Changing Scenes

With a little help from local talent, Nina Terzian renovated a Southern California beach house to reflect her new lifestyle--one without winter coats or city lights.
Produced by Michelle Zuniga and Hilde Leiaghat
If Nina Terzian's Montecito home were any closer to the water, it would invite barnacles. "I just fell in love with it here," says Nina, who moved to the West Coast from Chicago. "I remember my exact words as I looked out at the ocean: 'I've landed.'"

Set on the public but quiet Miramar Beach, her house luxuriates in the unobstructed views and warm, breezy climate. With her daughter and grandchildren only a short drive away, Nina has all the things she had hoped for--and then some.

Leaving behind the hands-on task of running three retail businesses, Nina traded her sleek penthouse for a beach home in need of a face-lift. "In Chicago, it was like I was living in a museum. It was too nice, too formal," she says. "I had furniture that said, 'Don't you dare sit on me.' Here, I don't care if my grandkids run around and bang pots and pans on the floor."

Nina wanted her California home to reflect her new environment and lifestyle, so she enlisted some local talent. For the renovation, architect Anthony Spann and contractor Mitch Williams worked together to remake the 1970s contemporary house, with new woodwork and decorative details, into a classic beach cottage. Nina collaborated with Hilde Leiaghat--owner of Pom Pom, a Los Angeles interior-furnishings store--on the decor.

"This house had no charm," says Nina. "I wanted to charm it up with a beach theme without it becoming a theme park."

First, Anthony and Mitch worked to open and soften the stark space. "We made the living area much larger by moving a staircase and removing an elevator," Anthony says. "Now, when you open the front door you immediately see the ocean. It takes your breath away."

Another vital decision was to replace window panes with high-performance glass. "The original windows were covered with a tinted coating," Anthony says. "When we took them out, everyone was like 'Wow! Look at the difference.' The old coating had caused a gray cast throughout the house." They selected a laminated window with azure-tinted glass. "It reduces glare and offers UV protection," Anthony says, "but the best thing is, when it's gray outside, the view always seems blue."

When the renovation was well under way, Nina met Hilde at her store on La Brea Avenue. There Nina became enamored of the sophisticated mix of European antiques, architectural salvage, and vintage fabrics. She wanted her new home to have the same casual airiness. Hilde and Nina worked together to achieve that look. For starters, they toned down the navy-and-white striped sofas from her Chicago penthouse with off-white matelassé slipcovers.

Accents in ocean blues and greens, shell pinks, and sandy neutrals, along with glass and silver touches, appear to have rolled in on a wave. "The soft color palette was layered in weathered wood furniture, rusted urns, and sisal," says Hilde. "I love using texture to create a visual drama."

She and Nina positioned furniture to divide the great room into distinct spaces for living and dining. In the living area, sofas surround a fireplace distinguished by blue granite and posts carved in the shape of fish. Matching club chairs covered in blue-and-cream ticking form an additional sitting area. Behind them, a weathered farm table holds urns and a large mirror crafted from Victorian ceiling tiles.

In the dining area, a chandelier drips with sparkling crystals over a European farm table--two Pom Pom signature items inspired by Hilde's days as a restaurateur in her native Belgium.

Another crystal-drenched chandelier hangs above sumptuous European bedding in the master suite. Bedside tables support lamps made from alabaster urns with gilded climbing roses. Three large mirrors form the headboard and bring in dramatic views of the ocean--a much different scene than the city lights Nina once knew.

"I never could have imagined being from Chicago and ending up in a beautiful place like Montecito," she says. "I just wish I had done it sooner. I'm really living now."