Santa Barbara cottage gets sleak upgrade

A new, clean, uniform look.

Erin McKnight

Nancy Lieberman wanted to simplify and update the façade of her "cutesy cottage" in Santa Barbara while adding a garage. She and her architect son, Jerome Olander, worked together to eliminate what he calls "a haphazard collection of details, including incongruous brackets and odd little windows," refaced "a very unfortunate lava-stone chimney," introduced a few key architectural features, and blanketed the home in a clean, uniform look.

The new garage occupies what had been part of the driveway to the right of the front door. "In an inspired moment," says Olander, "my mother suggested a glass door for the garage." The translucent panes flood the space with natural light and make the house more inviting at night. Other additions include a large bay window to open up the living room and a long, waist-high, plaster-covered planter that visually balances the chimney and also defines the path to the front door. Integrally colored plaster ties the various elements of the façade together, and new brick pavers for the driveway and path create an inviting entry.

The project was minimally disruptive and gave the recently retired and widowed Lieberman an unexpected bonus: the chance to work on something creative with her son. "It was wonderful to carry out Jerome's ideas while adding some of my own," she says.

Before remodeling your own façade, keep the following points in mind.

Avoid a hodgepodge look. Simplify your palette of materials. Three key elements are used here: Tinted plaster creates a soft, almost sculptural look as the main background element. The pigment was added to the final coat, and the contractor created a lightly textured, sandlike finish by rubbing the plaster with a sponge float before it hardened completely. Brick unites the driveway and the path to the front door. Glass gives the garage door a sleek look that complements the new corner bay window.

Define the entry. The simplest way to do this is with a planter, canopy, or clearly marked path. Low-growing plants help by edging the walkway and softening the angularity of the façade.

Design: Jerome Olander, Milwaukee (414/266-9123); David Lewis, David Lewis Construction, Santa Barbara (805/682-9930)