By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

Dawn De Bartolo is one of those gifted individuals who is born with a sense of design, able to combine the old and the new with natural elements, adding splashes of color and texture to create an ambiance of comfort and light.

Tucked away on the corner of Numancia and Faraday streets in Santa Ynez is the new Finch and Fern, a home and garden boutique. As she sits on a sofa and chats, De Bartolo makes her enthusiasm for design apparent.

“I love to design,” she said. “Homes, landscapes, small areas, large rooms – I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night finding that I have been dreaming of designing spaces, creating environments of comfort and beauty.

“As a child I was always decorating. I remember one time on a camping trip with my parents, I spent most of my time gathering all the rocks and bits of nature in order to design a walkway to the door, then collected bottles in which I placed bouquets of flowers.

“Creating the environment in which you live is most important, not only for the mind but for the soul as well.”

The De Bartolos moved to the Santa Ynez Valley from Orange County in 2012, ”on a whim,” she says.

 “My husband, Franco, had been working as a manager for a private golf course in Seal Beach. When the golf course was sold he lost his job,” she explained. “We were relatively newly married and our youngest daughter, Sophia, was 2 at the time. We also have four other children from our previous marriages. So when Franco lost his job, it was a very scary time. We immediately started job hunting, travelling from Newport Beach up the coast between Santa Barbara and the Bay Area, filling out applications, going on interviews, looking desperately for a new job. We knew we wanted to get out of Orange County. I had grown up in Paso Robles and I wanted to get back to my roots and raise Sophia in a more rural setting. My only prayer was that my husband would find a position where he would be appreciated.”

Within two months, Franco was offered a position at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, but her husband surprised her by saying he could not accept the position because they would have to take a considerable cut in salary and he was uncertain if they could afford it.

“I was shocked when my husband said he couldn’t accept the offer. I had such a good feeling about the job, so I said to him, ‘Let’s pray about it on the way home.’  After some serious prayers and discussions he thankfully decided to accept the position,” De Bartolo said. “Again, my prayers were answered.”

The next thing on their agenda was to find a place to live.

“We found a cute little Nantucket-style home to rent in Santa Ynez. It was a turn-key operation. We had been renting a bungalow in Orange County and drove up to the valley in the early evening to meet with the property manager. I was awestruck at the view of Cachuma Lake on the drive up Highway 154. Then we saw a horse tied up at the saloon and I said, ‘Really?’ I was in heaven. … After agreeing to rent the house, we said to each other ‘Where are we?’ It was dark outside, so we really couldn’t see our surroundings.

“We decided to drive into Solvang and I thought I had entered a Hallmark movie set with all the glowing lights and Christmas decorations. The valley has a magical quality about it, and I felt like I was home,” she said.

During the first year the De Bartolos got to know their surroundings. Dawn continued to do seasonal decorating for people she had met. Six months after moving to Santa Ynez they were informed that the owners needed to sell their house.

“We were devastated,” said De Bartolo. “We had put tons of effort into making this our new home and now it was going to be sold. The owners of the house, the Whites, offered us first right of refusal before listing the house as they desperately wanted us to own it.  With a little divine intervention, we were thankfully able to purchase the house.”

Now that things had come together, it had always been Dawn’s dream to open a design boutique.

“In October of last year I saw this property for rent which was just down the street from my house. The owner of Esau Interiors, which had been located there for more than 20 years, had decided to retire. I called to find out more information and went home and told my husband that I was going to live my dream – I was going to open up a home and garden boutique,” she said.

“I opened Nov. 28, just after Thanksgiving, and I’m loving it. Now all I need is for people to come in and enjoy the boutique and let me help them design their own personal space.”

Lisa Mesa, who happened to stop by the Finch and Fern looking for a new lamp shade, said the new boutique “makes you feel very cozy with all the natural elements.”

“I love things with a history – combining old with new. I love textures and natural elements and color. And that’s what my new store displays. Everything in the boutique is appealing to every age group. It’s not trendy – it’s a very neutral slate which has a lot of warmth and charm without being overstated. One of my clients said it was like Restoration Hardware with soul.”

 “Good things happen — you just have to be patient,” De Bartolo said.

Finch and Fern at 1060 Faraday St. in Santa Ynez is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, call 805-693-2916 or 949-903-3215 or visit