The word “minimalist” is not in Barb Saia’s design vocabulary.
“I’m a maximalist,” she said. “I think everyone should surround themselves with things they love.”
Love happens to be the theme of the Los Osos property that she and husband Jeri call Heartland. They purchased two structures on a half-acre parcel in 2018.
The couple’s plan was to turn the buildings into retail units. They would rent out 11 of those units and also have space for Barb Saia’s business, Happy Go Smile, a cupcake bakery, gift shop and art studio that was previously located in Cayucos.
Atop five of those retail units, they built a 2,000-square-foot home that’s always ready for Valentine’s Day.
Jeri Saia, a plumbing contractor, was owner-builder for the project. The Saias’ adult children, Nat and Nick, and Jeri’s father, Jerry Saia, lent a hand with the construction and finish work.
The Saias oversaw the two-year-long project while living in vintage trailers on the property.
Their new home’s architecture matches the industrial aesthetic of the existing buildings with metal siding and decorative metal gates created by Formula Factory Fabrication in Los Osos.
The brilliant red color of those exterior walls hints at something completely different within.
Barb Saia spearheaded the interior design, drawing on a heart theme that she has been partial to for most of her life.
The look is vibrant and bold, featuring layers of “pattern, color, whimsy, design and fun,” she said. “I like to mix it up.”
The overriding style of the home’s interior is what Saia calls “whimsical shabby chic” — warm, homey, cottage charm that Saia has turned on its ear.
Traditional tile styles such as hexagon, harlequin and subway take on new life with bold red and turquoise.
You’ll find Saia’s signature “true red” on the bathtub in the guest bathroom and in the kitchen on the Shaker cabinets, glass chandelier, refrigerator and stove.
Saia has been collecting red kitchenware for many years and has a red ice cream machine, food processor, blender, waffle iron — even a red air fryer.
To keep things from becoming too “matchy-matchy,” Saia said, she varies her patterns and styles.
For instance, the rose motif that repeats throughout the master suite varies dramatically in scale, from petite roses on the comforter to an oversized rose mural in the bathroom, painted by Nat.
In the guest bathroom, the heart theme is interpreted through Mexican design with sacred heart accents and Mexican pottery.
Color and pattern can easily be overwhelming, so Saia uses a base of neutrals and simple lines. Walls are mostly white and the floors are a rich walnut.
Black — seen on draperies, kitchen countertops and the checkerboard-patterned bathroom floors — grounds her look. Furniture and fixtures are mostly clean-lined and simple.
The Saias reopened their shop in its new location in March 2019 and moved into their new home that August.
Although Barb Saia has surrounded herself with her “favorite things,” she is always redecorating and reimagining her home, she said.
She plans to add wallpaper soon and is always on the lookout for more pieces to add to her heart-themed collection.
Her best design advice? “Stay curious,” she said. “Step out of the box and try something different.”
Balance bold accents. When using accents with assertive colors and patterns, choose furniture with simple lines and keep floors and walls neutral to give the eye a place to rest.
Mix, don’t match. When you use a repeating motif or theme, the look is more interesting when you vary the scale and style. For instance, Barb Saia’s heart theme appears in many forms, from folk art to Mexican sacred heart motifs.
Red rules. Warm and cool shades of red can clash. To make sure your pieces coordinate, take a swatch or sample when you go shopping. Remember that colors found online can be less than accurate.