Cristal's Blog

7 Tips for Creating Your Own Safe Haven

July 14, 2020

Back to Articles


This a French Country-Style Montecito Home in Birnam Wood is a perfect example of a home that is also a safe haven.

What makes a happy home? A safe haven offering sanctuary from the storm, so to speak. It’s one that brings a smile to your face and a feeling of security even when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Or worse, find yourself in the middle of a global pandemic. And while it may be hard to pull yourself out of that bad mood, just remember all things (both good and bad) must come to an end at some point, and our current troubles will too (I promise).

Creating a safe haven to escape the world can be just the ticket to pull yourself out of that funk. Forget about wine and chocolate—it’s all about setting the stage and engaging all your senses. Here’s your ultimate checklist to transform your home into a happy place brimming with good vibes, featuring images from my new listing, a French Country-Style Montecito Home in Birnam Wood:

A Welcoming Entryway Will Set the Stage

I’ve said it before, you only have one chance to make a first impression. And it’s a fact—first impressions are everything. That’s why it’s so important to put effort into creating a welcoming entryway. Not just for guests. Create an inspirational entryway for yourself, too.

READ: Ocean View Homes are Good for Our Health

An inviting entrance will not only have a positive effect on your mood every time you step through the front door, but it can dramatically make your visitors feel the good vibes you’ve created right away.

A welcoming entryway is one of the best ways to signal your brain that you’re entering a safe, healthy space. Plus, it’s easy to create. Just add a functional console table at your front door, along with some green accents and a congenial piece of art. Make this the spot to leave your keys, sunglasses, shoes, and anything else that stresses you out when you have to search for it.

Let the light in by not covering windows with heave drapes like this pictures shows.

Light Up Your Life

Throw out your heavy drapery and let our famous Santa Barbara sunshine in. This showcase in the prestigious community of Birnam Wood takes that idea to the limit with an air of spaciousness and light thanks to numerous oversize windows and French doors. Natural light streams through the rooms, like the one above, complemented by lofty vaulted ceilings, and an open floorplan for an easy flow from indoor to outdoor.

A happy home has lots of restorative natural light streaming through it. There’s nothing like a bit of sunshine to brighten your day. Plus, so many Santa Barbara homes offer owners and their guests' amazing views. Why would you want to cover Mother Nature’s beauty with heavy draperies?

Add even more light to your space by strategically placing mirrors across from windows with a beautiful view, or in a dark corner to brighten it up.

A luxurious bedroom featuring a live plant

Be Nurtured by Nature

See how your eye is drawn to the palm plant in the bedroom pictured above? Not only can plants give your safe haven a more natural feel resulting from bringing the outdoors inside, but you can also enjoy the mind/body benefits that come with house plants. Plus, a little greenery goes a long way to cleaning the air and lifting your mood.

READ: Hug A Santa Barbara Tree Today

In fact, there are many scientifically proven health benefits related to spending time in nature. The list includes restoring your mental energy, reducing inflammation, and improving concentration. I can’t say enough positive things about adding fresh greenery to your home décor plans, especially here in Santa Barbara. Our perfect Mediterranean weather gives almost everyone a green thumb.

Don’t Forget the Sense of Smell

Many homeowners forget about the power of smell. That’s why fragrance is an accessory that’s often overlooked in the design of a home. Just as important as your choice in furniture, lighting, and artwork, scent adds depth and character to your home. It can even transform a negative vibe into an inviting and relaxing ambiance.

READ: Preparing Your Santa Barbara Home For Sale

Mood busting scents that can make your safe haven a happier place include:

  • Citrus – energizing and uplifting
  • Vanilla – appealing and calming
  • Coffee – can increase your attention span
  • Jasmine – adds freshness
  • Lavender – calming
  • Mint – increases blood flow to your brain

Use Color to Set the Mood and Tone

If you really want to dial up the joy meter inside your safe haven, don't underestimate the power of color. Simply put, color sets the mood and tone. Color palettes can affect you in a variety of ways. Is the color uplifting, or is it subdued? Here is the psychology behind some popular colors:

  • Brown induces a feeling of naturalness and comfort.
  • White is used to create an airy appearance; quiet and pure.
  • Gray paints a formality that is subtly elegant without being too conservative.
  • Black gives an elegant and sophisticated air.
  • Yellow gives a bright and optimistic air.
  • Red promotes a resonant and stimulating feeling.
  • Pink creates a fresh, fine, and feminine atmosphere.
  • Purple adds a luxurious and expensive feel.
  • Blue is perfect for creating a cool and clear look.
  • Green provides a calm and relaxing atmosphere.

Notice the symmetry in this great room which gives it balance.

Engage in the Power of Symmetry

Symmetry, also known as balance, is one of the most important design principles to follow when decorating your Santa Barbara safe haven. For example, in the image above you’ll notice the great room of my Birnam Wood listing has three distinct spaces, where everyone can interact with the others without twisting or turning.

Keeping symmetry in mind when displaying items or arranging furnishings in your home can reinforce a feeling of order and comfort. The reason is simple. Our brains are drawn to symmetrical arrangements created by either symmetrical balance or asymmetrical balance. I know, asymmetrical balance sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. But if you can create vignettes throughout your home, made in groups of three, like the owners of the home pictured above did, you’ll literally feel the balance.

Clean and Declutter

Of course, you also need to keep your safe haven clean and decluttered, as I noted in a previous blog post. As I explained in great detail, clutter, in its many forms, can be a chronic source of stress, and getting rid of it can make a person more focused, relaxed, and productive. Some psychologists recognize that having a clean, organized home is an essential part of the wellness equation.

Are you interested in taking all these tips and creating your own safe haven in Santa Barbara or Montecito? I invite you to explore my comprehensive website and schedule a consultation with me at your convenience. Call me directly at +1 (805) 886-9378 or email me at Let’s tour some of my safe haven possibilities together.

Back to Articles

Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch