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. . . And a White Picket Fence : Only two years after moving into a little house in Costa Mesa, the Simoses have made the tiny treasure their own: cozy and comfortable.

June 03, 1995|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some houses seem to reach out and hug you.

Olive and Jim Simos live in such a house, a cottage, really. Orange and red nasturtiums and multicolored sweet peas climb over the white picket fence that frames their buttery-yellow house. Everything about this place--from its comforting size to its warm color to the kiss of flowers in the air--embraces you.

It seems as if they have lived here forever, but the Simoses moved to Orange County just two years ago, bringing with them a lifetime of ideas, family heirlooms and the energy of retirees.

With all those things, they have made the 50-some-year-old Costa Mesa house distinctly their own.

"My ancestors were from New England, and many of the antiques in the house came from them," says Olive Simos. "New Englanders don't throw anything out. And neither do I.

"We didn't intend to move from Sylmar when Jim retired from the Los Angeles Fire Department," Simos says. "We'd lived in that house for almost 40 years, and the thought of moving was a nightmare. I had 38 years of junk."

The Simoses have three adult children; a son and daughter living in Newport Beach encouraged them to move to Orange County.

"When we were here visiting the children for my birthday, I saw an ad in the paper that this was going to be an open house. The ad said there were three fireplaces, and that intrigued me," Simos remembers. "I walked in and decided I could live here. Although I'd always had antiques and liked the country look, I've never had a house that looks as country as this one. Everything came together here."

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The Simoses used bricking to pull the long, narrow property together and add a warm tone. The now-bricked driveway next to the kitchen doubles as a patio; brick walks lead to the house and link the garden areas.

There are flowers everywhere, planted along both sides of the house as well as the back and front. Indoors, they fill vases in every room.

It was Olive Simos' idea to paint the exterior of the house a soft yellow, to brighten it up and give contrast to the blue and white inside.

The previous owners had put blue tile in the kitchen and added country-style blue wallpapers that go well with Simos' collection of blue Wedgwood plates, rag rugs and antiques. In a small sitting room adjacent to the kitchen, there is a fireplace, an antique armoire and a comfortable couch for watching television.

In front of the living room window sits a 17th-Century table, Simos' oldest heirloom. The room, overlooking the flower-laden front yard, is bright and cheerful.

On the side wall is an old display case that Simos bought when a store went out of business. In this are some of her prized plates, including those hand-painted by her great-great-grandmother, who accompanied her sea captain husband on his voyages and painted on a plate an image of each port they visited.

Jim Simos added the oak fireplace mantel, which they bought in Orange, to frame the existing fireplace and keep to the country theme.

Having a fireplace in the bedroom was one of the things that sold the Simoses on the house. The predominantly blue bedroom holds a 10-foot-tall cabinet displaying old books, family pictures, a lamp and a Weller vase. The cabinet "fell down in the Sylmar earthquake of 1971, so we lost the old glass that was in it, which is a shame. We were able to repair the top, though."

In the bedroom, a beautiful antique doll sits on a small chair. "I got her at an auction when I was 5 years old. No one outbid me, since they wanted the 'little girl' to get it."

Along the hall, Simos has created a children's art gallery with pictures, painted by her two granddaughters, in brightly colored frames.

One guest bedroom has twin maple beds bought in 1935; Olive and her sister Marcia slept on them as children. On decorative hangers are four handmade Greek blankets given to the Simoses by relatives they visited in Greece.

The other bedroom is a fantasy room for a girl--with antique dolls, toys, books, a Victorian green-velvet chair and a single bed that is a mate to the two in the other guest room.

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The gardens are filled with small, inviting touches. In the front, an old wheelbarrow is planted with annual flowers. In the back, Jim Simos built a brick walk from the house that circles a birdbath.

A picnic table and benches overlook a small fish pond surrounded by comfortable metal seats off old tractors; the seats swivel. Another area has a grape arbor created from an old swing set that previous owners had cemented into the ground.

Near the back fence, two comfortable folding lounge chairs and a table form a quiet place to read.

And everywhere are the flowers that Olive Simos has planted: Chinese poppies, dahlias, roses, nasturtiums, sunflowers, irises and many others.

"When one flower stops blooming, I have another one ready to go," she says. Right now she's waiting for the sunflowers by the birdhouse to burst open.

"This house is nice since it's on such a big lot," Simos says. "I hate to see these little houses torn down. . . . They don't look like much, but they're real treasures."

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