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Judy Foreman: Teri Walker Design Perfects Style of Living Large by Sizing Down

Capitalizing on a trend among baby boomers, Teri Walker Lebow introduces the art of reduction

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Twenty-five years ago, I wouldn't have thought that residential downsizing would apply to me. After buying my first family home in Montecito's Golden Triangle in 1998, and my second, on School House Road in 2000, I could not imagine the day would ever come that "smaller was smarter."

After all, capturing the Santa Barbara lifestyle includes being able to live in more rural neighborhood settings, with larger properties, than in Los Angeles. Land, lotsa land, as the song goes, can also mean "big bucks" to maintain.

I am not alone at this stage of life. Along with other baby boomers, there is a movement to embrace a smaller casa, not because we have to but because we choose to. Unfortunately, limited inventory in the residential market for condos or smaller homes — especially if you want to stay in the 93108 ZIP code — makes finding a replacement home challenging.

Reasons for scaling back can include a desire for reduced monthly overhead, a second residence elsewhere, the need for just a single story, or room enough for a dog yard or your favorite dining room table to host your family Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps you also want an extra guest room for grandchildren but not so many extra bedrooms that your adult kids never move out.

Montecito residents Robyn and Len Freedman have always followed the "less is more" philosophy. Their first place was in a high-rise condo in Century City. They bought their second residence in Beverly Hills when they had children. Relocating to Santa Barbara 22 years ago, they lived in larger homes, where they raised two sons, Drew and Blake.

Four years ago, they pulled the trigger and bought a smaller home in the hills above Summerland. Keeping things lean and uncluttered has always been Robyn’s personal and residential style, thus a smaller "lock and walk" at this time of the Freedmans' lives seemed especially appealing.

To make the move work, they hired Montecito interior designer firm Teri Walker Design Inc. Teri Walker Lebow, the firm's owner, wanted to ensure the transition was not a "downsize," so to speak, but a matter of simplifying and quality over quantity. She set out to achieve a space that spoke to the Freedmans' aesthetics, wants and needs.

Not wanting to sacrifice style, just square footage has been a recent theme with some of Lebow's repeat clients, including me. Teri Walker Design is keen when it comes to client transitions to different interior styles while preserving an aesthetic design that makes coming home still feel wonderful!

Physical constraints demand imaginative concepts. Creating efficient space is a valuable commodity when there is less of it, I was to find out. This is why, according to Lebow, "achieving good design usually begins with the problem of ‘not enough’" — which could be storage, lighting, closet space or bedrooms.

"You can achieve great design regardless of spacial limitations," Lebow said.

A creative approach to problem solving occurs by making thoughtful choices and prioritizing your needs. Lebow collaborates with Teri Walker Design Inc. associate designer Caitlin Zeitsoff. The dynamic duo compliment each other’s approach and aesthetics, and they brainstorm on all the jobs they work on together. Their Montecito office is a virtual think tank.

Lebow was raised in Beverly Hills and graduated with a bachelor's degree in design from UCLA, then attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for advertising. Next step was Madison Avenue, where she worked as an art director for several New York ad agencies.

Twenty years ago, while still living in Manhattan, she and husband, Ken, purchased a historic Montecito estate that originally had belonged to Dame Judith Anderson. Transforming the property included a complete restoration and aggressive remodel. Lebow traveled back and forth to California to work on the house with Los Angeles architect and contractor Robert Glaus.

In 1995, the Lebows relocated to Montecito with their 3-year-old son, Shane (now a senior at Stanford). Three years later, Lebow gave birth to twin girls, Rose and Sofie (now high school sophomores). It was during this time that she found her passion and talent as an interior designer. Her home was later featured in House & Garden Magazine (May 2008). She’s been working in the business ever since.

Over the past 13 years, Teri Walker Design Inc. has remodeled and updated a myriad of impressive projects, from Los Angeles to Montecito, Santa Ynez to Sun Valley, even to a beachfront home in Mexico with acclaimed architect Enrique Zozaya.

Lebow loves conceptualizing space, design and choosing materials from the ground up. Teri Walker Design enjoys the reward and challenge of working on projects of all scales.

From high-end, large estates, to new construction or remodels, to couples sizing down, it’s all in the approach. Years back, Lebow even converted a one-bedroom Casa Dorinda apartment for her late father, Dr. Joseph Walker. The “after” resembled a Ralph Lauren Home showroom. Scale and approach to each project may be different but each one is notable for its put together look with a twist.

A notable fashion icon, Lebow "oozes cool" with her personal taste and injects that creativity into her work, always factoring the comfort level and style of her clients into the end game. She is known for having a great eye for finding small gems at estate sales or local antique malls.

Teri Walker Design may travel internationally for design ideas, but it also makes use of online resources. Long-standing relationships with Los Angeles showrooms allows for great sourcing furniture, fabrics, tile and lighting. Whenever possible, however, the company supports local businesses. Some spots on the TWD hit list: Davis &Taft, Cabana Home, NS Ceramic, William Laman, Raoul Textiles, Upstairs at Pierre LaFond, Porch, Jenni Kayne Home, Botanik, M Freeborn Studios, Santa Barbara Design Center, Forged Lighting and The Attic.

As Teri Walker Design Inc. approaches every project, good design is a network of systematic responses that addresses needs on a daily basis, no matter the size of the home.

“It’s all in the editing," Lebow said. "When living large in smaller spaces, if you choose to incorporate good design into your home, every home you have will be as big as you need."

Click here for more information on Teri Walker Design Inc., or call 805.969.8461.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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