Story by Judy Foreman | Photos by Leela Cyd
Despite living in one of the world’s most scenic beach enclaves, when searching for a nest, Diani chose instead to buy a Mission Canyon mountaintop retreat in 1998. Since she loves to hike and be a part of nature, this hilltop hideaway reflects Diani’s deepest passions, in addition to her love of fashion. One of the superstars of the retail women’s fashion landscape since 2002, she has survived and thrived despite the challenges of the Internet intrusion on bricks-and-mortar businesses like hers.
Married to Diani since June of 2013 is one of the original members of Blue Man group, Jeffrey Doornbos, an actor, writer, photographer and musician. Born into a close-knit Dutch family in Michigan, he worked in New York and Chicago and lived in Los Angeles when the couple met in 2011. His L.A. residence, with its midcentury modern influence, is still a pied-á-terre the couple uses when they work in Los Angeles, but clearly their Santa Barbara home is where they are putting down roots.
For their nuptials, they chose a traditional church setting at the Presidio in downtown Santa Barbara, followed by an evening reception at their home for close friends and family. “We wanted to be able to always look out over our garden and have flashbacks of everyone there dancing, drinking and celebrating our wedding together,” says Diani. “We live in a destination setting, so why go anywhere else?” Walking down the aisle at sunset in her Monique Lullier gown—carrying her late mother’s rosary, her father’s prayer book and a lily of the valley bouquet—Diani and Doornbos recited their marriage vows and began their future together.
Although Diani originally designed and remodeled the Mission Canyon house for herself, she welcomed sharing her life and her home. “I never wanted to live alone, and love the changes that have happened since Jeffrey moved in with me,” she says. To make the home truly their own, Giffin & Crane assisted them in replacing the existing white-washed floors with dark barn wood planks throughout, glazing the walls with Venetian plaster, gutting and starting over with their guest bathroom and adding many of Doornbos’ personal treasures to live alongside Diani’s. They seem to be an excellent fit for each other personally, and they also have an esthetic compatibility that makes their home a perfect reflection of their relationship.
A compound of white, ranch-style buildings overlooks a stunning view of a vast canyon with open spaces that make the world seem far away. Carved wooden front doors open up into a combination dining room and sitting area. With the fire burning in the fireplace and the teakettle whistling, we sat in their living room, which overlooks a canyon and floods the room with natural light. The spacious outdoor living areas are in full view from large single-pane windows, which make Diani and Doornbos’ home an indoor and outdoor oasis that merges beauty and space.
In addition to a swimming pool, the outside grounds are used for dining, herb gardens and a playground for their beloved dogs, Plum and Raisin. Their kitchen—replete with white cabinets, a large Viking stainless steel refrigerator and charming chicken-wire fronts for the upper cabinets—has a clean, open and accessible feeling. Splashes of color throughout the one-story floor plan— with textiles draped over white couches, pillows, lighting, rugs, art and driftwood accessories—all add to the reflection of the warmth, character and personalities of its residents.
A favorite space is a large dining room with a Moroccan area rug they purchased on their honeymoon, which lies beneath the table big enough to seat 12. This room looks out over a white garage wall planted with succulent vignettes. Another interior wall includes a statement mirror and Victorian furniture Diani brought from England. The coat closet is made from a pair of retrofitted doors from Bali that the couple found in one of the Summerland antique stores. An aviation photograph by Jeff Clark hangs over a cabinet topped with prominently displayed family photographs. A pair of velvet-covered slipper chairs cozy up to a cast iron stove in a corner of the front room, and an easel is set up with a canvas painting that Diani is working on: a portrait of Jeffrey.
“Painting and drawing make me happy,” says Diani, “almost as much as chocolate covered almonds!”
In between acting jobs, Doornbos joins Diani on her buying trips to Los Angeles, New York, and Paris and photographs their life and travels for her blog, which is not just about the clothes she is wearing, but the life they are living. Diani’s inspiration for trends in her store and home comes from observing people in cafes and on the streets where she travels. Even though she considers herself a very private and shy person, she shares bits and pieces of her personal life on her lifestyle blog.
“I want my customers to know the person behind the business and be more transparent. More than just a store, the blog is becoming a conversation and collaboration with my customers and creating a larger community of like-minded people, which I really love,” she says.
Routine drives both Diani and Doornbos crazy and this “blessed unrest,” as they describe it, takes them on many paths and inspires creativity. As their life expands, they do not worry about the future, but are excited with the possibilities. Additional plans for remodeling the mountaintop home are on the mental drawing board and might even include rooms for a family. For now they are focused on creating what they call “an old-fashioned homestead,” where their home is more than just a place to sleep, but rather a place to create memories, celebrate holidays and create a soft landing to return to when travel and daily routines end.
Originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.