to smile when climbing the set of steps leading to Tom and Judy Nilsen's
Spanish Colonial bungalow near Pueblo
tile adorns the winding stairway and alongside, fruit trees and unique
garden artifacts line the four-tiered front yard. At the top, the entry
offers a warm welcome in shades of green, red, yellow and blue.
are not sure what to expect at the bottom of the stairs and get a
surprise when they reach the front door," says Judy, a retired art
inside of the white stucco building is just as vibrant. Furniture and
textiles are patterned in apple green, golden yellow and paprika red
in accordance with Monterey style,
spurred by the Spanish Revival movement of the 1920s and '30s.
done a lot of research on Monterey furniture
and wanted to convert our home that way," says Judy, explaining that
celebrities like Will Rogers, Clark Gable and Bela Lugosi were great
"The furniture is really expensive, but we have crafted most of the
things you see in here ourselves."
Tom, who did the brilliant tile work on the front stairway and in the
couple's bathroom, "We didn't really have to spend much money at
corner of the well-lit living room, the borders of a pine cupboard
with wrought-iron strapping were hand-painted by Judy in a green, yellow
and red floral pattern. Flipping through the pages of a book on Monterey furnishings,
she finds the corner cabinet she modeled hers after, and the resemblance
is striking. Apparently, the only major difference is the price:
authentic cabinets sell for several thousand dollars; Judy spent about
$650 on the entire piece. Across the room, Judy also transformed a
Mexican stereo cabinet and a once plain-looking lamp base in the same
Above the dining table hangs an early California antique chandelier,
the first Monterey piece Judy bought.
"It's perfect for the casual Spanish style of our home," she
says, pointing to its traditional floral pattern as well as the leather
and metal accents. The artist says she's still searching high and low
for the perfect piece for the stucco wall that separates the dining
area from the bar-style kitchen. "There are so many windows and niches
in this house that we don't have room for much art," says Judy, who
has a masters degree in folk art. "The piece I get for this wall has
to be very special. But I will find it some day."
In the bathroom, Judy brightened up a tall bookshelf and adorned it
with multihued artifacts, painted the wall lamps (she got them plain
at Pottery Barn) and transformed the window trimmings with a joyful
mix of purple, turquoise, yellow and blue. Here, the couple also tiled
the walls and a drain shelf behind the tub, creating the perfect ledge
for plants and candles just beneath the windows.
Outdoors, the couple made the fence that encloses the left side of
the house match the front door (even the outdoor pipes are covered
in bright tones). Originally, Judy wanted to add Monterey colors to
the exterior trim as well, but after Tom had finished painting the
entire interior and all the windowpanes, he was adamant they repaint
the outside trim in its existing blue tone.
The back patio also takes on a Mexican theme with tall palm trees,
a palapa and a barbeque area. Along the back fence, Tom, a retired
school administrator, has put up his impressive collection of license
plates, all from 1939 (his birth year) while another side of the fence
holds one of the "TO BEACH" signs you find all around Santa Barbara.
the one who manufactures these signs," reveals Judy.
couple, originally from the San Fernando Valley, bought the house five
years ago after having rented a Riviera home for seven and a half years
(the first five years they only visited Santa Barbara on weekends).
At the time they were looking to relocate permanently, very few Santa
Barbara homes were for sale, and both Judy and Tom say they feel
fortunate to have found this charming bungalow close to downtown, yet
in a quiet neighborhood.
was built in the 1930s, but it has very good bones," Tom says, pointing
out that most of the upgrades the couples have made are aesthetic rather
admits he loves to sit in the living room with the front door wide open,
looking out over the garden and the red-tile rooftops below.
"The breeze makes this room so comfortable," he says, adding
that another thing he treasures about the home is the many parties the
couple has thrown here since they moved in. Most recently, the Nilsens
celebrated Judy's birthday with a big bash on the back patio.
the guests brought paper lanterns that we hung across the back. It was
so beautiful," says Judy, who confesses that the one thing she does
miss is a more spacious living and dining room for larger get-togethers.
"Tom disagrees. He says we're fine throwing small parties," she
Tom's probably right. Regardless of how many people the Nilsens invite
over, guests will always receive a warm welcome from the moment they
climb the stairs to reach the multicolored front door.