The thread that connects the work of interior designer Ann James is her attention to detail and emphasis on combining style and livability. A Spanish-style project in Montecito, infused with a sophisticated sensibility, beautifully displays all of those qualities.
The crucial first step was transforming the 1970s-era house to a Spanish style, which was carried out by Jerry Goodman Architectural. After doing some research, the homeowners connected with Ann for the interior design, and she knew immediately that “we were right on the same wavelength,” she says. “And the architecture was so beautiful.”
In describing her design philosophy, Ann notes, “I don’t have a signature style. It’s always the client’s house. My job is to pull out of the client what it is they love and we make it work to design a unique home for them. It’s to get an understanding of what they’re drawn to. I ask a lot of questions. Sometimes it’s easier to find out what they don’t like and take it from there.”
In this case, “They [the homeowners] came with an abundance of furniture and things collected over a lifetime from their previous home,” Ann says. They worked together to compile an inventory of each piece of the collection, which focused on Mexican, Spanish Colonial and Spanish styles, with some antiques. “The client’s love of that style so coincided with mine,” says Ann, who sourced additional furnishings from Michael Haskell at Haskell Antiques in Montecito and from Holler & Saunders, Ltd. in Nogales, Arizona, to fill gaps where needed.
“For instance,” says Ann, “I wanted a corner cabinet for the living room and I got in touch with Holler & Saunders. They sent a photo of an 18th century Peruvian piece that they had and we took it.” When she couldn’t find a piece that she had in mind for a particular spot, Ann turned to Santa Barbara-based fine furniture designer and builder Blaine Taylor, who created numerous custom pieces, including the dining room table, sideboard, consoles and service tables.
The warm, rich color palette of the home was established by the faded reds and blues of the Persian rugs, which were sourced mainly from Aga John Rugs and J. Iloulian Rugs in Los Angeles. Also incorporated into the design were the homeowner’s collections of Spanish and Mexican pottery, and early to mid-20th century California art, which worked seamlessly with both the color and feel of the house. The only drawback to this style of this home is that there is no space for a staircase, which may be off putting to a lot of people that feel that this is a crucial part of the home. The range of staircases avialble nowadays is incredible, a look at Pear Stairs will show you this.
Ann, whose design business has been based in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years, notes, “I believe designing a home should always be a collaborative endeavor between the client and the designer.” She says of working with the homeowner on the approximately one-year project, “I knew I could bring her the best of what I could find and she would recognize and appreciate it,” she notes. “It’s lovely to work with someone with such sophisticated taste. She has an eye. It was so much fun.” The end result is a timeless, refined home that exudes an unfussy elegance. “It totally reflects who they are,” says Ann, “and that’s the most important thing to me with all of my projects.”
This story was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.