Driving up the hilly road to Janet Cooper’s Cambria home is a slow yet tranquil journey — an apt metaphor for the easygoing coastal town, and a far cry from the fast-paced life Cooper left behind in Orange County.
“We wanted to live near the coast and away from the constant background noise,” she said. After looking at coastal communities as far north as Cannon Beach, Oregon, she and her husband (now separated) decided to move with their two daughters to Cambria, where homes were still “very affordable” in 1998, she said.
The home they chose was fairly new at the time — built in 1994, designed by local Realtor and home designer Bruce Koontz and built by Boa Constructors of Cambria.
Cooper calls it “a combination of contemporary styling with traditional finishes.” The traditional part comes from features such as traditional moldings, double-hung windows and dentil carved trim over the fireplace.
Its contemporary side consists of an “almost industrial look” from the outside, she said, with steep shed roofs and clerestory windows. Cooper appreciated how an abundance of windows lets in light and views of the wooded lot where deer frequently graze on the front lawn.
Custom features echo the woodsy ambiance of the home’s environment. The exterior is clad in wood siding, with wood-framed windows and gutters painted in a verdigris finish that resembles weathered copper. The front walkway is concrete, stained and stamped with a texture to mimic coastal rock formations.
The home has post and beam construction with beams and columns in distressed, rustic pine. The sunken living room is octagonal in shape with a cathedral ceiling, stone-clad fireplace and three enormous windows showcasing the view.
Peacock slate, with its medley of cool and warm colors, is everywhere — from floors, to the fireplace, to the bathroom shower. “I didn’t like it at first because it was so dark,” said Cooper, “but I’ve grown to like it.” With a corgi and four cats in her household, she appreciates the easy-to-clean and indestructible nature of the material that has required no repairs and no sealing so far.
The woodwork and some of the fixtures in the house lend themselves to a Craftsman aesthetic, with simple lines and squared-off corners. Yet there are also details that hint at Cambria’s artsy side. A mosaic of a sunburst, rendered in shimmering, iridescent tiles, is inset among the slate at the center of the great room. Similar iridescent tiles frame the fireplace. And a spray of gleaming glass pebbles embellishes grout lines in the front walkway.
There are other unusual features Cooper has learned to love — such as the lofts located above the kitchen and two spare rooms. These were once handy hideouts for children. Now that the kids have grown, she uses them as storage and a study.
Cooper only made a few changes to the place.
With the help of KGM Construction of San Luis Obispo, she further opened up the great room by moving a staircase leading to the loft from the center of the space to an inconspicuous spot alongside the kitchen. The kitchen itself was extended a few feet, bringing in additional cabinet space. She added new light fixtures, including a larger chandelier for the living room that is appropriate for the scale of its high ceiling. In the kitchen, simple track lighting gave way to hand-blown Murano glass pendants.
Cooper’s collection of furniture is eclectic, yet mostly simple, warm and chosen for comfort. In the dining room is a Spanish Mission set. In the guest room is a buffet inherited from her grandparents. Her accessories have diverse backgrounds as well. The hot pink and lime hallway carpets are from China, originally custom made in the 1920s for an English woman’s dressing room.
Cooper saves her wall space for meaningful art — pieces given to her by family and favorite collectible pieces. She has a signed print by Salvador Dali and a collection of tinted lithographs from England, some dating to the 18th century. And she was careful to preserve the hand-painted wall murals in the home, which were created by artist Jayne Koontz, the wife of the home’s designer.
Cooper knows that the Cambria lifestyle isn’t for everybody. “You either learn to integrate into the community — or you don’t,” she said. She has grown to appreciate the charming quirks of her home and the town, and she has found both to be an excellent fit.
FAUX IS FINE: The Cooper home employs some very convincing faux features to achieve its woodsy, coastal look. Gutters were painted to look like weathered copper — a much more economical option than real copper. The front walkway looks like coastal rock, but is actually concrete that is stained and stamped with a rock texture.
NO-FUSS FLOORING: Slate flooring has its pros and cons. On one hand, it can be cold and hard. But if you have children, pets, or a lot of foot traffic, it is a durable surface that is easy to clean. Plus, its variety of colors and textures hides a multitude of sins.
A BLANK CANVAS: Forget all the pressure to repaint your white walls — white can be a beautiful wall color. It amplifies light, acts as a neutral backdrop for art and makes woodwork pop. In the case of the Cooper house, the warm Navajo white walls also keep the focus on fabulous views.