So what does an interior designer do when she’s on vacation? She goes on an architectural hunt! Last week, I took a cruise down the California Coast with a stop in Santa Barbara. Veering away from kitchens for a bit, I thought you might like to come along.
When I first moved to California, it was my dream to work in Santa Barbara. I loved the architecture — the red-tiled roofs, the colorful tiles and wrought-iron, and the climate made it almost irresistible. However, the stringent building codes (and lack of interest on design firm parts) meant I went elsewhere. And even though I live in California, I’m not a native, so I really appreciate the warmth!
*Adjusting for my tour guide voice*
Somewhere around the 1780s, Santa Barbara’s first European settlers were Spanish missionaries and soldiers, although explorers had been coming since the mid-1600s. In 1822, the Spaniards were supplanted by the Mexicans in the War of Independence and for the next 24 years, this area was part of Mexico until won by the United States in 1848. English wasn’t the official language of record until 1870.
Even after a disastrous earthquake in the 1920s, the town kept its Spanish and Mexican influences in the architecture.
Okay, I am horrible at playing tour guide.
Seriously, for those of us from cooler climates, it’s like paradise. I can see how the early Spanish colonials (a lot of Spanish aristocracy here) could see this as a second home. It’s Goldilocks version of climate: not too cold…you get the picture.
For me, it’s the brightly colorful tile everywhere that is truly striking. The early 1900s -1920s saw a boom in ceramic tiles, with influences from Spain, Mexico and China. They have been labeled as Malibu tile, although I’m not sure if they are. “California Tile” might also be more fitting name for them as there were so many tile factories of the time.
You love it, you want it?
I’ve used some fine reproduction tiles for a showroom display and yes, we do have some beautiful early stucco homes in my area that I’m always looking to be selected as designer of choice.
There are two types of tile here. One is simply hand-painted on ceramic, like so:
And the second is my favorite: the Cuerda-Seca technique with an embossed separation between the colors.
Fireclay has a video on the making of this tile:
If this is what you’ve been searching for, I might suggest Fireclay Tile, or Malibu Ceramic Works, but if you’re not up to selecting all the colors of each tile, then consider California Pottery and Tile Works, or Jeffrey Court’s “Olde California” collection.
In part 2, I’ll show you the beautiful Santa Barbara’s Courthouse, a 1929 Spanish Colonial Revival that is not only a California Historical Landmark: it’s also a National Historic Landmark. Until then,