This California Cottage Is a Fairy Tale-Like Sanctuary

Inspired by a love of French farmhouse style, this homeowner breathed new life into her historic home.

Californian cottage porch
Photography by Mark Lohman, styling by Sunday Hendrickson

Text by Bethany Adams

Designer Deena Benz has always had a deep appreciation for farmhouse style. So, when she had the opportunity to purchase her own farmhouse in Los Olivos, California, she jumped at the chance. “It was a very happy accident how I found this place,” Deena says of the structure, which was built in 1886 and originally belonged to influential early members of the community. “It’s a very special place to me. I’m just so grateful it chose me.”

At the time of the purchase in 2014, Deena was the owner of Farmhouse Goods, a home décor business formed in collaboration with interior designer, shop owner, and friend Lizzie McGraw, whom Deena calls her inspiration. Both women’s styles—and inventories—played a part in revitalizing the home’s interior, but it was ultimately Deena’s love of light that transformed the space into what it is today.

Californian cottage breakfast room
Photography by Mark Lohman, styling by Sunday Hendrickson

Originally laden with dark wood tones, gloomy greens, and outdated carpeting, the cottage was in desperate need of “a fresh coat of everything,” Lizzie says. Deena addressed the problem with an abundance of white paint, which she used on the planked walls and ceilings as well as the furniture itself. “Most of my furniture is white, and if it isn’t, it’s got something white over it,” she notes. “It’s just something I love, and I feel like it’s very farmhouse.”

Californian cottage living room
Photography by Mark Lohman, styling by Sunday Hendrickson

The bright and airy backdrop lends itself to the cozy, casual style seen in the furnishings and accents throughout the home, and the neutral palette allows an easy marrying of weathered finishes, plush chairs, and country-style linens. Where color has been introduced, it is restricted to cheerful, calming shades that are complemented by the glow of the sunlight pouring in from the home’s many windows. “When you look at the French world or European farm lifestyle, it’s very clean,” Deena says. The designer notes that farmhouse style often features wooden textures, green foliage, and lots of white. “So those are kind of where I try to go,” she says.