A 100-Year-Old Santa Barbara Home Gets a Gorgeous Makeover

When one couple deemed this quaint California house too tiny, they decided to buy the 1920s bungalow and turned it into their dream home.

small house tour
David Tsay

Too small. Those were the words that Kelley and Greg Motschenbacher uttered after touring their Santa Barbara soon-to-be dream home five years ago. While there were plenty of pros to the property—a lush and private lot, gorgeous Pacific Ocean and downtown views, quintessential 1920s Spanish Colonial architecture—the couple could not get past the fact that the two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow was just a little too little. On top of the minimal square footage, the house also needed practical electrical and heating updates. “We thanked the agent and walked out the door,” says Kelley. “Of course, once we got back in the car, we couldn’t stop talking about it.”

After halfheartedly looking at four other, larger properties, the Motschenbachers returned to the blue-and-white casita on that pretty (if not overgrown) piece of land. and Greg, a project manager, realized that the home’s boundless potential outweighed the negatives of a tiny footprint. “It just needed some love,” says Kelley. While Kelley had to think long and hard every time she brought a piece into a small room, she says she wouldn’t trade small-scale living for all the square footage in the world. She’s been there, done that.

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Living Room
small house tour living room
David Tsay

Kelley wanted a sofa that could fit beneath the arched windows, but not one that felt comically slight. The solution: a just-right 76-inch custom piece that can accommodate two people. A pair of equally scaled-down wingbacks reinforces the idea that small furniture needn’t feel modern nor minimalist. A square antique table (cut down from a taller table) completes the puzzle, and a provides plenty of light without breaking up the space.

small house tour mantel
David Tsay

Furnishing the house presented a whole new set of challenges. “I really like antiques because they’re often weird, nontraditional sizes that are ideal for smaller rooms,” Kelley says.

small house tour kitchen
David Tsay

—“It’s our mobile cutting board,” says Kelley—with industrial legs provides the perfect prep space. Honed Caesarstone countertops in and Italian porcelain floors both offer soft, subtle contrast to the room’s airy white palette.

Kitchen Nook
small house tour kitchen counter
David Tsay

“I wanted the room to be simple—just a place to cook a nice meal. I didn’t want an over-the-top kitchen, full of over-scaled things,” Kelley says.

small house tour stove
David Tsay

After replacing a massive stove with a simpler model, the Motschenbachers installed a petite shiplapped hood that adds understated character instead of heavy, hulking metal.

Dining Table
small house tour dining table
David Tsay

An X-brace dining table positioned on the diagonal maximizes space and enhances the flow between rooms. And because the couple primarily entertains on the adjacent gravel patio, there is no need to force four or six seats around it. Instead, are substantial enough to carry the space.

Master Bedroom
small house tour master bedroom
David Tsay

For the master bedroom (converted from a sleeping porch) Kelley searched high and (mostly) low for a king bed with a that could fit beneath the window. Simple white 8-inch-wide tables fill the remaining space on either side (and seamlessly blend in with the surrounding white shiplap). An offers seating, and a cheerful bolster adds color and pattern without competing with the view.

Master Bathroom
small house tour master bathroom
David Tsay

An in the home’s only bathroom enhances the space’s sunny disposition, and two complement its heft. Blue-gray cabinetry offers ample storage.

Laundry Room
small house tour laundry room
David Tsay

In the mudroom/laundry room, a sampling of Kelley’s many woven totes and baskets—“One of my weaknesses!” she says—conceals odds and ends while adding a textural touch to the wall. A small antique bench offers additional storage for gardening supplies or the next load of laundry.

Outdoor Dining Room
small house tour outdoor dining room
David Tsay

The California sunshine, cafe lights, and a make for an exceptional al fresco ­dining experience. “If it’s sunny, we’re outside,” Kelley says.

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