From an Outdoor Sauna to a Tea Loft, This Santa Cruz Home Is Full of Cozy Corners and Forest Views
The modern cottage was remodeled into an earthy, nature-inspired retreat in just six months.
Eva Holbrook and her partner, Jamie Williams, had a pretty good idea of what they were looking for in a home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But after months of searching, they hadn’t found what they were looking for—until they found this 16-acre property with a main house, guest house, yurt, and plenty of outdoor space. “I knew [I loved it] right away,” says Holbrook. “Jamie wasn’t sure until after we visited several times, spent some time walking the property, and met the neighbors, who are now our dear friends.”
They purchased the property in November 2018, and began renovations that included remodeling the kitchen, taking the existing bathrooms down to the studs and completely rebuilding them, and adding a large outdoor bathing space and deck.
“Our original scope was quite simple, but once we started getting deeper into the creative flow, inspiration started bubbling up,” Holbrook explains. “So we ended up hiring a full service construction crew versus moving in right away and remodeled each space slowly one by one.”
The earthy, grounded style of the home is easy to see as soon as you enter the living room and kitchen. Holbrook and Williams used the traditional dining area to create a low eating lounge with vintage Turkish rugs, a teak Japanese-style table, and rattan floor cushions.
Instead of splurging on a full kitchen remodel, the couple focused on what really needed updating in the room. “I wanted new modern flat-faced cabinets, but it just felt too wasteful as the existing ones were of good quality and still had a lot of life,” says Holbrook. “So we splurged a little on the kitchen backsplash tile from Heath, and switched out the countertops to brighten up the space.”
Next to the kitchen and dining lounge is the living room, with earthy tile that catches the eye. “I love how the warm sand-colored walls complement the terracotta Zellige tile behind the wood-burning stove and wood beams,” says Holbrook.
While the couple leans towards neutral palettes, they experimented with color in the guest bathroom—and were blown away by the results. “I love how this bathroom turned out,” says Holbrook. Soft blue tile pairs beautifully with the rounded mirror and wooden vanity.
Even the toilet nook packs a neutral punch, with fun sconces, plenty of overhead storage, and woven baskets for storage and waste.
One of Holbrook’s favorite spots of the home is the upstairs tea loft. The angles of the roof make for an architectural statement, and using the space for seated tea ceremonies and meditation makes sense. “I knew it would be the space for tea when we first walked through the home,” says Holbrook. “There is a huge skylight that allows the trees to be reflected in the tea bowl.”
The cozy upper guest room also takes advantage of the angled ceiling, using it in place of a traditional headboard. The skylight above gives guests plenty of natural light to enjoy, and warm colors from the Moroccan rug pair with the warm wood beams. “Two big windows look out to the forest, so when you wake up in this room, you open your eyes and feel like you are floating in the trees,” says Holbrook.
The main bedroom’s ceilings feel astronomically high in comparison. The couple leaned minimalist in the decor for a retreat-like bedroom, with a wood-burning stove to keep it warm.
The main bath might not have blue tile, but the clawfoot bath more than makes up for it, especially with serene views of the forest to enjoy while taking a dip.
The shower’s soft tile allows the gold finish in the hardware to really shine. “We designed the space to be really open and minimal, using the concrete flooring throughout the shower and entire room,” says Holbrook.
Who needs an indoor dining room when you’ve got a covered deck? With space for eight, Holbrook and Williams have plenty of room for themselves and their guests. The couple also hosts yoga retreats, song circles, community gatherings, and various workshops using their expansive outdoor space.
“This was probably the biggest transformation of all,” says Holbrook of the outdoor space. The couple added a massive backyard deck, since the property’s yard is steep and uneven, along with a sauna and hot tub. “It was pretty much just dirt, and the previous owners didn’t really take care of the grounds. We probably used most of our budget on the deck and spa zone! Well worth it though, as we are always outside entertaining, bathing, soaking, and steaming.”
The outdoor space wasn’t easy to remodel, but Holbrook came with extra experience. “We had to update the electrical system for the entire property to support the new hot tub and sauna we added outside. Luckily this is what I do for work, so I was able to coach Jamie through the project and keep us on track and organized.”