House Visit - Michelle Pattee

Photographer Michelle Pattee lives in Sebastopol, California with her husband and two children.  She and her husband, Bill a contractor, have lovingly revitalized their early 1900‘s farmhouse. Keeping things simple for easy country living with bright white walls, warm reclaimed wood and salvaged fixtures.  It’s no wonder their property is a popular location for photo shoots.

Michelle has also created West County California, a lifestyle blog about life in West Sonoma County with features on interesting locals.

After giving up a bedroom in the house for a larger bathroom, they got creative with space, converting an existing chicken coop into a slumber party room for the kids.

 photo: Michelle Pattee

photo: Michelle Pattee

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How long have you lived in your house?  9 years

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house and property?  The majestic walnut tree. The constant backdrop sounds of horses, sheep, chickens, coyotes and hawks. The farmhouse has a solid sense of history, something lacking in newer construction.

After buying your house, what were the biggest changes you and your husband made to it?  Tore out a cluster of little rooms to create one large kitchen. Sacrificed a bedroom to create the house’s single bathroom. Replaced exisiting wood floor (made from thinner beams) with wide plank beautiful reclaimed Doug Fir. There’s so much happening within the wood floor, yet it’s subtle in the overall effect. Replaced all the windows - big investment because we chose wood windows, but worth it. Added a staircase to connect the two floors. Previously, the upstairs room could only be accessed by a ladder. Kind of a man cave, filled with bullets and whisky bottles.

How would you describe your style?  My style is eclectic, a mix of urban, country, minimal, abundant, vintage and modern. Many of my favorite pieces I purchased cheap years ago, before the clamoring began for farm tables, stoneware, industrial, patina, etc..

What drew you to become a photographer?  I liked the immediacy of the medium. Besides the darkroom hours (I learned on film), I could tell a story quickly with a single image. I do miss prints. They’re such an afterthought now. I also love the grace of black and white, stripping down to the bare essentials. 

Do you feel that being a photographer has changed how you view your living space?  I think my visual sensibility is reflected in everything I approach - photography, interiors. It gets a little out of hand. I’m seriously aesthetically sensitive. I can’t relax in a disheveled space, can’t get comfortable against synthetic fabrics, can’t linger in rooms painted off colors. I decant breakfast cereal or anything else that's packaged offensively. The list goes on. I used to apologize, but #sorrynotsorry.  

What are your secrets for keeping your house so clutter-free?  Don’t buy often. Filter media messages attempting to sell me things I don’t need. Reject damaging feelings of envy, keeping up on a material level with others. Curate. Possessions often require maintenance. Maintenance requires time. I’m old enough to be more mindful, question how I want to spend my time.

How would you describe the West County Lifestyle?  The West County Lifestyle is a life without much intentional focus on style. It’s authentic bohemian, an alternative culture. You can still feel the influence of the New Age Movement from the 70’s. It’s evolved, but there’s a throwback attitude. Our cars and boots are muddy, lots of dirty denim. During harvest, everyone seems to smell like weed, even if you’re not a grower. There’s a smugness, a sense of pride in not washing your hair for a week. I’ve seen the best hats up here, took me awhile to figure out. We wear thrashed outdoor gear. West County is gorgeous country, and we're engaged in the environment, for recreational and practical intentions. The lifestyle is slower. There’s miles of open space lacking cell towers, so it’s easy to find yourself among community who aren’t focused on their phones.