Town & Country

Posted online: March 2016

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Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 1.32.46 PMRuthie Sommers wears a lot of hats. Like maybe five in a given day. She and her three daughters—Eloise, 9, Bailey, 5, and Posey, 4—started a collection of vintage top hats, Mexican wedding hats, and cowboy hats they found together at Goleta thrift stores. The fact that all these hats would inherently set the decor tone at their Santa Barbara ranch house should come as no surprise to those who recall the iconic debut Domino magazine cover featuring Ruthie snuggling her dog and rocking the design world with her have-fun, can-do, “fast and fearless” decorating attitude.

While that cover is now 10 years old and Ruthie has since racked up a long list of celebrity clientele, she still finds great joy in affordable design and people who are proud of their homes. Steering away from the sense that everyone has to be a brand these days, she sticks to her instincts and seeks solitude on her ranch as many weekends as possible.

The shingled home with hunter green trim sits on 90 acres in a canyon amid Gaviota’s stunning coastal locale. When she and her husband, Luke, bought it four years ago, it was basically move-in ready, however they remodeled the kitchen with a large island, white Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 1.33.03 PMcabinetry, brass hardware, and cottage-industrial sconces. Then it was all about the hats. “I wanted to keep it ranchy, not decorated,” Ruthie says. “I didn’t want it to look like a photo shoot, I wanted to fill the house with local things and make it a place where we could come and take a deep breath.”

True to her words, everyone literally has to unplug on the property—there’s no cell reception. Plus, Ruthie is a no-screens mom, therefore the kids rarely have TV or tech time so she compensates with all the dress up. Friends are always welcome but kids have to trade up their iPads for magnifying glasses and nature walks. She sees most kids, including her own, have a fit of anxiety for about five minutes, then it ends and they play together. Painting alfresco, carving out trails, and hitting the beach—especially with dad, who always dreamed of having a place to surf—are among the big days of ranch life.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 1.34.11 PM“We live for the weekends,” she says. While weekdays are spent in their East Coast-style house in Los Angeles’s Hancock Park and summers are spent with family at their home in Newport, Rhode Island, she loves the rustic, authentic vibe in Santa Barbara and the spiritual feeling she gets walking around the hills. “I can’t help but be in awe of the land.”

On any given weekend, the crew is outdoors with their five dogs. If L.A. is about tennis clubs and trimmed boxwoods, the ranch is her place for mixing vintage Playboys with pretty pillows. A free spirit with a wild sense of humor, Ruthie is known for her nonstop tangents on all topics and there’s no telling what she’ll say or where she’ll go next. She and Luke love the quiet as much as a good party—they’ve hosted huge birthday fetes under twinkly lights and roller skating nights after the kids have gone to bed. While she laughs and chocks this all up to ADHD, it’s her sense of adventure and how she never takes herself too seriously that translates into her whimsical, approachable design mentality.

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As she layers on more local finds to her mix on the ranch—Ronald Regan plates, vintage saddles, surfing photos, and old black-and-whites of the Santa Ynez Valley—it’s a reminder that good design isn’t always at a high cost. As she says, “You’re only as good as your smile when you open the door.”

Ruthie’s Black Book

FOR PAINT: Benjamin Moore Ivory White and Farrow & Ball Wimborne White.
CHILDREN TEXTILES: Raoul’s sample sale. 805-899-4947,
OLD TOWN ANTIQUES IN GOLTEA: Great inexpensive finds for original and cute gifts, barware, and kitschy items. 805-967-2528.
SUMMERLAND ANTIQUES: Outdoor, china, stools. 805-565-3189,
BELLE DU JOUR SALON: Color and a blowout by Michele Mallet. 805-845-7000,
MAVERICK SALOON: Get your cowboy on! 805-686-4785.
NEW FRONTIERS SOLVANG: Hollister Ranch beef stew. 805-693-1746,
KENDALL CONRAD DOG COLLARS: I dress my dogs better than myself. 805-886-8344,



[HOME & GARDEN 2016]

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