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Sweet Cottage in Pasadena

Native California designers take the idea of living well to a holistic new level in the tiny English Tudor “Bee’s Bliss Tea Cottage” 

Written by Darra Baker

Under the shade of an oak tree in the heart of Pasadena, California, sits a wee brick Tudor cottage surrounded by an English-style garden of airy plantings and purple blooms that look like they were plucked from a Beatrix Potter tale. Upon closer examination, however, the delicate specimens show themselves as native California medicinal herbs, flowers, and berries planted for the Pasadena Showcase House of Design.  

Husband-and-wife designers Trevor and Justina Freel created the garden as a sanctuary for native fauna and flora and as a welcoming woodland setting for the 1916 garden shed-turned-tea cottage, which they lovingly restored to the last organic, hand-spun thread. 

A large Tudor-style beehive is based on a 1,000-year-old African version. 

Sweet gold bee hardware adorns the large beehive

Inside the soothing walls of the 144- square-foot cottage, distinct areas emerge—each devoted to a restorative ritual. 

A tea kitchen with a cream La Cornue range, a repurposed copper-pot sink, and a Shaker-style kitchen table inspires brewing fresh tea sweetened with honey from the beehive outside. 

Ceramics by local artisans fill shelves.  

Opposite the kitchen, a floating daybed is swaddled in organic textiles of alpaca, cotton, flax, and hemp. In the sitting area, two ash chairs face the garden view through honeycomb leaded-glass doors, inviting conversation and communing with nature. A custom Shaker bench with hemp webbing is a handy spot to remove shoes and coats and where visitors are encouraged to leave worries outside the door.

Handwoven beehive pendants crown the cottage interior.

Interior walls are made of plaster in chalk white and subtle peach hues applied directly to the clinker brick to encourage coolness and breathability in the structure. Natural plaster is supposed to remove toxins from the air, Trevor says. Not wrapping the structure in plastic allows for fewer toxins and more connection with Mother Nature. 

Doors with honeycomb leaded glass and polished-bronze bee hardware pay lighthearted homage to English Tudor style.

The ceiling is painted slate blue—a hue meant to recede like the nighttime sky and contrast with the light gray salvaged oak beams, creating a reverse Tudor effect, where the ceiling, rather than the beams, stands out. A blue slate tile floor naturally cools the retreat and balances the ceiling, giving the feeling of more space. 

Justina’s large-scale fine art piece—a hand-cut paper wild-flower bouquet of native California plants and bees painstakingly pressed between glass—adds another layer of artistic expression. She’s one of many artisans and craftspeople involved in hand-making all of the elements in the cottage.

“The overall message is care,” Justina says. “Everything comes from the heart, down to every thread, every piece of joinery, and how everything is made.” 

Designers Justina and Trevor Freel.

Trevor adds, “Every maker has a voice.” That goes for the birds and bees, as well. 

Photography: Victoria Pearson