When I began this series, Heidi was one of the first people I thought of as she is a local artist who lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We met through my friend Elizabeth (aka Contessa), and we really hit it off. She’s a bubbly and fun person to be with who loves to chat and is a voracious reader and has an interest in so many things. We both have older kids and Heidi has two daughters. After I struggled my way through her wonderful watercolor class she taught this summer, I am in awe of her talent in all kinds of painting. She also had a very interesting childhood growing up in California and has transitioned from designer to teaching and painting full-time.
This is a longer post than usual, but hang with us because Heidi is a great sharer and has some stories.
Here she is at her cute entry..
Living surrounded by amazing beauty sometimes comes with a price as Heidi and her family had to evacuate this summer during the terrible fires that so many lost their homes in. Fortunately their home was unscathed, but years before in a 2011 storm a Douglas Fir fell on her home and literally split it into two and narrowly missed Heidi, but they rebuilt and it was a huge undertaking after the house was condemned and tarped…
In Heidi’s own words…
“Doors were removed, French doors and windows were added where we could to gain more natural light and access to the outdoors. I recycled all the old exterior French doors as my linen closet and interior doors. We replaced the interior hollow core doors with solid, paneled knotty alder. The ceiling in the office (now my studio!) was raised to the rafters. Our upstairs stone floors, crushed and ruined, were replaced with random width knotty elm. (I think it’s elm!) All the interior hardware and lighting fixtures were replaced with oil rubbed bronze, black. We reoriented the upstairs hall closet, and added a barn door. ”
“We moved back in during the first week in Dec., 8 years ago exactly! I coordinated the move, Russ was away on business, again! We had a tree, cookies baked and presents purchased and wrapped, and holiday dinner served in our new house on the 25th. Cooked by moi. I am so tired thinking about all of this. But that is the back story of this house and how it became what it is. I still have a few projects I’d like to do, things I’d like to change a little, but mostly I am very happy with how things turned out, even now after 8 years”
So impressive after all that. More photos of Heidi’s home style and her Heidi Michelle art studio. I think you’ll enjoy her and stories of growing up in California and more on our Q&A…
Heidi you grew up in the Southern California and now live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, near the ocean. How does that location influence the way you live and decorate?
I grew up on Vandenberg Air Force Base, and in Lompoc in Central California, about an hour North of Santa Barbara and South of San Luis Obispo. My family moved back to the US after living in Germany for years, when we got to the base my mother said we had moved ”behind the moon”. That area was not how she pictured California. At first we all hated the restrictions of living in such a small and provincial town.. The area is dry and very windy. The ocean was super dangerous and cold. We were miles from any excitement, theater, shopping, museums. (It was an hour to Santa Barbara, where we went to get a little culture.) It took getting used to. Eventually I was able to appreciate the beauty of the golden rolling hills, the wild and turbulent coast, the mild weather, and the abundant, colorful flower fields (which were at that time the main income of the Lompoc valley). But I never felt at home there. As an adult in the early 80’s I moved to the Silicon Valley, and then a few years later to Santa Cruz County where I’ve been living ever since. This is the place I was looking for!
Both my daughters were born in Santa Cruz. They are the true locals in our family! Living in California for most of my life has formed me into the person I am today, with a love of outdoor spaces, reverence for the trees and ocean. I know my love of flowers (my favorite subject when I’m painting!) blossomed (ha ha a pun!) from my exposure to the flower fields that surrounded our home and the town where I grew up.
I love the photos of your home. It seems like being an artist influences the things you choose, and use of color. Have you always lived like that? Did you grow up with art ?
Growing up I was always really proud of our home, even though we didn’t own a house until I was in high school. Before that we lived in base housing, which was not fancy and pretty tight quarters. We didn’t have a lot of money or expensive furniture. But my parents filled our home to the brim with books, art, color, music, eclectic furnishings , and most important, interesting people. My mom was always bringing home some “stray” person she met at the grocery store on the base, or in her daily escapades around town. They would usually turn into lifelong friends of the family. She liked to have people, and excitement, and fun things happening around us. We always had a garden, too. Mommy grew beautiful flowers and my job was to make little arrangements to bring to friends when we visited, and for the tables in the kitchen and dining room. I love doing that, and still do. My love of color probably developed there in the garden, although at the time I craved some calm. Like I said, I loved our home but it was a bit chaotic at times!
My godfather, Ted, lived in L.A. and had the most wonderful homes. He moved around until he found his house in the hills above Pasadena. Each house was special and unique. He had a huge influence on me and how I live now. He collected so many beautiful paintings and sculptures, furniture, interesting friends. His walls were galleries of watercolors, oil paintings, textiles, masks from around the world. It was always exciting visiting him, or staying in his house which was like our home away from home. He was a pilot and was often away, and his home was always open to us. In fact my parents had a key. We would drive the three hours to L.A and take mini vacations at the “Hotel Casa Ted”. I can remember some of his art, his garden, the way he entertained. We were always treated royally, with wonderful food served on the best china, crystal, linens. I learned so much from him about how to really live in your home, and to surround yourself with things that you love and will enjoy for a long time, rather than following trends.. When I got older, Uncle Ted would take me shopping and show me all the cool stores and the new funky places around Venice Beach and Santa Monica. It was really fun and always eye-opening. Living in a small town is so limiting but he really helped expand my horizons. I admired the artists he introduced me to, and dreamed about one day becoming one, too. Meeting them made me realize it was possible.
Wow how wonderful to grow up like that. What a fun mom and everyone should have a Ted in their lives at some point! How has it been having your own studio and space where you paint?
Oh my gosh Kim, I can’t tell you how great it is! I had been using the kitchen table for a long time. I would set up my paints, and then clean them up every day. One day a couple of years ago, I came home and my husband had moved his office downstairs into one of our daughter’s former bedrooms, and set up a work space for me in what used to be the office. It’s bright with large windows with views of the trees on two sides, two big work surfaces, my standing easel, and all my supplies at the ready for whenever inspiration hits me. It’s past-time for me to do a deep cleaning and organizing in there, I have acquired so many art supplies! Canvases, books, papers and stuff everywhere. And of course completed paintings and works-in-progress, my little nature collections of leaves and feathers and nice twigs with moss on them are all over the place. I am so lucky to have the space and I absolutely love it!!
As a former interior designer, do you have tips for people like me who are just beginning to collect real art and use it in their home decor? Does it matter if art matches the home’s tone and look or should one just go with what they love?
One of my pet peeves when referring to a piece of art, is hearing someone say “it will go with the couch”, or “it will match the room”! Art doesn’t have to match the sofa or the room!! Actually I don’t think it should! I think if you buy what you love and do it consistently, your original art will give your home that “something extra”. Mix it up! You can find artists at festivals, galleries, open studio events, local art leagues. Santa Cruz Arts Council is sponsoring the Visual Arts Network this year, to replace the Open Studios event that was cancelled due to COVID. That is a great on-line source for 2-D and 3-D art of every description, created by artists throughout Santa Cruz County. (Visualaartsnetworksccc.com)
Check out the local university and jr. college art departments, they usually have exhibits at the end of the Spring term. Purchasing from an emerging artist is a great way to acquire art without spending exorbitant amounts of money. You are sure to get something unique, and the artist will be so appreciative of the support. They are also a great resource if you want something made custom just for you. Look into contracting a commission with an artist you particularly admire. Most importantly, buy what catches your eye, makes you think, and makes your heart happy! One more thing – treat your art with respect and frame it properly, with a mat!
Those are great tips!
Has the pandemic changed the way you use your home? Has it been a challenge and do you have any things that have helped you and your family cope during this time?
Last year and into this past March I had been working part-time at a home lifestyle boutique, while at the same time leading art workshops, and teaching six week watercolor classes. I was busy arranging exhibits of my paintings in local venues and First Friday events, and had just completed Santa Cruz Open Studios. I was running around, a lot! When lockdown first started all of my activity stopped. Like everyone else I didn’t know how long SIP it would last and thought I should take advantage of the free time. I spent weeks organizing closets and drawers and getting my stuff together. I even re-sanded and re-oiled the kitchen island butcher block top, and re-lined the shelves in my linen closets! Then the weeks turned into months, well you know the rest. I feel really fortunate because our house is fairly large, and we each have plenty of space and don’t feel like we’re in each other’s way.
Every room in our house is used, daily, and it’s very comfortable. None of the space is off limits or just for show or guests. One of our adult daughters has moved back in to live with us while she works on her Masters Degree. She fixed up her room into sort of a little apartment. My husband has his own very private office downstairs, where he works daily.
My studio is my sanctuary on many days. We have nice cozy places to read, eat, space to work, space to watch TV without disturbing everyone else. During the summer I really enjoyed being outside on our decks, and fixed up a few little areas to make them colorful and welcoming. I planted lots of flowers and got a new water feature. When it wasn’t too hot outside you could find me on the vintage wicker chaise with a glass of iced tea and a library book. I have always loved our home (even before we remodeled it!), but I appreciate it even more after returning from fire-evacuations in September.
How great is this deck and the view?
Heidi’s home with her Christmas decor and below and snaps of her kitchen. The trays on the wall are antique paper mâché from 1940’s Japan and inspired by the walls of Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola. I love that spot too.
I really dig the vaulted wood ceilings and light and views!
You have decorated for the holidays.. any tips or traditions you can share? Are you an all-out holiday decorator or do you have special bits here and there?
Well, every year I say I’m going to tone it down. But I never do! I go all out, and decorate using our family treasures that we’ve been collecting for over 30 years. No themes, no color schemes except I do use a lot of white and silver. And glitter!! This year the tree is a little skinny and not as tall as I prefer. But the tree farms where we usually cut one down burned, (so sad.) We purchased a tree at a lot. It’s fine, but not as spectacular as I’d like it to be! I like them big and fat! I have lots of collections: trees, angels, special ornaments, a zillion nut crackers. The nut crackers didn’t make the cut this year but everything else is in a place of honor. I create little vignettes and don’t decorate in our private spaces for some calm! Upstairs it’s more of a controlled holiday extravaganza!
Do you have a dish that is your specialty?
I’m a pretty good cook, plus I’m a baker! I always helped my German mother bake traditional Christmas recipes. Now I put aside a day or two to bake a bunch of different cookies. Lebkuchen, which is a sort of German gingerbread, is always popular. I’m going to bake a Yule log this year, and probably 7 or 8 varieties of cookies.
The fantastic light is from the wonderful Wisteria in Soquel.
Wow I love Yule logs. I hope you share photos. Those are quite an undertaking. Any favorite cookbook?
Not really, I have recipes, mostly for baked goods, hoarded from family and sourced from all over. I grabbed my recipe box when we evacuated because those recipes would be lost forever if God forbid our house burned. I cook intuitively, and throw things together after I read a recipe. Rarely do I follow one to the letter. Haven’t had too many complaints so I guess my way in the kitchen is working!
You get more confident over the years with cooking I think right? Have a home fragrance or candle that is your signature?
I love those candles from Anthropologie in the glass jars. Capri Blue Volcano. I burn different candles in all the rooms of the house. Lavender in my bedroom, cinnamon, grapefruit, or citrusy scents are my favorite. I usually see what I can find at Marshalls!
The mix of the wood, white walls, and the blue accents have that Santa Cruz feel.
Can you recommend a California shop or two that you love for clothes or home goods?
For home goods I’ll put in a plug for the little boutique where I used to work. Botanic and Luxe in Santa Cruz is a lovely houseplants and homestyle boutique, owned by two lifelong best friends, young women who put their hearts and souls into everything they do. I really admire them, and their shop is filled with many locally crafted, carefully curated items.
I also love spending time at Wisteria in Aptos. That’s where I go when I need a little pick me up, or some inspiration. Wandering from room to room finding exquisite vintage and new treasures, exploring the gardens, and visiting the doves are all my idea of a perfect way to spend the afternoon!
I love Wisteria too! Do you have a favorite part of California – and what part do you still want to see?
I absolutely love living here in Santa Cruz County! I’m only a few minutes from walking on one of many beaches, or hiking through the redwoods, or shopping in our very cool, hip little downtown.
I fell in love with Mendocino when we visited there, Big Sur is amazing, the Napa, Carmel, Santa Ynez valleys are so beautiful. Monterey Bay is spectacular! When I would drive south to see my parents the drive through the Salinas Valley always took my breath away. The misty hills and all the agricultural fields are something special. San Francisco is such a fun city to visit. Lake Tahoe is where my husband and I eloped, the mountains and lake are gorgeous and the air is so fresh.
I guess I’m more of a Northern California Girl. I like the cooler weather and changes in the seasons here, such as they are for California. I love the redwood trees. I’m not a fan of the sprawl of a big city. I’m looking forward to exploring a little more in the northern part of our beautiful state. Trinidad is on my list!
You’ll love Trinidad! Humboldt and that whole area is beautiful.
Framed etchings from Germany collected by Heidi’s parents on their travels. Heidi’s mom was an actress from East Germany and her father a chief flight engineer in the Air Force when they met in there in 1950.
Heidi’s guest bath-a copper clad credenza with a vessel sink.
And her master bath..Love the tub and window!
I think these sinks are so cool…They are called “Happy D” sinks Heidi says, and are by Duravit.
I especially love her botanical watercolors like this Christmas cactus and she’s been doing pet portraits for the holidays by commission too. She does both acrylics and watercolors and I loved looking through all her art. She often does shows, but during Covid you can browse her website.
Love Heidi’s home style? Get the Heidi look..
Thank you Heidi for opening your lovely home up and sharing your tales of California living. I hope you enjoyed meeting her!
All photos and art property of Heidi Woodmansee.
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