I have a pretty strong belief that the right home chooses you. There’s a little magic, a little unexpected, and a lot of impossible involved. It’s been true of all the homes I’ve truly loved and never more true then with my home in Topanga Canyon, California.
In the summer of 2015 I moved back to Santa Monica, California into a (very small) temporary condo. I’d begin a long and daily search for my dream home. As someone who spent most of her life in the countryside or small towns, I was exhausted by the intense city living I’d been doing since moving to America years ago. I wanted somewhere quiet, with views outside my window that weren’t of my next door neighbour, I wanted space to putter, to garden and to host friends. I wanted simple things like a place to park my car without having to circle blocks looking for parking.
After living in so many homes, I knew exactly what I liked and didn’t and finding something in a market that doesn’t have inventory but does have crazy prices was proving to be really difficult and frankly depressing.
I was ready to give up when, one morning, I searched outside of my normal area and comfort zone: Topanga Canyon. It was only 10 miles to Santa Monica or Malibu, 4 miles to the beach and seemingly miles away from civilization. I saw a listing that had a photo of a home I knew instantly was meant for me, on an acre with so much nature including a chicken coop and a Provence-style garden. Neighbours but you couldn’t see them and noise? Only birds. It had lots of windows, lots of light, lots of white and lots of space.
There was an open house two days later so I made sure to be there as soon as it opened but another couple had got there first. I was worried because I could hear them being aggressive about the home – what they’d do to it, what they wanted changed, moving plans. I walked through the front door and as I stood in the kitchen I heard them talk to the realtor that they wanted it. They’d take it. They’d go home and make the arrangements. It would be a done deal.
And I remember thinking, “oh no you won’t. This is my home.”
I waited in the kitchen until that couple left and then walked out to talk with the realtor who was brokering the lease. I said, “I’ve heard the conversation you had with the other couple. Should I even bother?”
I’ll never forget, but she gave me this grin, squeezed my hand and I swear with a twinkle in her eye said, “Yes. I think you should.” It was this strange but cheeky feeling like she was letting me in on a secret – she wanted me to have it. I hadn’t spoken to her before and that’s all we said but that was enough.
When I applied I wrote a huge letter for the owners. Telling them how I’d grown up in the country, how I’d lived in and owned historic homes and knew how to look after them, how I loved to garden and craved peace. How I wanted to live somewhere for a long time and would sign a long lease. And how I felt like it was home. And I was so ready to feel at home, since the past 9 months 75% of my things had been in storage and the past several years I’d felt in flux and not settled.
And then, the next day, the owners accepted my offer and two weeks later I moved in.
When I met with the owners and the realtor, I mentioned how I knew it was my home from the start and the realtor said “I believe the home chooses the person. And this home chose you.”
And it did. It really did.
Furniture that I’ve had for a long time that’s always kind of not fit the next house completely fits into specific areas of my home – almost like what I had was made for this place. I no longer hear neighbours yelling but coyotes howling. I don’t wake up to dogs barking but birds singing. I’ve got my white walls upstairs but now I have dark, cosy wood and flooring downstairs. I have views, quiet, and peace. It’s total calm here and a place that just feels happy. I think that comes through in photos which is why I have friends coming almost every other weekend for the next six months and I couldn’t be happier. I have the sparest of spare rooms that feels like a treehouse and I can’t wait to share it with friends, and now, with you.
The Topanga Canyon House details:
The house was originally hand built in 1925 as a hunting lodge. The stone on the first floor is native to the area and is pretty common up in the canyon. It’s in a high-risk fire area so having a stone foundation helped owners to show ownership of land if a fire happened. The first floor has a lot of original details like an original Wedgewood stove, farmhouse sink and wood oven stove in the living room. The first floor is also the ‘cosy’ floor and new for me in terms of style. It feels to me like a home in Provence with all the wood/stone, slate floors in the living room and cork floors in the kitchen. The first floor windows also look level at the backyard because the house is built into a hill.
The second floor feels like a treehouse, surrounded by bougainvillea and lots of windows. There’s a large guest room/office with original built ins and the master bedroom is about the size of my previous Santa Monica flat. White walls + lots of sun = one happy girl.
The landing that connects the first and second floor is actually pretty large with big doors that go out to the backyard. The backyard has a built-in stone seat and a cat-run! The front yard is huge with the most amazing canyon views, a trail that goes down to a large chicken coop and continuing down that trail goes to studio/office.
There’s no cell reception here which the Laura Ingalls in me is very happy about.
I’ve never committed to anything as long as I’ve committed to this place is the first home that actually feels like a hygge house. There is a natural charm to the home because of how/why it was built, the fact that it’s only had two owners so it hasn’t really been changed and that there’s space without feeling big. Plus there’s something about Topanga that feels a world away from everything.The home feels both simple and luxurious, cosy and open, and calm yet energizing. Hygge!
I’m not a city person so being in Topanga and having nature around me helps to balance out the wonderful-crazy that is my work and give me (and friends) a place to rest.Being here is what finally allowed to cross something off my bucket list – love my home, my work and my city all at the same time.