Easy Breezy

Designer Elizabeth Samia updates a Seacliff home to create a cool beach pad for family gatherings.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by Barney Tower

White, light and metallic tones are a breath of fresh air, and keep the primary focus on the deep blue sea.

When interior designer Elizabeth Samia met Ventura-based singer/guitarist Shane Cohn online, he brought her to see his stepfather’s beach house on their second date.

Little did the 38-year-old Boston native and mother of two (ages 18 and 12) imagine that, just one year later, not only would Shane pop the question (the duo plan to wed this coming October in a destination glamping wedding in Big Sur), but that her future father-in-law would entrust her to turn the formerly dark, two-story, 2,400-square-foot beach pad, located in the private gated Seacliff community, into a breezy, airy family compound for all of the clan to enjoy.

Renovated with an eye to keeping the budget intact, the savvy designer was smart about where she could indulge and where she could save a few bucks. She splurged on stand-out details like uncoated brass plumbing fixtures for the kitchen and bathrooms, and then balanced the expense with brass drawer pulls she sourced online at for just $11.50 each and a stylish IKEA lamp in the living room. Apparently a magic genie of lighting, she also thought outside the box by integrating outdoor brass lighting fixtures inside and choosing other eye-catching light fixtures throughout. A neutral palette of white tones, both wood and metallic, made the entire space light and airy. Her design mantra: to “see the big, blue ocean.”

“The goal was to have soul, so we used soapstone in the kitchen counter and Old World handmade tiles inspired by Israel from Tabarka Studio,” noted Samia. (That tile was another luxury, which she convinced the owner was well worth the price.) The pure white veinless quartz island in the kitchen adds to the clean look, while dark wood floors provide a crisp counterpoint to original wood ceilings, where the designer let the original knots peek through a white/gray paint wash.

The open kitchen-living room floor plan has inviting spots for one and all to convene. The space spills nicely out onto the deck with an outdoor kitchen, sandbox, hammock and fire pit. A boulder seawall buffers the Pacific from the outdoor dining/play area. The downstairs also has a guest suite and an additional bedroom.

A striking glass and oak staircase leads up to two guest rooms — including one with bunk beds for the burgeoning family. Elizabeth teased up the nautical theme with rope lamps, brass fixtures just beginning to reveal their patina, macramé pillows (reminiscent of sailors knots) and other details that she fuses into the rooms in original and unique ways. The master bedroom and bath have ocean views and provide a peaceful space that invites thoughtful introspection.

Outdoors, the major focal points (other than the deep blue sea) are an outdoor shower and fountain. These add a laid-back, beachy feel to the exterior, and are perfectly in keeping with the home’s other thematic elements.

It wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way. At one point the entire house was stripped, except for brand-new windows. The job was at a standstill when Samia first met the owner. Undaunted, Samia took over and was, “All hands on, everyday!” She even helped out with planting as well as sanding and polishing the handcrafted black walnut kitchen shelves with edges carved into a “wave” design.

Her determination and spirit — and eye for detail — impressed her future father-in-law, who had faith in Samia’s vision . . . and was thrilled by the results. “My old, run-down beach house has been wonderfully transformed!” he exclaimed. “I am delighted by the beauty, elegance and simplicity of Elizabeth’s work.”

“He trusted me and he was able to let go,” concluded Samia, adding, “It’s all in the family now!”

Keep your eye on the big picture, but pay attention to details.
Prioritize where you spend your money. “Tiles and hardware provide the bones of this house, so I spent the money there,” Samia says. “I wanted the handmade tiles to add depth and soul. Uncoated brass in the kitchen and bath added patina to the home as well.”
Find the deals! Sourcing online is a full-time job, but it’s worth the money saved in the end.
Accent with color. Change up a look by adding new pillows, throws or a rug.
Lots and lots of built-ins in every area in the house serve a purpose: You can entertain a crowd without feeling crowded, or you can have a peaceful moment to yourself and never feel that you are in a big, empty home.

French doors lead to a tranquil patio with a tile and brass fountain that carries the themes of the home’s interior outside.


The bedroom’s clean lines and black-and-white palette are warmed up with a textured spread and Southwest-inspired décor. Still cool and contemporary, but homey and inviting, too.



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