A Santa Barbara beach abode pairs a busy family’s outdoor lifestyle with a nomadic-chic collection of colorful, global treasures.
Gina Tolleson vividly remembers her first glimpses of the house she shares with her three sons on Padaro Beach. The former model, Miss World 1990 and onetime television reporter—now executive editor of Santa Barbara Magazine—was living in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and spending weekends in the Carpinteria hills. “I was always a beach girl,” says Tolleson, who grew up in South Carolina. “I’d drive down to Padaro and walk from one end to the other,” and the home’s bird’s-nest tower was visible from the sand. As fate would have it, in 2000, when she was ready to relocate, the multilevel concrete-and-glass contemporary was on her real estate agent’s list.
Though it’s just 2,000 square feet, the three-bedroom house, with a walled courtyard, is “ideal for our lifestyle,” says Tolleson. Her boys range from 16-year-old Carter to 8-year-old Luca and Tiago, 7. “Most of the house has white walls, and I had the floors painted white. It’s a perfect surface to run in with sandy feet.”
It’s also a superb backdrop for the furnishings and textiles that Tolleson collected on travels to India, Morocco, South America, Bali and Africa. An opium bed and African masks, for example, share space with Ethiopian chairs and calfskin rugs from Argentina. In recent years she has added complementary pieces from Upstairs at Pierre Lafond, Maison K and Porch. “Now that the baby-proofing is over, interior designer Amanda Masters has been helping me reclaim the house. I want to mix exotic, earthy things with modern and midcentury items to tie in with the architecture.”
Her favorite spot? The outdoor room that opens to the courtyard. The pink hue was inspired by a 40th-birthday trip to Rajasthan. “I’ve had dinner parties there,” she says. “It’s colorful and comfortable and sexy for cocktails.”
As for the tower that first caught Tolleson’s eye? It’s had many incarnations over the years. “When I moved in, I made it a Moroccan casbah,” she says. Later it turned into an office, and when the kids were small, it was closed off. “Now it’s where I can go for meditation with a glass of wine and to look at the ocean.”
By Joan Tapper.
Photographed by Nancy Neil.