. Eileen’s jewelry designs are fabricated at the dining table and her supplies stored in the sideboard.

“Our motto is ‘bring one in, take one out’ and that means everything from a kitchen knife to a piece of furniture,” Ron laughs.

“It’s amazing to me that we almost didn’t go forward with the purchase, but then we realized how many pluses there were and how easily it could be made our own,” Eileen adds. “Yes, there’s limited space for dinner parties, but we’re within walking distance of many great restaurants. What more could you ask for?”

[Resources for the Avolio home include outdoor furniture from Porch in Carpinteria (805/684-0300,; home accessories from Maison K (805/969-1676,; and tile by Cayetano Lopez Custom Tile (805/451-8023, Ron Avolio served as general contractor and he and Eileen did the recycled bamboo ceiling themselves.]


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