amy azzaritointerior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: nancy neil

by Amy Azzarito

photographer nancy neil, her husband, lobster man and filmmaker, ethan and baby ohle live in this 1903 cabin that was built in capinteria, ca. to escape demolition, the cabin was moved to the foothills of santa barbara where it now sits on an 80-acre tropical fruit farm that has been family-owned since 1846. the original one-room cabin was expanded to include two bedrooms and two bathrooms, but the heart of the home is still the original structure built more than 100 years ago out of untreated railroad ties. the couple have their own chicken coop in the back and a large organic garden. nancy has always had a passion for the arts and at 14 she already knew she wanted to be a photographer. she’s worked on pregnancy portaiture, weddings, events and editorial for magazines like anthem and has worked with stewart+brown for the last two years (their fall/holiday shoot was on the property!) these beautiful images of her home just took my breath away! if you’d like to see more, there are 68 photos in the flickr set! {thanks nancy, ethan and ohle!}amy a.

[“Decorating” is not in our budget. So I always try my best to create a space that is warm and inviting from what we already have – a home rather than a house. Everything in our home has meaning and value to us and lots of the trinkets are reminders of moments and friends in our life. We are so fortunate to be living here. Just 12 days after we moved in – a little over a year ago – our previous home burnt to the ground in the Santa Barbara Tea Fires. Four months later, we delivered our son in this house. The first baby born on the property in over 100 years!]

[photo above: Our living room/dining room, which is heated by the wood burning stove in the corner. My husband trades lobster from his catch for firewood, which keeps us all nice and toasty. We left a large open space in the center so Ohle had room for running around. Our goal is create an environment that is hands-on. A place where he belongs and we don’t constantly have to say “careful” or don’t touch!”

[photo above: The corner of our dining room. The chandelier came with the place.  The rest of the furniture is mid-century teak. The three plates above the window are some of my favorite gifts from our wedding and housewarming made by Rebekah Miles.]

CLICK HERE for the rest of Nancy’s Peek! (And all 24 images on one page!)

[photo above: This Wedgwood stove was salvaged from a nearby property and is definitely the best stove and oven I have ever had!]

[photo above: The kitchen was added onto the cabin about 10 years ago. I painted it a lively turquoise to ease the transition from dark railroad tie walls into plaster drywall construction. Lots of bright colors here and there keep it cheery because the kitchen is literally the center of the home. I cook almost all of our food – including all of Baby O’s food here – so you can imagine the number of hours spent here. The spice rack I bought for $5 at a rummage sale and the Le Crueset pans are my favorite! Best cooking utensils EVER.]

[photo above: The leather couch in this room was a chance encounter – a friend saw someone from the Disney offices throwing it into a dumpster in LA and he said no! and brought it back to SB. It’s very comfy and in pristine condition (also mid-century solid teak)]

[photo above left: The glass apothecary bottles are from my husband’s last house in Santa Barbara. He and his friends dug into the ground to build a pool for skating and found these. The site was called the Wilderness – it was a surfboard glassing and shaping shop started in the ’60s by George Greenough and operated through last year. Unfortunately, it was recently torn out by Cal Trans to enlarge the freeway.  So these bottles are certainly keepsakes!]

[photo above: I made the shelves above the dresser from old fruit boxes from the ’30s that were here on the ranch in an old storage shed.]

[photo above: The large print over our bed is from a series I photographed a few years ago. This collection of images was very moving and sold in three galleries in California. This image titled “Palms” was taken on a stormy day in Brownsville TX – the poorest county in our nation. A rainbow appeared just as I clicked the shutter!]

[photo above: The bathroom counter tops are made from huge old pieces of redwood.]

[photo above: A panoramic view of our property. The reddish roof is ours. Just over the misty hill in the distance is Rincon Beach. We spend most of our time outdoors if possible.]

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  • homes like this are part of why i love design*sponge so much…..so full of life and character, has nothing to do with what fancy thing they bought where. this is a true home. bravo.

  • nancy shot our wedding and she is TRULY the COOLEST chica!! we would recommend her to anyone for any kind of photoshoot. her home really reflects her delightful/quirky/hip/fun/warm/tasteful personality.

  • Gorgeous home. Write-up needs to take a deep breath and throw in some commas, though — I thought her husband’s name was lobster man… ;-)

    • thanks, alix – i added the commas around lobster man – i’d bet that ethan doesn’t want to to be known as ‘lobster man’! ;)

  • This is the first time I’ve seen a high chair exactly like the one I had growing up! It’s a family heirloom…I didn’t know there were still more like it around!

    Mom sewed a sling that went over the back of the chair and tied around our waists to keep us from (purposely, I’d bet) sliding down under the tray and getting loose.

  • dream town, dream home, dream LIFE! this is absolutely beautiful, and makes me ache a bit for my old santa barbara life. well done, nancy and ethan!

  • i LOVE it! i love the practicality of decorating with things that you already have. you’ve done such a great job of making it a real home!

  • I am so happy a dear friend has created such a beautiful home on my family’s ranch.. like ohle, i grew up playing there! i have a picture from when i was about 6 yrs. old eating a HUGE watermelon wedge outside their front door:)

  • Beautiful house, and I love that a kid lives there without it screaming KIDS!!! It just looks friendly and warm.

    I really don’t get the problem with capitalization in the first paragraph though. It’s really hard to read and just seems like an affectation.

  • Nancy and ethans house looks like it was put togetherwith a lot of heart and love its beautiful its not to often you can see the warmth a house puts out just from the pictures it looks like it has as much personality and old fashioned love as houses used to have.very rare and special like ethan and nancy. Nancy being the love of my life I’m very proud. With love from mom K

  • I can only say Wow!! But that crocodile’s head terrified me. No, I would never have such a thing inside my house!

  • great home! quick geeky photo questions: where did you get all of those boxes of polaroid? i’m looking for some! what scanner and printer do you have on your desk? what camera (and film) did you use to shoot your house? how do you store your film? thanks

  • Chickens might stage a coup (maybe–only if they were really unhappy with thier living conditions), but they live in a coop :)

  • I absolutely love this home with its rustic charm…all that gorgeous wood! I noticed that even the sink in the bathroom vanity is wood…gorgeous! A beautiful home to raise a beautifu child! Thanks for sharing the story.

  • I would love to have a cozy little home like this in the mountains of the south east. With a small barn and pastures for horses outside of course.

  • beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. our cabin is about 10 years younger than yours but i just love the history (real and imagined!) that comes from living in such a place. lovely.

  • This place is beautiful inside and out! You say you decorated with what you have, but you seem to have some great things. It makes me wish I didn’t just get white carpet and wood floors that I’m afraid of scratching. Looking lived in can be beautiful.

  • Rustic and charming. It is really refreshing to see homes that have such great layers. So many houses tend to look like everything was purchased in one trip.

    I have one of those alligator heads, too. We picked it up in Tennesse. Everyone freaks out about it but now I know that I am not alone : )

  • What I love most about your home is the marriage between both of your unique styles as creative, inspiring people. Ohle is so lucky!

  • Truly a special home! I can feel the love and warmth radiating from the photos, thank you for sharing your beautiful home.

  • Thank you so much for sharing. Could you please tell me where you got the pretty green outdoor chairs in the first photo or what company? Thanks.

  • Love the painting of the lady in the blue dress with ten kids behind her. pop pop pop pop pop pop!

  • Wow, Your home is like living in a work of heart, the colors, textures, so full of life and peace. What a great place to refresh and restore. Beautiful!

  • Awe Gawrsh..thanks;)

    Questions Answered:
    Epson printer and scanner/have had the polaroids forever/the bed is from Ventura/the green chairs are inherited(vintage)/yes lobster in Cali-Spiny Tail lobsters at the Channel Islands/and the Owl wood block print is from a thrift store 10 years ago;)


  • Nancy your place looks wonderful, and your bedroom is going to look stunning with your new quilt. And Ohle will have something special too. Not saying what yet.
    I have a few quilt blocks left over, maybe you would like some sofa pillows? Christmas maybe?
    Kiss Ohle from his Great Auntie, and hug Lobsterman for me. Love you. Auntie Kelly

  • “Decorating is not in our budget.” Wow, just goes to show that creating a beautiful, artful, warm HOME isn’t about money but all about intention and heart. Design*Sponge thanks for the life lesson.

  • LOVE YOUR HOME! ! One question though – do you know much about the metal green chairs on your deck? I think they are also pictured with the stuffed monkey. I ask because I inherited a few from my grandmother and I don’t know much about them. They look almost exactly the same expect for the legs. Any info would help!

  • What are the flowers on the dining table? Some sort of cabbage flower? They are great as is everything else in this house.

  • love the dining room table — my wife and i found what looks to be the same one at whitetrash in nyc before we moved. any idea who produced it? would love to learn more.

  • The poorest county in the US is not the Brownsville, Texas area. The top two poorest counties in the US are both in South Dakota. I’m sorry to nit pick on this but I grew up in Brownsville and although it does struggle financially, it is most definitely NOT the poorest county.

  • This is an odd question, but do you worry about creosote in the railroad ties, particularly with kids? They look great but I have heard that the creosote is dangerous.

  • Thanks for thinking of us….the railroad ties are UNtreated;) they were raw wood and were not even sealed until moved to this property…

    Ooops on the Brownsville. Must have been mis-informed myself. It was my understanding from a local there at the time. Oh well..pretty photograph. Poor Shmoor…

  • I want to bring my son over to play :)
    Your home is adorable and the location is phenomenal.

  • oh my goodness this is so beautiful, looks like such a cosy home.
    I have become obsessed with sneak peeks and am working my way through the archive when I should be working!

  • There is nothing about your home that I do not like. It’s just perfect. Thanks so much for sharing it with everyone.

  • Great to see you on design*sponge Nancy! Your house is so cozy and unique, and the photos are lovely. Nice to see you on one of my very favorite blogs!

  • Hi nancy ethan and ohle! Great house – have always loved what Americans call “cabins” and we Aussies call “huts” and since a small girl have always wanted to build and live in my own. In an age of giant energy-guzzling mcmansions, it’s great to see human and earth-scale homes! Know exactly the area where you are located and also have visited Greenough’s old shop (he is a hero of mine!) I live in a tiny one bedroom workers cottage which I call my “bush hut in the city” – small, cosy and best of all has minimal heating/cooling bills because of its size and thick wall construction. Reuse and recycle is the only way to go!!

  • this is so old, i wonder if anyone will ever see it, but i was wondering where the crib came from!