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In 2019, Jill Ellis accomplished a major feat. The creative studio founder and mother of three managed to squeeze six functions into the cedar shingle cabana she built beside her 1950s ranch-style home in Santa Barbara, California.

“Our goal was to make this cabana a super flexible space for our family,” Ellis explains. “It serves as a pool house, guest quarters, entertaining hub, extra work space, art studio, and movie room. We needed to pack a lot of functionality into a small box.”

Ellis made this multipurpose dream a reality with a clever floor plan that includes a half-story twin bedroom loft, a desk-console hybrid, and a galley kitchen that feels airy thanks to an awning window. The place is complete with a black, white, and wood palette and a coastal aesthetic that mixes traditional style with modern touches.

But Ellis didn’t complete this efficient project alone. She collaborated with her 76-year-old retired engineer father, who’s known for his construction hobby. “He is very resourceful and I learned a lot from him on the job,” she reveals. “It was a really fun experience to be able to do this together.” Here’s how the duo made both a stunning cabana and unforgettable memories.


Blending Work and Play

To maximize space, Ellis combined a home office, a media console, and ample storage using a slew of IKEA Sektion cabinets. She retrofitted some of the boxes to achieve a proper desk height, eliminating two five-inch drawers using power tools, and kept the console cupboards the original height for optimal film viewing on the big screen television.

Ellis crafted a built-in look with a seamless flow between the different-height surfaces with Semihandmade Supermatte White Shaker doors, leather pulls from Etsy, and IKEA ash butcher block counters. “I love how the finished look is clean, and seamless,” she raves. “The white helps the cabinets disappear into the shiplap wall, and the simple lines of the fronts feel sophisticated and timeless.”


Creating Continuity

In the kitchen, Ellis inverted the material pairing from her storage wall, mixing Semihandmade Impression Tahoe wood grain cabinet doors with white quartzite counters. The flip creates continuity among the hues and textures throughout the cabana, while introducing a novel design that gives the cookspace its own vibe.

The natural stone also allowed Ellis to construct an indoor-outdoor bar for entertaining during pool parties and al fresco meals. “I wanted this continuous surface from the inside to the outside,” she reasons. “I always have cocktails out or I’ve got dinner served up here and there’s bar stools on both sides.”


Catering to Guests

Family and friends can also enjoy the gray Restoration Hardware pull-out sofa or a low-slung twin bed in the cozy loft, which is accessed by an antique library ladder Ellis found on eBay. “It’s from a steel factory in Youngstown, Ohio, which is where my mother-in-law is from,” she shares. “Her family had a steel mill, so we like to pretend it’s from that particular steel mill.”

Guests might be surprised that the shower is outdoors, but Ellis insists it’s refreshing. The half-bathroom is reserved for washing up and changing by a storage bench she fashioned using IKEA refrigerator cabinets and Semihandmade Supermatte Night Sky Shaker fronts. She cut off the back of Sektion boxes to customize a matching vanity. It’s DIYed to perfection.


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