Santa Barbara, California

Live the charmed life of a Southern California local at a beachfront Santa Barbara rental.
Text by Logan Ward; Styling by Michelle Zuniga

This seaside cottage's doormat should read "Welcome to paradise." Facing one of Santa Barbara's prettiest beachfront parks, the home has it all: panache (sea-colored tile on the kitchen backsplash), character (built-in cabinets and benches everywhere), and coastal charm (a surfboard strapped to one bedroom wall). When the weather is warm and sunny―nearly all the time―visitors fold back twin sets of lanai doors, press a button to open the long central skylight, and let Southern California breezes freshen the rooms.

"We tried to create the perfect coastal cottage: open, airy, beachy, casual-but-elegant," says owner Brian Coryat, "so people can come down and live our life for a while." And what a life it is: days spent surfing, kayaking, and biking, and evenings sipping margaritas at the nearby Shoreline Beach Café. Brian supplies four bikes, a kayak, boogie board, and surfboard with the 1,200-square-foot house. An always-at-the-ready hot tub waits out back. "The cottage is only two houses down from mine, but when I go over there I feel like I'm on vacation," he laughs. "It makes me want to start the blender."

Brian and his wife, Chari, bought the house two years ago and recently finished a stunning remodel. Throughout the design-and-build process, the couple knew they would rent the house, and yet they spared no expense. Stylish, durable bamboo covers the floors. Rustic boards line the walls. The kitchen―raised a step to give the cook a commanding view of the ocean―boasts sandy-gold granite countertops, custom cabinetry, a six-burner Dacor stove, and a Sub-Zero fridge. Next to the kitchen, a giant flat-screen TV and sound system hide inside a cabinet. The couple thought of everything. Skylights in the two bedroom suites have remote-control blackout shades for guests who want to sleep late.

Much of the home's beachy appeal comes from local designer Jennifer Taylor's soothing palette. "What inspired me for the whole house was the backsplash tile in the kitchen," says Jennifer of the mosaic of blues. "I started there and worked out." White walls and woodwork give the house a shipshape serenity. Light blue accents, including a duvet cover, throw pillows, and a ceiling painted a hue called "Cloudless," add a cool touch. A cobalt couch and freestanding stove for winter warmth (also operated by remote control) punctuate the rooms. Jennifer chose the same dark blue for one of the bathroom floors, a glowing glass mosaic tile that "is like stepping in deep, cool water."

If the house is paradise, so is its location. Across the street, novice surfers paddle out from a family beach known for its forgiving breakers. A mile down the shore in Santa Barbara Harbor, boats chug away from the docks, bound for Channel Island excursions, fishing trips, or sunset cruises. Here, $2 buys a seat on the yellow water taxi, Lil' Toot, a 26-foot Crosby tug with a smile on the bow and a bubble-machine smokestack. It runs between the harbor and Stearns Wharf, which juts a half mile into the sea.

Once you get to the wharf, the laid-back dazzle of Santa Barbara awaits. You can people-watch from a park bench on Cabrillo Boulevard. Stroll State Street, peeking into shops such as Chari Coryat's boutique, Charisma. Visit the sunken gardens and climb the tower at the historic Spanish-style county courthouse for a view of the city's red-tile roofs. When you're famished, eat where the locals go―La Super Rica Taqueria. Here, the seating is picnic-style and the tacos are hot-off-the-grill. Then head back to your cottage, where you can live like a local―at least for a week or two.

(published September 2005)