Next Stop, Montecito: Once a Train Depot, Now a Minimalist Sanctuary

We love it when the designers we’ve featured on our site check in with us to report an update to their home, a new project, a new venture, a relocation. Like a high school teacher visited by former students, we’re eager to see the changes that have happened since we were last in contact.

So we were delighted to open an email from Remodelista alum Kathleen Whitaker, an LA jewelry designer whose works are unusually elegant and artful. In 2014, we shared her first remodel of her Echo Park home, and a few years later the update to the update. The summer before last, she wrote to tell us, she temporarily moved into a rental in Montecito, a sleepy-chic community next to Santa Barbara, to escape the stress of living in the city during a pandemic.

“The cottage dates back to the 1920s. It is a single-story one-bedroom—at 675 square feet, exactly what you need (and nothing more) for a getaway spot,” she says. “It is one of four cottages, all originally part of the train depot, so each one is unique and very charming. I was told this specific cottage was likely the ticket office and luggage room. So even in its initial carnation, it was a place just to pass through, temporarily.”

The place came unfurnished—an inconvenience that, for many, would lead to a trip to Ikea. But Kathleen saw it as an intriguing design challenge: to create the peaceful retreat she sought using mostly furniture, decor, and art that she already had in her LA home. “It was a little confining but fun to work with big limitations,” she says. But even with the limitations—no painting, no permanent changes—she was able to sneak in a small, nail-free, easily removable DIY project. (Scroll down to see the clever corner desk she built.)

Here’s how it all came together.

Photography by Ye Rin Mok and Logan White.

the cottage came painted white, which kathleen liked. the many unattractive wal 12
Above: The cottage came painted white, which Kathleen liked. The many unattractive wall sconces, though, she could not abide. “I switched them out for basic ceramic bases with silver-tipped bulbs,” she says. The painting is by Hadley Holiday. Photograph by Ye Rin Mok.
much of the furniture is vintage—including the sofa (won at a billings a 13
Above: Much of the furniture is vintage—including the sofa (won at a Billings auction and for which she had one long cushion made and covered in felt) and the 1970s Tacchini Sesann chair. The Noguchi floor lamp is from OK in Santa Monica. The bolster pillow is by Christina Lundsteen, from Lost & Found. Photograph by Logan White.
like in her echo park home, light is ample in this cottage thanks to the many w 14
Above: Like in her Echo Park home, light is ample in this cottage thanks to the many windows, including some that are floor-to-ceiling. The painting above the chair is by Jay Stuckey. The book bench, made from reclaimed Douglas fir, is by Kathleen’s old studio mate, Lindon Schultz. Photograph by Ye Rin Mok.
kathleen bought two vintage donghia pillow slipper chairs from chairish and had 15
Above: Kathleen bought two vintage Donghia pillow slipper chairs from Chairish and had them reupholstered in a poplin cotton. The table is from LA antique store The Window. Photograph by Logan White.
kathleen whitaker montecito train depot cottage table
Above: The antique table was handed down from a friend. Kathleen found the lamp at Brimfield. The basket is a vintage “garlic gourd’ that she uses to hold her dogs’ leashes and collars. Photograph by Ye Rin Mok.