Design and garden inspiration from some of the West's most colorful condos
story by Samantha Schoech
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Come on, live happy
To see how architecture can elevate your mood, just spend a day at Santa Barbara's Cota Street Studios.
Architect Jeff Shelton's fanciful details ― the cement plaster walls that look like whipped cream, the quirky fountains, and dollops of color everywhere ― charm the residents, and everyone who sees them.
The project promotes social connections, too. Its downtown location encourages walking, shared courtyards facilitate neighborliness, and street-facing benches, water fountains, and dog bowls invite the public to stop by.
Click ahead for a photo tour of this creative living space.
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Embellish the exterior
Plants gone a bit wild contribute to the sense of whimsy. On the wall along the stairs, terra-cotta pavers, some set upright, serve as decorative screens for exterior vents.
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Connect to the outdoors
"There really is a sense of indoor-outdoor living," says resident Lauren Wilson. "Part of it is the courtyards, and part of it is the balconies. They extend your living space."
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Local ceramicist Linda Hail created the 130 plates that are set into the façade. The curvy ironwork is by David Shelton, brother of architect Jeff Shelton.
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Soothe the senses
Every courtyard includes a water feature, ranging from a carved stone bowl in which blossoms are floated to this fountain made from a 6-foot-high urn.
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Steal this idea: Turn an under-the-stairs nook into a focal point with a painted chest and a vase filled with green foliage.
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Steal this idea: Give wood doors a lift with stencils. Shelton matched exterior paint to Minwax stains used elsewhere in the complex.
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Steal this idea: Get the 3-D look of Cota Street Studios' exterior walls by hanging Mexican painted-pottery dishes (from $15; jacarandahome.com).
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Celebrate the views
Lisa Star and daughter Luna with their Siamese, Maya. "My favorite thing is this door's view into the courtyard," Lisa says.
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Know your neighbors
"I didn’t want to live in an anonymous apartment complex with anonymous people," says AnnaMarie Daniels.