Burnham Design builds a breezy Spanish Revival vacation home in Santa Barbara with timeless features and unexpected flourishes.
A mix of organic, cozy, modern, classic and offbeat pieces give the living room of this Santa Barbara-area home by Burnham Design a polished-yet-eclectic point of view.
After seeing a Spanish-style home project of hers in a magazine, designer Betsy Burnham’s clients reached out to see if she could turn a dated house in the Santa Barbara area into the vacation of home their dreams. “We met later in the process, and we got along well; we’ve since done another project together,” says Burnham of the professional couple with two teenage sons. “They are sophisticated, down-to-earth, thoughtful, well-traveled, hard-working, family-oriented people.”
Burnham’s clients loved their new home’s neighborhood, but after being in the same family for over 50 years, the house needed significant work. “It was outdated; the rooms were low-ceilinged and small,” Burnham shares. “My clients knew it would need a major remodel in order to work for their family and for entertaining. When we were brought on board, the goal was always a house that felt like ‘vacation.’”
An additional seating area features artwork from Sears-Peyton Gallery and window treatments by KUFRI.
“The clients have busy careers, active kids and lots of friends and wanted a true getaway,” says Burnham, who, along with her team, planned to touch all surfaces of the home and rework layouts to bring in more light and added functionality. “With that in mind, we all worked toward a relaxed type of elegance.” Her clients responded well to comfort, texture, a cool palette, clean details and whimsy, all set against a backdrop of Spanish details like terra cotta floors, handforged iron and custom-carved wood doors, so Burnham planned to incorporate those elements throughout. “In addition, there’s a playfulness in the details; the clients were involved in adding quirk and personality,” Burnham shares. “Having fun with the design was one of the family’s primary goals.”
Burnham Design worked closely with deVOL to ensure the Sebastian Cox Kitchen fit perfectly into the home.
“We were inspired by the home’s provenance, as well as by Santa Barbara’s wonderful, original Spanish colonial architecture,” Burnham explains. “We made a point of visiting the courthouse on one of our first official visits. In addition, we drew inspiration from the client’s art collection, which included centuries-old sculptures and cool, breezy seascapes. During the project, I also traveled to Peru, where I found some of the pottery that now lives in the dining room.”
The kitchen features antique hardwood timbers and box beams from Vintage Timberworks.
“We always start with the grand gestures—the aforementioned change in floor plan, the decision to use deVOL (one of our favorite English resources) for the kitchen, the choice of materials for floors, the look of the new doors and windows, and a general color palette,” says Burnham. “Once we all agree on those elements, we get more granular—bathroom materials and fittings, tile for the kitchen, and appliances. Projects of this scope require detailed specifications and drawings, so we treat furnishing as a second phase. Once construction is underway, we set to work on furniture plans, such as the selection of pieces and fabrics.”
In the primary bedroom, a seagrass bed is flanked by natural oak nightstands to create a light and airy feeling reminiscent of the California coast.
THE LIVING ROOM
“The living room is special mainly because of some wonderful architectural elements: the enormous steel French doors, the high ceiling with reclaimed wood beams, the custom niches that house the clients’ sculptures, and the decorative plaster windows peeking into the main staircase and the upstairs hall,” says Burnham. She and her team chose a mix of organic, cozy, modern, and classic pieces for the space, including a custom square travertine coffee table, a custom 8-foot sofa and two swivel chairs by Disc Interiors, a daybed by BassamFellows and a vintage striped kilim rug. A Formations iron chain link side table adds an off beat element. “Our palette was mostly neutral, with a focus on texture and accents brought in with vintage pillows and subtle stripes,” Burnham shares. “The client’s art is everywhere in this room—the best accessory there could be.”
Burnham Design created custom bleached white oak cabinetry featuring hardware from RH and Kallista.
Taking over what was a family room, the large kitchen is a central gathering spot. “There’s an oversize island that provides space for many hands in the preparation of large meals,” Burnham says. “The niched-in French range [by LaCanche] with handmade-tile surround anchors one end of the space while the arched glass wall opposite opens completely to outdoor dining and the surrounding garden.” To help open the space, the team moved closed storage to an adjacent butler’s pantry and centered the kitchen table on windows looking out to stunning views. “The textured, unfussy beechwood-plank fronts on the Sebastian Cox cabinets from deVOL Kitchens were chosen for their simple beauty and fresh, airy design,” shares Burnham. “We used Waterworks RW Atlas fittings, which are sculptural and add an element of cool. This is a kitchen designed to reward the senses, cultivate togetherness and draw vitality from the lush Santa Barbara landscape.”
A Kallista bathtub anchors the primary bathroom alongside limestone mosaic tile.
THE PRIMARY BEDROOM
“I love the seagrass bed—it screams vacation to me,” says Burnham of the Williams Sonoma Home Mallory Woven Seagrass bed. “In this room, we decided to use a wonderful pale blue to evoke the sea and sky and embroidered Manuel Canovas fabric for the drapes, which really sets a calm mood. There is a sleeping porch outside the bedroom, with comfy seating for reading or napping. The whole suite feels a little bit like it’s outside in the trees.”
THE PRIMARY BATHROOM
Burnham calls out the primary bathroom’s floor—constructed with Dougga honed limestone mosaic tile from Country Floors—as the star of the space. “I’m not a big mosaic user, but this one has a larger scale than most and brings in a mix of color with a decidedly well-traveled vibe,” she says. “We kept our other material choices kind of quiet (limestone countertops and shower walls, white oak custom cabinetry), so the floor stands out.” Another showstopper is the freestanding bathtub by Laura Kirar for Kallista, centered perfectly beside large windows looking out toward lush landscaping.
An RH dining table surrounded by Kingsley Bate side chairs is displayed within the home’s outdoor dining and lounge area.
There were several architectural consultants involved at different points in the project, but no hands-on architect on the team. “As a result, our scope, as well as the contractor’s and the engineer’s, was quite broad, and that was challenging on a project of this scale,” says Burnham. “Also, we can’t forget Covid, which peaked when we were well into construction. Fortunately, construction was considered essential, so we never had to shut down, but things definitely slowed down while everyone learned to work safely and remotely.”
Beyond her favorite rooms in the home, such as the living room and kitchen, and the chance to use beautiful materials, Burnham’s clients were a significant highlight of this project. “The clients were and still are very wonderful—their love of the project was always front and center, their input was creative and essential, and they were patient during some really stressful times,” she shares. “The freedom we had with our design was unusual and rewarding. We listened to the clients, and they listened back—everyone who worked on this project was invested in it, and I think you can see that in the result.” Another highlight was getting to bond with her team. “I think all the trips up to Santa Barbara (a 2-hour drive from L.A.) were bonding times for my team—lots of early days, breakfasts and lunches and exhausted late afternoon drives home,” says Burnham. “But at the same time, it was exhilarating and memorable.”
Upon completion of the three-year project, Burnham’s clients are over the moon—when visiting, they still can’t believe it’s theirs. “It’s a 21st-century update on a Santa Barbara Spanish Revival featuring the customary Mediterranean influences and unexpected flourishes but with a more global aesthetic tailored to the well-traveled homeowners, and rendered with an emphasis on informality and comfort,” says the designer. Or, in simpler terms, “It’s a grown-up, barefoot house!”
Santa Barbara area
Skye McGuiness, Skyline Construction
Rob Maday, Bosky Landscape Architecture
Primary bathroom mosaic tile
Sebastian Cox Kitchen cabinetry
Primary bathroom tub
Kitchen pendant lights
Kitchen counter stools
Terra cotta tile throughout
WILLIAMS SONOMA HOME
Primary bedroom bed