Frugal Living: Less is More in This California Home

Less is more for actress Joelle Carter and her family. Their Los Angeles home focuses on health and frugality, rather than Hollywood glamour

  • Joelle and her 4-year-old daughter tend one of several raised garden beds in the home’s backyard. The many outdoor living spaces make the small home feel larger, and growing and preparing their own food is one of Joelle’s family’s favorite ways to bond.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • In the Southern California climate, Joelle and Luna can grow food in their raised beds year round.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • One of the home’s many balconies includes this dining table Joelle bought from a friend. It’s the perfect spot for long Sunday brunches.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • Joelle grows an array of succulents, perfect for her warm, dry climate.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • Joelle and Andy rescued Jules, a husky mix, from her last hour on death row. They refer to her as their second child.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • A private balcony off the bedroom offers the chance to step outdoors for a cup of coffee before getting ready for the day.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • The cheery, open kitchen is perfect for preparing food as a family.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • Joelle won the large office painting by Max Neutral at a fundraiser auction. The shelves are made from reclaimed wood Andy and Joelle found at a store in Orange County.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • An Eco-Smart bioethanol fireplace divides the kitchen from the living room, which houses a piano found on Craigslist.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • The cozy dining room includes several vintage pieces: A mid-century dining table from Craigslist; an inherited antique pantry Joelle’s parents bought in Germany; and a vintage sewing machine that functions as storage.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • Because the backyard includes multiple levels, Joelle and her family were able to carve out distinct yet united spaces for gardening, eating and relaxing.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • At 4 years old, Joelle’s daughter, Luna, loves to help out with gardening and cooking chores.
    Photo by Annie McElwain
  • Joelle’s home herb garden includes her favorites for culinary purposes, as well as herbs she uses to help with her allergies.
    Photo by Annie McElwain

In Hollywood, bigger is better. Yet for actress Joelle Carter, simplicity is the key to living the good life. After becoming parents five years ago, Joelle and her husband, Andy, decided to ramp up their efforts to live and eat well, and they’ve created a life that’s tied to nature—from the food they grow in their garden to the herbal medicines they use for everything from calming allergy symptoms to traveling without stress. “When you’re responsible for something as precious as a life, you start thinking about the world they’re living in,” she says.

Happy Home

Although she lives a decidedly un-Hollywood life, Joelle has been acting for years. Her debut was in an episode of “Law & Order” in 1996, and she’s made appearances in classic films such as “American Pie 2” and “High Fidelity.” Now a wife, mother and fixture on FX’s hit show “Justified,” Joelle’s life is busier than ever.

Despite that, Joelle and Andy don’t choose to live in a mansion in Beverly Hills. Instead, they lead a quiet life in a small, cozy and cheerful home where they spend much of their free time gardening and relaxing as a family.

“We pretty much occupy every inch of space in our house,” Joelle says. “We have a lot of outdoor living space, so it makes our home feel bigger.” Their multilevel backyard includes an umbrella-covered picnic table, several raised garden beds, a fish pond and concrete pavers. Stairs lead to a balcony with a breakfast table and chairs, attached to the home by sliding glass doors. Thanks to the temperate climate, Joelle and her family can step out to the backyard any time of year as easily as they walk from room to room. “We really have made a wonderful getaway in our backyard,” she says.

Joelle also lives by the “less is more” mantra when it comes to energy use—a solar panel installation consultant advised them against a solar array because their energy use is so low. “We’re lucky to live on top of a hill so if we keep the windows open we get a nice breeze,” she says. “We rarely use our air conditioner. When it’s cool, my husband won’t let me turn on the heater because he runs hot, so I’m in sweaters and scarves.”

Green at Heart

The concept of frugal living was instilled in Joelle by her father. “I’m not sure he knew he was ahead of his time—he mainly did it because he was cheap,” she says with a laugh. “He would walk the alleyways with our dog to see what people were throwing away, and he’d salvage things. We had a beach house, and he’d find old lawn furniture, reweave it and take it there. He was also a gardener and always mulched our waste.”

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