#AtHomeWith: Jane Porter
The Home of Poets & Romance Writers
In the summer of 2012, we moved from our house in Greater Seattle to Southern California. We'd found an incredible house in the little beach town of San Clemente the previous winter, and closed on it, but we didn't move until the kids had finished school for the year.
I fell in love with the house first. Indeed, I approached the big iron gates and looked through the bars and saw the garden and how the house had been built around the courtyard and wanted it even before I saw any of the actual house. But the tour got better. As our realtor walked us through, she told us the house had been built for a female poet from Chicago. I was immediately enamored, not just by the house and garden, but by the idea of living in a home of a female writer. From that first day, the house spoke to me. There was--and is--an energy in the house and it's welcomed me from the start, letting me know how good it is to have a writer back, a woman who loves words and stories, helping to turn the house into a family home again as for the past ten years "Casa Elena" had been operating as a B&B.
There was a great deal of work to do to the house in our first couple of years in San Clemente. The gardens had been well tended but the house needed serious work---lots of electrical, plumbing, new gas lines, and all the massive beams supporting the roof were damaged and needed repair, which meant stripping off all the handmade red tiles and treating the beams, and then roofing again. Trying to repair electrical meant punching endless holes in the thick adobe walls and trying to match the original plaster was almost impossible. We hired the wrong painter and instead of staining the dark beams through out the house, he just sprayed them all a UPS delivery truck brown. It was awful. I cried.
Between overseeing repairs, and writing my books, and being a mom, I kept trying to find out who the poet was that had built this house. Then in an incredible find a year ago, in a yard sale down our little street, my husband discovered not just the original blue prints for our house, along with the architect name and details, but the owners full names, but also the Seifferts' guest book dating back to August 16, 1927 when the Seifferts hosted their first guests at their new beach house.
It turns out that our house wasn't truly Casa Elena, but rather "La Trastornada", and La Trastornada had been built for Marjorie Allen Seiffert, an early 20th century poet, who was good friends with William Carlos Williams and other prominent writers of the 20's. I've ordered all of Marjorie's volumes of poetry, including several signed first editions, because her work belongs in this house, on the bookshelves upstairs where I can see them every day.
As you can see from the photos I'm sharing, I also have bookshelves downstairs, in fact, an entire room of just books, making the old odd windowless storage room a perfect library. I wish I could say the library was my favorite room, but I also love our master bedroom which had once been a covered patio with dramatic arches, and the living room that feels like a treehouse from all the windows and light, and the original dining/family room with the tiled floor that is nearly 100 years old
San Clemente was a planned community, established by former Seattle mayor Ole Hansen. The entire town was plotted out and all the homes were to be in the Spanish style of white stucco walls, red tile roofs, with rustic black wrought iron railings.
Our house's thick stucco walls and high ceilings constantly delights me. I feel as if I'm always on vacation, somewhere romantic.
My personal design aesthetic is bright and a little bohemian. I collect art and love color. People either love our house or think its odd.
I find it magical, so magical that I rarely leave it these days, even to walk the 5 minutes to the beach.
Seriously. The beach and pier are just 5 minutes from my front door.
I have to get out more. Or not. Because as soon as I'm done writing, I curl up with a book and read.