The view of the Pacific Ocean outside of Todd Mossman’s house in Montecito.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it now, blogging introduces you to so many interesting people whom you would never meet otherwise, without this unique internet connection. I get lots of emails – some ask for decorating advice or for resources from a particular story. Some emails complain about how long the blog takes to load (I know, I know – it’s that darn Lijit ad that slows it all down!!) while other emails tell how a particular story meant something special to them. Those are the ones I love the most – when something I’ve written has triggered a good memory for a reader. Recently I got an email from a designer who makes pillows using antique textiles. I had written about Fortuny fabrics and my header has Fortuny fabric on it, so the designer wanted to show me his pillows that were made out of that same, gorgeous Italian fabric.
Fortuny pillows and antique tapestry pillows – both specialties of Todd Mossman.
As we sent emails back and forth, the designer, Todd Mossman, sent me more pictures of his pillows. While I loved seeing the pillows, I was even more captivated by his house. Naturally. His house is atmospheric – it is Mediterranean - Californian style - and it overlooks the tree filled hills of Montecito, California that terrace down to the Pacific Ocean. At my request, Todd sent me more images of his house – showing all his favorite vignettes. I thought – how lucky is he to live in such a beautiful place, surrounded by such gorgeous views? So very, very lucky. Todd agreed he was indeed one lucky man – and as he told me his story I had to agree. I was stunned by what he wrote, thinking how far he had come and high he landed – all because of his determination, strength of character and hard work.
Besides interior design, Todd specializes in landscaping – here using succulents mixed in with English styled gardening.
I know design blogs are frivolous – mostly we look at pretty pictures of houses owned by the upper classes of society. Rarely do we discuss those whose lives haven’t been perfect or those who have toiled hard to get where they are, against insurmountable odds. Todd is one of those people who wasn’t handed a silver spoon – everything he has he is grateful for and everything he has, he worked hard for. He knows what it took to get him where he is today. I hope you will be as inspired by his story as I am.
Todd is still young, today at 45, he tells how life turned sour for him in Dallas, Texas. Before landing in Montecito, Todd lived in Dallas where he fell victim to the times and became homeless. At the same time, he became ill with colon cancer and ended up living on a bench in Lee Park. If it sounds scary, Todd assures that it was very scary. Before he became homeless, he didn’t work in the design field though that is what he feels he was destined to do. Instead, he let his fears hold him back and he believe the stress of not working in his desired field and being homeless led to his illness. Eventually he found shelter in the back room of an old barber shop. His living space didn’t even have a proper floor – he slept on the hard, wooden sub floor. While homeless, he knew the only way out for him was to use his talent. Like all designers, he was blessed to have been born with a discriminating eye. His degree, though, came from the streets of Dallas.
The stunning view of the Pacific and the Channel Islands from Todd’s house.
While living in the barber shop, he taught himself to sew using scraps of fabric he found in an upholsterer’s dumpster. He taught himself how to faux finish walls by digging through the art supplies company’s trash bin. He cleaned toilets at the large Design District, hoping to learn the finer points of the antique trade. He did what he had to do to hone his craft – and despite being homeless and working as a janitor – he says he had the best time learning all that he did. He made his “miserable little existence” into the best possible life that he could because he knew it would only be temporary.
Todd says he always knew that he would end up where he is today. He didn’t know how he was going to make it happen, he only knew that it would because he began to believe it and he began to believe in himself. He states that all his best and funniest memories come from that period in his life, when he was foraging through dumpsters and teaching himself the tools he needed to succeed in the design business. “It was such an adventure. I learned so much from the experience.” Instead of wallowing in his bad fortune, he looks back on that time as a positive. His enthusiasm for life is infectious. He made it by dreaming big. Todd says that dreaming and wishing can be very powerful tools.
You could get spoiled with views like this!
Over time, Todd began selling his pillows at The Mews, an upscale shop in Dallas’ Design District. Several of the more well known designers bought his Fortuny and antique tapestry pillows. Slowly, he started doing design – interior and landscape – and eventually he moved to Montecito, California where he now lives in a house that doubles as his studio. The irony is that he instead of living on a park bench, he now has Oprah as nearby neighbor.
Todd has a message for us all. Starting out, he was too scared to do what he believes he was born to do. Once he ended up homeless, he knew he had to start all over and this time, he would become a designer despite his lack of formal training. He had to work hard to make it to where he is today and he says “I think that there are probably some talented people that read Cote de Texas that are too afraid of all of the ''what ifs'' to really make it happen for themselves. Maybe if those readers see that if I can go from living on a park bench to this, it could give them a boost in their own lives. I just sew pillows and fluff people's homes but I think there is a nice message in that too.”
Todd has another message he wants to spread. “If you have an idea that is gnawing at you, do it! Try it out! Allow yourself the chance to try. Once I allowed myself that chance, the pieces of the puzzle just kept coming and falling into place.” He also acknowledges angels that helped him along the way. They helped him to see his self worth and talents – without them “I would have crumbled to nothing a long time ago.”
One lucky break came in the form of the house that he rents. Todd says this house is the first he has ever lived in that he loved – it is perfect for him and it is as if it was designed just for him. The house is new, a 2 bedroom guest house located on the property of a 1930s estate. The house is a beauty, with stucco walls, steel doors, beamed ceilings, and terra cotta floors. Inside it is furnished entirely by what Todd has either thrifted, found in a dumpster, or been given by a client. It shows that no matter the budget, you can still have unique interiors. But Todd laughs, you do have to cough it up to have this view of the Pacific – “there’s no thrifting the view.”
The dining room is located off the terrace. Todd set up his pillows around the Spanish styled table. Beautiful room, beautiful lantern. This is the picture that made me forget the pillows and fixate on the house!!!
Another view of the dining room with its changing tablescapes. I love how Todd uses small trees to decorate inside.
The living room has windows on two sides and a wonderful fireplace with flanking small casements. Antique capitals double as tables. The rich persimmon velvets remind me of John Saladino’s aesthetic.
An arched doorway leads past a wooden cabinet that doubles as a bar and art gallery. I love the pair of lamps with their fabric shades.
Styled as if for a photoshoot! Instead of pricey antiques, water bottles make a great, thrifty alternative.
The sun pours through this large window, styled with two small trees and art work. Notice the porch ceiling through the window.
Another view of large brick layer styled console.
The opposite side of the living room has a door leading outside. Wooden eagles sit atop pedestals.
Love the casement windows. So charming.
You can tell Todd admires Saladino – by the way he’s styled his house – and this book is another clue.
Love the view outside the windows.
Todd’s bedroom has a charming French bed which he decorates with his pillows. The terrace is reached through the French doors.
I love the bed – I think it’s really beautiful.
A different textile on the bed. Notice the beautiful landscaping outside the bedroom.
Pretty painted corner piece in the bedroom.
The second bedroom is Todd’s studio.
Love the succulents layered over more succulents.
Here are pillows made with silk velvet ikats from Istanbul.
More pillows made of beautiful red, white and light blue fabric.
Fortuny pillows backed with Scalamandre silk velvet and custom bronzed trim.
More Fortuny – this time in blue.
I hope you’ve been inspired by Todd’s story. It amazes me to think about his long journey finding himself first in order to become an interior and landscape designer. The moral of the story is – don’t give up on your dreams, make them happen!!!
As Todd says “I've had such an interesting life so far, and it's still so early in the picture...”
The pillows are available at the antiques shop Maison K on Coast Village Road, Montecito California
805. 969.1676 – phone
OR email Todd Mossman at Toddmossman@cox.net for information on pillows and custom order.
And, it’s that time again – The Urban Market Houston – Houston’s answer to Round Top – is coming this next weekend. For more details see their web site HERE.