DIGS Blog - Luxury Real Estate Info for Home Enthusiasts


New from Santa Barbara Umbrella’s teak collection is the Ferrari Soltis. Offered in velvet red with stainless steel fittings, this is one high-speed canopy—the umbrella’s intense color and tropical-look top plunks a little more la playa into the backyard. Prices vary, SBUmbrella.com


Danish label tineK Home puts forth a compelling case for baskets as sun-and-surf essentials. The brand’s all-occasion carryalls are tailor-made to tote a seaside picnic, sand toys or a bushel of beach towels. All finely woven options feature leather handles as their finishing touch. Carry on! Prices vary, TineKHome.com


Throw in the towel for this supple, tasseled alternative from tineK Home. Fashioned from uber-soft cotton, the collection’s gorgeously grey Tassel Throw doubles as a beach blanket and cozy wrap for when the sun fades and the Pacific winds blow in. Price upon request, TineKHome.com

Track Season Trifecta

Three luxury resorts offer the perfect place to relax in between races at the Del Mar Turf Club

Written by Michelle Lyn

Photos courtesy of L’Auberge Del Mar, Rancho Valencia and Fairmont Grand Del Mar

As the old Bing Crosby song goes, there’s a “smile on every face and a winner in each race where the turf meets the surf down at old Del Mar.” Crosby knew this to be true since he was there to greet the first fan through the gate as the Del Mar Turf Club opened in 1937. Since then, visitors from all over the world have made the annual pilgrimage to Del Mar for the summer track season, which kicks off mid-July and runs through Labor Day. Three nearby resorts offer the perfect combination of first-class amenities, fine dining and luxury for a pony-filled getaway.


A stone’s throw from the beach, L’Auberge Del Mar has become equally known for its stunning ocean views as it has for its over-the-top Opening Day Party. Minutes from the track, this beach-chic resort is located in the heart of Del Mar Village, which means you can spend a few days without ever getting in your car. Book in advance for some off-track dinners at Jake’s Del Mar and Pacifica Del Mar for superb ocean view sunsets.

1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014

858.259.1515  |  LAubergeDelMar.com


The hot air balloons floating overhead during summer are often the main conversation starter at this resort nestled in Rancho Santa Fe. Southern California’s only Relais & Châteaux property, Rancho Valencia is a Mediterranean-inspired sanctuary surrounded by lush gardens and olive groves. With luxe guest casitas, exceptional dining and a soothing spa, it’s no wonder this award-winning tennis resort is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best.

5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, CA  92067 
858.756.1123  |  RanchoValencia.com


Hidden, even to locals, The Grand Del Mar (newly christened as a Fairmont property) is the grand dame of San Diego. Set within Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, the resort is reminiscent of an old-world palace and boasts the only 5-diamond restaurant in town, Addison. This elegant property represents exclusivity at its finest, with PGA certified instructors giving one-on-one golf lessons on a Tom Fazio designed course.

Be sure to make reservations at Addison and indulge in the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. You will be delighted with a difficult-to-count number of courses, all served in unison by a perfectly choreographed team.    

5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego, CA 92130

858.314.2000  |  TheGrandDelMar.com

Racing is conducted Wednesday through Sunday throughout the summer with first post at 2 p.m. on all days except Fridays when it shifts to 4 p.m. Save money on admission by joining the Diamond Club to receive 50% off admission every day.


The dough-baking hub for the Rustic Canyon restaurant group, neighborhood bakery and pizzeria, Milo & Olive, cooks up wood-fired favorites

Written by Michelle Lyn
Photos courtesy of Milo & Olive

With four restaurants in their Rustic Canyon collection, restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan have a shining star with Milo & Olive, their Italian-focused concept in Santa Monica. By serving up an ever-evolving menu of small plates and seasonally-inspired dishes, Milo & Olive stands as a dining destination for the community.

Ensuring the direct connection between kitchen and local farms and markets is Executive Chef Erin Eastland. Combining attention to freshness and seasonality with her experience working in kitchens across the U.S., Eastland creates Milo & Olive’s wholesome, soulsatisfying cuisine.

With two wood-burning ovens anchoring the restaurant, guests dine at individual and communal tables. Designed as an industrial workshop of sorts, the long bar overlooking the open European-style kitchen puts patrons one step closer to the action.

“Milo & Olive is set up like a workshop in dough,” explains Loeb. “The space and kitchen are wide open and our doors are open every day of the week. It’s where we take high-quality ingredients and play with them to discover the next great menu item.” Or baked goods.

With the aforementioned large oven, Milo & Olive functions as the bread-baking hub for all Loeb and Nathan restaurants. Churning out Nathan’s acclaimed morning breads and pastries, this is also where the duo’s handcrafted breads—many of which use organic flour and include bagels, bialys, country bread, rustic baguettes, whole-wheat potato bread, challah and rye farro loaves—are produced.

Chef Eastland also utilizes the wood-burning oven to turn out a selection of 10 to 12 different seasonally-inspired pizzas, made with Nathan’s signature 48-hour, whole-wheat pizza dough and an array of wood-fired vegetables. Milo & Olive’s pizza-topping combinations, which reflect the market’s best, include: Mixed Mushroom with Fontina Val d’Aosta, thyme, lemon zest, and Parmigiano-Reggiano; Roasted Potato with rosemary cream, caramelized onions and Parmigiano-Reggiano; and House-Smoked Pork Belly Sausage with escarole, tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella.

Lunch and dinner menus feature a collection of shareable fare, with small plates such as Organic Chicken Meatballs with roasted tomatoes, arugula and red onion, and their signature WoodFired Garlic Knot, a pullapart bread brushed with extra virgin olive oil and topped with sea salt. Larger entrées include the House Sausage and Kale Lasagna with pickled chili, Fontina, tomato sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Potato Gnocchi with arugula and pistachio pesto, baby broccoli, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Inspired by the farmer’s market, Pastry Chef Nathan also brings a bounty of everchanging, fruitdriven sweets to the table. Highlights include Sweet Cream Brioche, Maple Walnut Sticky Buns, Fat Uncle Farms’ Almond Croissants, Seasonal Fruit Kouign Amman Tarts, GlutenFree Oatmeal Cookies and more. Open daily from 7 a.m.–11 p.m., at Milo & Olive, where fresh-made fare is the mantra, it’s all about good taste.

2723 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403

City Guide: RIDE & REFORM

Westside studio combines Pilates and Spin for rapid results

Written by Michelle Lyn

Photos courtesy of Studio Elevate

Anyone who challenges themselves. People who embrace change. Warriors. These are the people who inspire Leah Kitching, owner of Studio Elevate, a new Westside exercise haven dedicated to transforming bodies and minds.

After teaching Pilates and Spin in L.A. for five years, Kitching realized something was missing.

She wanted to give people an unforgettable experience…more intention and intensity with less distraction. With five different classes based on both Pilates and Spin, Studio Elevate is a private space where a team of passionate instructors blends music, mindfulness and stretching to offset the fierce workout. “There is nothing better than when someone comes to class and becomes stronger mentally and physically. I am so grateful to be able to facilitate that change,” says Kitching.

All levels are welcome to partake in this truly elevating experience…just be prepared for a

game-changing workout sure to leave you sore, but completely satisfied. 

Studio Elevate

12462 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90066



Homage to Fromage

At a new Italian Restaurant on Montana Avenue, Cheese Takes Center Stage

Written by Michelle Lyn

Photos Courtesy of Forma

Parmigiano. Pecorino. Romano. Pecorino Gran Cru. It’s all cheese, and it’s all delicious. Unique, however, are the large wheels of these cheeses that are used to create the unforgettable dishes at Forma, a contemporary Italian restaurant that just opened on Montana Avenue.

Named in honor of its star ingredient, formaggio, Forma features a unique Dalla Forma preparation, where freshly cooked pasta is tossed in the aforementioned wheel with the cheeses. (If that isn’t mouth watering enough, the menu also offers flatbreads, risottos and a selection of main dishes, too.) To showcase Forma’s main attraction, a custom floor-to-ceiling glass cheese case and bar set the stage for diners to watch Dalla Forma take place.

As for the atmosphere, the artisans at AERO Collective mixed modern, clean sophistication with rustic charm to create a sleek yet comfortable ambience where guests can pull up to the marble bar or grab a seat at the communal table for a more casual experience. The main dining room features a tufted leather wall and solid walnut tables and chairs, perfectly complementing the cuisine.

“At Forma we highlight the art of simple cuisine by using locally-sourced ingredients,” says Executive Chef Piero Topputo. “Whether we are introducing our customers to a new cheese, or serving them a fresh grain salad, we’re focused on creating a memorable experience that combines modern and classic forms of cooking.”

Showcasing chef Topputo’s passion for fromage, the extensive program highlights a vast selection of semi-soft, semi-hard, hard, soft-ripened, blue-veined and washed-rind cheeses. Guests can order as many individual varieties as they would like, or enjoy a tasting of three, as part of a wine or beer flight.

The menu at Forma also features modern Italian dishes that embrace the style and ingredients of California. In addition to a daily charcuterie plate, menu highlights include: Artichoke and Fennel “Casserole” with Manchego cheese; Single “Raviolo” filled with broccolini in a light cherry tomato sauce with anchovy; Filet of Sole with crispy artichoke; and Fresh Tagliolini pasta with heirloom cherry tomatoes and lemon zest.

To wash it all down, Forma offers a collection of wines from California and various European regions, as well as an extensive craft beer list highlighting breweries from across the country.

As the vision of restaurant veterans Topputo and General Manager Mario Sabatini, and backed by entrepreneur Robert Donnell, Forma is poised to become the next neighborhood gem—one that allows guests to travel to Italy without ever stepping on a plane.

Forma Restaurant & Cheese Bar    

1610 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, 90403  |  424.231.2868  |  FormaRestaurant.com

City Guide: Esters Wine Shop

Eat. Drink. Shop. 
The Rustic Canyon team turns out another Westside charmer 

Written by Michelle Lyn

Husband-and-wife duo Kathryn and Tug Coker are hoping to create the next go-to neighborhood spot for fine wine and great food with their integrated wine shop, marketplace and wine bar, Esters, which just opened in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. Housed in a 1937 Art Deco building, the space combines raw, modern design elements with an eclectic mix of new and vintage furnishings.

Tuck into the intimate space to enjoy a funky, biodynamic wine from a new Sicilian winemaker, or an affordable weeknight bottle from “Tug’s Picks.” With over 200 bottles from which to choose, the place easily appeals to any palate. On your way to a picnic? Stock up on pantry provisions and peruse bottles in the retail portion of the shop.

And we’d be remiss not to mention the seasonally inspired small plates, meats and cheeses (created and curated by chef Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon) that complement Grab-and-Go options like house made sandwiches, fresh baked bread and chocolate truffles.


1314 7th Street

Santa Monica, CA 90401


Real Estate Insider: Dustin Cumming of Hilton & Hyland

As told to Danielle Accovelli

Photography by Paul Jonason

From commercial to residential real estate, L.A. native Dustin Cumming plies his insider market savvy to service the discerning Westside. As a product of his family’s trade, the span of his industry aptitudes was honed early, if not innately. Today, Dustin’s multifaceted skill set pairs perfectly with the client-concerned and standards-first boutique real estate firm Hilton & Hyland.

How did you get your start in real estate?    

My father was a contractor and real estate developer; I grew up in the business. First, by hanging out on job sites with my siblings as a young child, and then working for my family as I got older.

What, specifically, makes you so passionate about the industry?

On the brokerage side, it’s a blast meeting new people and working with them to accomplish whatever their goal may be in the real estate sphere. On the residential development front, it’s amazing being able to take something from start to finish and participate in that process at every step.

How has your work in commercial real estate at Skechers USA given you a competitive edge in the industry?

As I have been in real estate in one capacity or another my entire life, I have had an opportunity to experience nearly all aspects of the industry. My time at Skechers provided me the chance to work on the commercial acquisition and development side of things, and this is where I gained the skills required to work with the most sophisticated partners and clients in a very corporate, structured environment, where performance and accountability were paramount.

What drew you to residential real estate?

The challenge of working with a diverse group of clients from all different socioeconomic standings, and nearly everywhere in Southern California, to accomplish all sorts of different real estate-related goals. My team and I, we do it all, whether it is a condo, a single family home, an investment property, or an apartment complex. It keeps you on your feet.

Will you describe your real estate philosophy?

Knowledge is power. We don’t operate in a vacuum, so you have to constantly work hard to stay abreast of the macro and micro variables that affect our business. In a micro sense, it’s things like trends, inventories (both on market and, most importantly, off market), codes and ordinances, etc. In a macro approach, it’s the financial landscape, interest rates, the fed, and so on.

What distinguishes your firm from others in the same market?

Performance. Being surrounded by other top-producing agents not only facilitates the flow of information and access to deals, but also motivates everyone—my team and I included—to perform better. We are constantly researching, evolving and working to hone our craft in an ever-changing marketplace so that we can continue to perform at the highest level.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, has your knowledge of the market and area contributed to your success?

Absolutely, it’s invaluable. I have a lifetime of local connections and insight into different communities and what they were like in the past, what defines them now, and how they are evolving.

What makes the Westside market so covetable?


A tour through Havana offers a behind-the-scenes look at Cuba’s thriving art and jazz scene.

Written by Michelle Lyn
Photography Michelle Lyn

Walking through the streets of Old Havana, every multi-hued crumbling wall, every woman hanging laundry on her balcony and every barefooted child playing baseball has a story to tell. An island in a sea of controversy, Cuba is more than just a conversation starter for right now; it’s at the top of everyone’s travel list. And if it isn’t, it should be.

The real Cuba, essentially forbidden to Americans for the last 50 years, is a vibrant, proud nation welcoming travelers with open arms. Now that travel restrictions are easing, people-to-people travel agencies offering guided tours throughout Cuba are emerging from the woodwork. Jazz tours, food tours, photography tours, even niche interest tours, like those centering around baseball, appeal to a wide variety of groups looking to experience Cuba before it all changes.

The outfitter Insight Cuba has been running tours for 15 years, and has found a delicate balance between a guided tour and an authentic immersive experience. Take their 6-day “Jazz in Havana” expedition, which is the perfect introduction to the country’s thriving art and jazz scene, with a substantive amount of Cuban history woven into the experience. Although shepherded by an American, the group benefits immensely from a local Cuban guide who leads them from start to finish.   

The trip begins in Miami, where those bound for Cuba board an American Airlines charter flight. Less than an hour later, they’re greeted by tropical warmth and blue skies at the José Martí International Airport, amid a number of Miami-based Cubans arriving to visit relatives, with gifts from the States in hand.

Arriving in Cuba is like going back in time. Iconic American cars—including Chevys in abundance—dating back to past eras serve as a constant reminder of how long it’s been since American products have been freely available. The lack of cell service and nearly non-existent Wi-Fi may unsettle some at first, but truly allows travelers to go off-the-grid and be present in their surroundings. 

A brief bus ride through lush countryside delivers tour-goers to their first stop in the small town of Jaimanitas, which has been transformed by the vision of Jose Fuster, a local artist who has a way with tile. It is Fuster who creatively lifted the spirits of the entire community by turning sidewalks, porches and homes into vivid mosaics, brightening what has long been considered bleak times.

Inspired by this first encounter with a Cuban artist, you will then proceed to central Havana to check in to the seaside hotel, Meliá Cohiba, which sits opposite the Malecón, an esplanade that runs along the coast of Havana. This is where you’ll first glimpse the Cuba of tomorrow, with hotel lobbies full of tour groups jockeying for reservations at the Tropicana.

Heavily scheduled days might provide an insider’s look at the Abdala recording studio, where some of the great Cuban musical acts like Buena Vista Social Club used to record, as well as a front row seat to a private jam session with young musicians at the famous underground jazz club La Zorra y El Cuervo, and a lesson on the roots of Latin jazz—all with Cuba Libres in hand, of course.

Then there are the many opportunities to experience the richness of Cuban culture—lunch at a paladar (a private restaurant run from someone’s home) while being serenaded by the sultry sounds of live Spanish guitar; the chance to see a coveted Cuban cigar rolled in a shop teeming with tobacco leaves overhead; and a leisurely stroll through colonial Old Havana, where you can stop and have conversations with curious locals eager to make new friends.

Although tour days are full, there are still moments to head out and explore on your own. One experience not to be missed is an afternoon cocktail at Hotel Nacional de Cuba. The grandest hotel in Havana, Hotel Nacional is considered a symbol of history, culture and Cuban identity. Constructed in 1930, the hotel exudes refined elegance and, in its heyday, attracted illustrious guests like Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Take some time to sit out on the property grounds overlooking the Havana Harbor and lose yourself in the live music and the scent of muddled mint wafting through the air while sipping mojito after mojito.

Finally, in what is perhaps the most memorable experience of the tour, venture outside of central Havana to visit what is described as a cultural center, but is really one room on the ground floor of a home that has been converted into the neighborhood dance hall. It’s called Santa Amalia’s Dance Club, and after arriving around 9 a.m., you’re immediately handed a stiff Cuba Libre, then pulled onto the dance floor. You’ll spend the next hour swirling around the room, believing you can salsa. Most impressive is that this particular group of local dancers has been dancing together in this same room for the last 60 or 70 years. They created a haven where they could cultivate and maintain the essence of Cuban culture through song and dance, a place where time has stood still through good and bad, offering a respite from any hardships.

This same resilient spirit welcomes us, wholeheartedly, to embrace the beauty and warmth that is Cuba—sooner, rather than later.

For more information, visit InsightCuba.com

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