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.

By Michelle Zuniga and Hilde Leiaghat
December 16, 2002
In the dining area, French-style chairs with a distressed, creamy white finish surround a vintage European farm table. Floral French tableware mixes with creamware to complement the table's dark, weathered top.
Deborah Whitlaw

If Nina Terzian's Montecito home were any closer to the water, itwould invite barnacles. "I just fell in love with it here," saysNina, who moved to the West Coast from Chicago. "I remember myexact words as I looked out at the ocean: 'I've landed.'"

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

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

Nina wanted her California home to reflect her new environmentand lifestyle, so she enlisted some local talent. For therenovation, architect Anthony Spann and contractor Mitch Williamsworked together to remake the 1970s contemporary house, with newwoodwork and decorative details, into a classic beach cottage. Ninacollaborated with Hilde Leiaghat--owner of Pom Pom, a Los Angelesinterior-furnishings store--on the decor.

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

First, Anthony and Mitch worked to open and soften the starkspace. "We made the living area much larger by moving a staircaseand removing an elevator," Anthony says. "Now, when you open thefront door you immediately see the ocean. It takes your breathaway."

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

When the renovation was well under way, Nina met Hilde at herstore on La Brea Avenue. There Nina became enamored of thesophisticated mix of European antiques, architectural salvage, andvintage fabrics. She wanted her new home to have the same casualairiness. Hilde and Nina worked together to achieve that look. Forstarters, they toned down the navy-and-white striped sofas from herChicago penthouse with off-white matelassé slipcovers.

Accents in ocean blues and greens, shell pinks, and sandyneutrals, along with glass and silver touches, appear to haverolled in on a wave. "The soft color palette was layered inweathered wood furniture, rusted urns, and sisal," says Hilde. "Ilove using texture to create a visual drama."

She and Nina positioned furniture to divide the great room intodistinct spaces for living and dining. In the living area, sofassurround a fireplace distinguished by blue granite and posts carvedin the shape of fish. Matching club chairs covered inblue-and-cream ticking form an additional sitting area. Behindthem, a weathered farm table holds urns and a large mirror craftedfrom Victorian ceiling tiles.

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

Another crystal-drenched chandelier hangs above sumptuousEuropean bedding in the master suite. Bedside tables support lampsmade from alabaster urns with gilded climbing roses. Three largemirrors form the headboard and bring in dramatic views of theocean--a much different scene than the city lights Nina onceknew.

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