Address: 349 Ash Avenue, Carpinteria
Status: Not for sale
My mother lives in a mobile home. There, I said it. In general, I’m not one to put on airs or care much about status symbols. I define success by living truly and happily, rather than by net worth or brand of car hood ornament.
But I admit, when my mother was house shopping in Santa Barbara 15 years ago, and she asked me to come look at a home that she was considering, and I realized that said home was in a — shudder — mobile home park, I had a split-second involuntary recoil, followed by a momentary bout of snootiness. Mom? In a mobile home? Aka trailer park? Heaven forbid.
However, when I saw her new home-to-be, I knew immediately that both the house itself and its setting were perfect. My short-lived snobbery was replaced with happiness that she had found the perfect home sweet home.
My warm and fuzzy adoration of mom’s Carpinteria home choice has been reiterated over the ensuing years. She is one block to the beach and walking distance to the heart of quaint downtown Carp, and the small coastal town has been a perfect spot for the busiest person I know to volunteer, get involved, and lead a bustling life as a retiree. My admiration of the park itself was validated more officially recently, when Carpinteria Beautiful shared a preview of its upcoming Home & Garden Tour. Lo and behold, Silver Sands Park has an entry in this year’s annual showcase, among the estates, ranches, and historic homes that make up Carpinteria’s wide variety of residential offerings.
When I told my mom that I’d been invited to profile one of the Carpinteria Home & Garden Tour houses, her first comment, not surprisingly, was “Fantastic. I’m volunteering as a host at one of the homes,” followed quickly by “Oh, you should write about my friend Jane’s house. It’s the one here at Silver Sands.” As I mentioned, mom is the busiest person I know — she’s involved with everything and knows everyone.
Silver Sands Mobile Home Park sits right on the edge of the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, and Jane Benefield’s house sits right on the edge of Silver Sands. She has an unobstructed 270-degree view of the preserve, with sunrises over the ocean on one side and sunsets reflecting against the mountains in the other direction.
When mom and I walked over to visit Jane last week, quintessential kitschy trailer-park flamingos greeted us as we approached her front door. Jane has her own style, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. “Some people don’t like the flamingos,” Jane confirmed, “but I tell them they can go find something of their own to worry about.” Jane obviously has her own opinions, too. I liked her immediately.
As we walked through her home, the style was exemplified in every room and every corner. Hanging just inside the front door is a modern mobile sculpture made of colored screens bouncing jauntily in the wind. The art on her living room walls ranges from two bold self-portraits of her late aunt to a rhinestone-studded steer’s skull created by Jane to a hand-tinted photograph of her great-grandparents. A colorful collection of masks and tribal art on an even more colorful hand-painted corner shelf grabbed my attention until a fanciful whale painted directly on one wall grabbed it back. Jane has a story for almost every piece of artwork and piece of furniture in her house.
Jane bought the home from her mother, who originally lived in an older home on the same lot. Jane remembers that her mom bought the older home, affectionately called “the little brown jug,” by approaching its owner and offering him $250,000, which was well over market value at that time, with a “take it or leave it” stance. The home was not for sale, but he took the offer. Jane reports that the neighbors at the time thought mom was crazy for paying such a high price. However, mom moved in, put a brand-new home on the lot in 2004, and then sold it to Jane.
As Jane settled in, she transformed the new, pristine, white home to better reflect her artsy, funky, colorful personal style. Over the ensuing years, she has replaced the floors, sinks, and kitchen countertops. While these elements are solid and stylish, it’s the artistic touches that truly define Jane’s house.
One other change that Jane made to the house was the addition out the back door of a custom “catio” — a deck that was designed, built, fenced, and specially outfitted to serve as a playroom for Wizard and Zeddie, Jane’s two adopted felines. The catification of the house includes this outdoor kitty playland, which can be locked to keep the cats safe, and a special pet door in the bathroom that leads to their litter box in an outdoor shed, so that their outhouse is really out of the house.
As I prepared to leave, my mom, Jane, and I stood on the front porch admiring her yard all along the marsh side of her house, which she aptly describes as 18 inches wide and 50 feet long. We all agreed that the long, skinny strip is a perfect size: plenty of room to plant yet not too much space to maintain. I noticed a couple more flamingos on that side of Jane’s house. These were in addition to the ones I had seen walking up from the other direction. If you’re going to give the neighbors something to talk about, might as well do it right. We had to rush off because my mom had another appointment to get to, naturally. I was glad to know that I’ll have another chance to visit Jane’s place at the Home & Garden Tour next week.
The Carpinteria Home and Garden Tour on Saturday, April 30, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., is a self-guided tour of five diverse homes throughout Carpinteria. Tickets are $30. See carpinteriabeautiful.org.