When it came to the design of this Southern California home by Jennifer Miller Studio, it was all about respecting—not reinventing—the property. Just a block away from the bustling lower village of Montecito, CA, this 1924 Mediterranean-style estate (called the Butterfly House) had been passed down through one family for three generations before the current owners purchased it. Over the years, modifications had been made that compromised the original design and character of the home—so the design team set out to take the home back to its original glory.
With a focus on scale—opting for a larger living space to accommodate the smaller, European-esque features—they were able to update the home while celebrating its original spirit. To pay homage to the natural splendor of the area, they also pulled in a variety of artisanal wallpaper from the studio’s line, Miller House. Neutral tones and organic materials sit alongside the “California Garden” collection—hand-drawn wallpaper that features earthy hues and natural patterns, connecting the indoor spaces to the serenity of nature. Over email, the designer told us more.
Location was everything for this home. How did the neighborhood influence the design?
Butterfly House is located a block away from the lower village of Montecito, CA and walking distance to great shops and restaurants. The area is known for many things – its unique natural surroundings, the old world Spanish and Italian architecture, the legends of old Hollywood stars that are said to haunt the local hotels and inns, and much more. We wanted to honor the home and bring it to life through its surroundings, architecture, and history.
As the home is situated on top of a hill overlooking the surrounding gardens, we sought to bring the outside in by allowing the garden to be the focal point from any point within the home. And, it’s said throughout town that Charlie Chaplin’s spirit roams around and might even haunt the Montecito Inn. To honor his spirit, we placed the client’s original Whitney Bedford portrait of Chaplin in the foyer to welcome guests into the home and to the town.
Overall, what was your scope of work?
We were brought in for an overall remodel of the house, including furnishings and finishes. We aimed to freshen up a neglected home and bring back the original spirit. We cleaned up some details, created smoother flow through the house, and selected timeless materials.
The textiles (and wallpaper specifically!) play a big part in the space. Can you elaborate on this?
Given the opportunity we had to showcase the wallpaper, we chose to use a different pattern and colorway in the four bedrooms. The textiles, linens, and subtle textures, for each room work alongside the wallpaper to complement the muted colors and bring an organic earthy feel to each space. We didn’t want to match the colorways but complement them through textiles and vintage rugs.
We chose to work with the Moss, Sea, Cognac, and Mushroom colorways because they felt grounded, earthy and sophisticated in the home. They have a deeper, heavier pigment and feel more rooted than the lighter colors in the wallpaper line.
How long did the project take, and what did the client say when they saw the finished space?
From the initial purchase of the home to installation, the project took about a year. Every surface of the home was touched with the remodel – upgrading plumbing, electrical, windows, etc. We even found a new window that had been plastered over.
The client loves the space because of its casual sophistication. The design and feel meet their global lifestyle that they live. They love that when they walk in the door, they are immediately met with comfort and can immediately start enjoying their weekend in Montecito.
Take a tour in the slideshow, and shop the wallpaper collection here.