Debra Prinzing

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Stylish Chicken Coop in Santa Barbara

Sunday, August 16th, 2009
A tiny chicken coop with loads of style

A tiny chicken coop with loads of style

Last week’s visit to Santa Barbara included a stop at “Rooms & Gardens,” a wonderful home furnishings, antiques, accessories and interior design emporium on State Street.

I needed to check out the store’s new backyard chicken coop and garden.

Owners Eric and Jami Voulgaris recently created the sweet coop and romantic garden, where four Buff Orpington hens reside.

When I met Eric a few weeks ago, at the Santa Monica “Rooms & Gardens” store (they own this location with a partner, actress Mary Steenbergen), he told me about the chicken coop project.

The little building measures about 6-by-6 feet in size, with a charming shingled roof, board-and-batten siding, a country-style screen door and shutters. Stained that dreamy grey-blue shade, it looks both elegant and timeless.

A curved cobblestone path leads from the store’s back door out into the postage-stamp-sized garden. Picket fencing contains the four gals in their little yard.

The Voulgaris children named the Buff Orpington chicks, born on Easter morning: “Henny Penny,” “Rosy,” “Cornflake,” and “Scramble.”

The 800-square-foot garden’s renovation came about because it had to be ripped up when the neighboring Apple store was moving in. When that construction came to an end, Eric and Jami saw it as a chance to dress up the space, which really hadn’t changed much since Rooms & Gardens opened 16 years ago.

Happy chickens living in a happy garden

Happy chickens living in a happy garden

Pretty and inviting, a corner garden

Pretty and inviting, a corner garden

Fully organic, the Martha’s Vineyard-inspired garden is landscaped with espaliered apple trees, Meyer lemon trees, ‘Iceburg’ roses and clumps of lavender. One corner holds a display of potted hydrangeas and an iron chair.

The garden and hens complement the carefree lifestyle settings inside Rooms & Gardens. Eric describes the store’s look and feel as “a fusion of British Colonial, ethnic accents, Chinoiserie and a relaxed coastal theme.”

I love the happy vibe that you feel upon entering. It’s a store where sink-into furniture is paired with uncommon accessories, all of which suggests well-loved and well-lived-in environments.

The garden is open to visitors during store hours. If you want to taste the yummy brown eggs produced here, check with the staff. Eric mentioned that a plan is in the works to supply Tuttini’s, a cafe around the corner, with their daily source of eggs!

Chicken Coop Sightings . . .

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
A vintage EGGS sign hangs in Kathy Fries's fanciful coop

A vintage EGGS sign hangs in Kathy Fries's fanciful coop

Fresh eggs, how can you argue with that idea? I love cooking with fresh, organically-grown eggs produced by free-range hens. Thank goodness that I can buy them at my local, Thousand Oaks Farmers Market every Thursday! 

I wonder how long it will take before I graduate from growing backyard herbs, fruits and vegetables to raising chickens? Let’s see. . . maybe after my children leave for college, and perhaps after my beloved Lab, Zanny, has passed on.

Poultry fever has smitten many of my friends, though. I love the way they’ve integrated chicken culture into horticulture (get it?). And I really love the chicken coop architecture created by inspired hen owners.

Bonnie Manion's hens live in a renovated children's playhouse!

Bonnie Manion's hens live in a renovated children's playhouse!

My blogger friend Bonnie Manion, who writes at Vintage Garden Gal, often shares stories of her hens, advice on raising chickens and even the care an maintenance of coops. She has just inherited a couple of charming gals – Buff Wheaten Marans. You’ll want to read more of Bonnie’s chicken adventures (and see more photos of her charming coop, which is a re-purposed children’s playhouse, shown here ).

Recently, a writer friend of mine paid me what I think was a lovely compliment. She said, “Debra, I want to create a book just like Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways – but about chicken coops!”

And my response: Go for it!

Bill Wright, my fearless collaborator, would love to photograph a chicken coop book. I call him “fearless,” because how else could you describe a guy willing to get inside a coop with half-a-dozen chickens, two youngsters and a lot of feed flying around . . . just to capture the perfect shot!!!?

Here is that photograph, of our dear friend and shedista Kathy Fries, along with her sons Xander and Jasper. We documented a moment in their daily routine, when mom and boys feed and water the chickens, gather eggs, and generally putter around the coop. That coop, by the way, is no ordinary henhouse. You’ll see what I mean about “poultry fever.”

”]Kathy, Jasper (left) and Xander feeding their chickens [William Wright photo]Kathy’s chicken edifice is called the Palais de Poulet. She worked with Seattle artist-builder John Akers to create the magnificent chicken abode, complete with a jaunty turret and a brick entry path lined with boxwood clipped into a fleur de lis pattern.