Surprising Bright Home Ideas
Remodels perk up home designs with a breezier approach
Some surprises delight, others not so much. When homeowners Lauren and Paul Mason filed a proposed remodel project for their La Playa residence and it came back from the City of San Diego’s Historic Resources Board declined, that was an unhappy surprise.
The pleasant surprise was that the rejection led them to architect Kim Grant, a pro at dealing with the board. “The board had determined that the house was ‘potentially historic’ due to its age (more than 45 years old) and its architecture, which was a good example of the ranch style,” Kim says. “The owners were not interested in having their property historically designated.
Therefore, the process was to design within the HRB requirements but avoid the actual historic report and designation. “Because of the stipulation that the historic components must be distinguishable from new areas, the one thing Lauren and Paul wanted to do that they couldn’t was to match the existing materials on the outside of the house,” she continues. “Therefore, the new roofs are standing- seam metal instead of wood shake.
The new wood siding has a slightly different exposure from the existing shingles. But it all looks good together.” Lauren and Paul were attracted to the property by its outdoor spaces: the lush garden that keeps the residence tucked away from the street and passersby; the meandering brick lane leading up to a lanky, covered front porch; the front yard with enough extra space for intimate, alfresco dining surrounded by verdant landscaping; and a spacious back yard that could be converted into a personal recreation area.
“We budgeted extra to revitalize the garden and keep it true to what it was with palm trees and 25 staghorn ferns that have been here for 40 years,” Lauren says. “But we also loved the shaker, single-story style of the house and its unassuming character.” With Kim’s help, the home was revitalized and made comfortable for a family of five. The residence grew from three bedrooms and one and one-half baths to five bedrooms and five baths (two being powder rooms).
A new guest suite on one side of the house has its own entrance through the pool area. The other side of the house belongs to the family, with a master suite for mom and dad; a trio of bedrooms for their three daughters; and a shared bathroom with triple sinks and drawer banks, also for the preteens. The heart of the home resides in its center.
Here, all the living gets done in a wide-open, convivial space that, with previous walls taken down, feels generous in size. The core of the home includes more-formal living and dining areas that easily mingle with a laid-back kitchen and a put-your-feet-up family room where pocket doors open to the new backyard playground. To bring the interior spaces to life, Kim introduced Lauren and Paul to designer Elizabeth Barkett.
“I came on board when the house was gutted and met Lauren for the first time when she wanted to do exterior paint,” Elizabeth says. “The options had been laid out, and I helped fine-tune them. We darkened the window trim for contrast, darkened the front porch ceiling, and switched the main paint color from celadon green to a softer shade.”
Inside, Elizabeth and Lauren opted for a background of cooler gray tones. The hues lend an airy freshness that didn’t exist in the previous tan-and-brown palette. Even the fireplace, once besieged by red brick, now adds contemporary style with a charcoal gray surround and a contrasting, light gray mantel.
Lauren was smitten with a sapphire blue velvet sofa that takes center stage in the living room. Hobnobbing with casually propped coral and gray pillows, the couch cozily seats family or guests across from the fireplace.
A dining room rug picks up the sofa’s sapphire blue, bringing continuity to spaces that are open to each other. On top of the rug, a beachy, tan-gray dining room table matches easygoing, porcelain flooring and seats up to 12 people — a far cry from the previous circular table that could crowd in five people if you sat them elbow-to-elbow.
Four chairs, which belly up to the kitchen island just behind the dining room, offer more casual seating at the edge of a kitchen that stole its extra space from previous laundry and powder rooms. A soapstone countertop carries a hint of blue within its charcoal hue and turns the island into a striking accent piece against the kitchen’s white cabinetry.
The charcoal repeats on the brick of the fireplace in the just-across-the-way, suffused-with-sunlight family room — aptly named because family time takes precedence here, as evidenced by board games housed within crisp white, built-in cabinetry that delineates the fireplace.
“We are obsessed with Monopoly,” Lauren shares. “This room is flooded with light. It’s very comfortable and easy to be in.” The family and their guests also spend time whooping it up in the remodeled back yard where, just beyond the glass doors of the family room and kitchen, a delightful pool beckons. “We now have a pool that is usable for the kids,” Lauren says. “The other one was a massive feature that took over the back yard. The new pool tucks up against the property wall, which gave us space for an outdoor living room. We put trees behind the wall, which made the red brick pop; and there’s a brick fountain that I just love. There is brick everywhere on this property. “Kim knew all the tricks to make new bricks look old, and we also pulled outdated brick from corners of the property to use in other areas. I learned a lot about brick matching. It’s now my second job,” Lauren jokes.
The exterior and interior contain many separate spaces for a variety of functions. There’s even a new mudroom that includes a gift-wrapping station. “The home is light, bright, open and airy, and very family oriented without being overly grand,” Elizabeth says. “It’s quite a transformation.” “And by saving the mature plantings, there are a ton of birds that visit the site daily,” Kim adds. “I think Lauren has really turned into a bird lover.”
Let the Fun Shine In
The front door’s deep aquamarine color hints that the interior of this tri-level townhome in Del Mar might loll in a sun-and-sand theme. Once inside the entry hallway, wall art pointing out the beach’s location leaves no doubt. Originally, the motto “Laughter sparkles like a splash of water in sunlight” was scrolled above the door that, at the time, was a dark wood and too heavy-hearted for the carefree sentiment. Perhaps the adage addressed high hopes for an atmosphere that didn’t yet exist.
Tatiana Machado-Rosas and her team at Jackson Design and Remodeling turned the wished-for ambiance into reality. “We wanted to make this our dream beach house,” homeowner Mary Dyer says of the plan she and her husband, Gary, had for the residence. “Our vision was to make it coastal contemporary. We wanted to pull nature in and enhance our views of the ocean and Torrey pines.”
Beginning at the lower level (where two bedrooms and bathrooms reside that were not part of the major remodel), newly installed porcelain tile flooring works its way to the main level’s living spaces — considerably lightening the home’s dark and confining appearance. Its weathered, driftwood look enhances the surf-and-sand concept.
The stairs, too, received a breezier attitude when they switched from wrought iron railings to a more contemporary combination of wood, glass and metal. Silver-toned starfish, hanging on the stairway wall, lead the way to the new, airier living quarters. “The homeowners were going for a very contemporary look with the feel of the beach, but not the typical, nautical red, white and blue,” Tatiana says. “To that end, we incorporated soft blues and a little bit of coral as an accent on accessories in the living spaces. Everything else is very neutral so that, on the whole, the home reflects a soft elegance.”
Several structural changes were made for a more inviting layout, and some ceilings were raised to give the appearance of a more expansive space. “Another major goal,” Gary says of the main, second-story level, “was to open up the kitchen to the dining and family room area and expand the family room as much as possible within the existing footprint.” Removing a partial wall opened the space between the kitchen and the living and dining areas. It further allowed for a new kitchen layout. Two round columns, covered in a glass tile mosaic that reminds Mary of swimming fish, were added to support the ceiling. Comfortable and soothing, the great room features furnishings that answer Mary and Gary’s call for a residence that could accommodate three couples and three grandchildren when friends and family visit.
“The idea was to get as much seating as possible,” Tatiana says. “A sectional placed against the stairs made the most sense, because it was the best way to get more seating in a limited amount of space. Swivel chairs can face either the sectional or the fireplace and television or the bar and the dining room, depending on where the action is. And an expandable dining table provides flexibility.” To make space for a long peninsula that separates the kitchen from the dining room and to grow the kitchen to three times its original size, space was borrowed from a powder room, a wet bar and a dark breakfast nook at the kitchen’s rear. “The kitchen balances white upper cabinetry with glass doors and wood bottom cabinetry for a contemporary statement of warm minimalism,” Tatiana says. “Sliding doors in opaque glass conceal a generous new pantry, significantly upgrading storage capacity. Once the back room was integrated in the kitchen layout, there was even more room to expand, accommodating all new, high-end appliances.” “We also moved the garage door to the back of the house. So now when you walk in from the back patio, you are in the kitchen,” Mary says. “As you walk in, it gets prettier and prettier and opens up.”
At the front end of the kitchen, the sink’s new locale within the peninsula faces the dining room and a larger sliding glass door that opens to the front patio. That move changed the at-the-sink view from a wall to nature’s greenery and the ocean beyond. “We also brought the ocean in, to a certain degree, with quartzite that reminds us of the sea and seagulls,” Gary says. “The quartzite was used on the fireplaces in the living area and in the master bedroom suite.”
The spacious master suite takes up the third floor and includes a lounging area with a redesigned fireplace that creates a compelling centerpiece. “The existing fireplace lacked the importance it needed for the size of the bedroom,” Tatiana says. “We gave it more emphasis by running quartzite all the way across the wall, which added depth. “We created a very neutral space so that, when the curtains are opened, the color comes in from the green hills, the Torrey pines and the ocean,” she continues. “It’s a soothing, resort-like retreat.” The master bathroom’s new design incorporates a shower with tile reminiscent of a peaceful waterfall; a dressing room for Mary; and, also for Mary, cabinetry knobs that have tiny, diamond-like gems that glitter from their center. “I like a little bling,” she admits. “So that was a bit of fun that Tatiana was great about.”
Back downstairs, the three-dimensional, wave-like pattern of tile on a wall where the wet bar used to be brings one back to the interior’s coastal theme. “The home has the most amazing design,” Mary says. “Neighbors knock on our door and ask if they can take pictures and if we mind if they do the same thing in their homes. At first you go, ‘Uh,’ and hesitate. But then you think, ‘Why not share good ideas with people?’”
A smidgen of Art Deco here, a tad of Victorian there, a smattering of Greco-Roman and country French else-where and, voilà, you have the all-over-the-map style of your nightmares — and an apt description of Corinna and Pat Casey’s Del Mar home before Michelle Strausbaugh’s redo. “Every room had a faux finish or stenciling on the walls before we moved in,” Corinna says. “There was tons of brass everywhere, including brass duck sconces on the wall. But we loved the location on the Torrey Pines Reserve, with amazing views of Torrey pines, the beach and canyons. “My husband grew up outside of Washington, D.C., where his back yard was a forest,” she continues. “He loved that at this house he could walk out the front door and go hiking. And the house looked fine from the outside. The interiors just needed to be updated and made more consistent.”
Since Roman columns at the entry were supporting the structure and Corinna’s preferred style was contemporary, the only way that Michelle could make things work within the home’s mishmash of interior design was to go transitional.
“We painted the stark white columns in the entry a charcoal gray, which helped them blend in with the house,” Michelle says. “For public areas, we chose neutral backgrounds and brought in pops of color in fabrics and artwork.”
The spacious entryway inspires awe with its openness to all the main downstairs spaces, which include living, dining and family rooms and the kitchen. Although the entry faces the stairway, one first notices the living room to the left with its baby grand piano; tall, arched, oceanview windows; and lively orange accents.
“Orange is not my husband’s favorite color, but I love it,” Corinna says. “This was a safe room in which to use it, because — although my advisory board meetings, the kids’ piano practice and my son’s guitar lessons are held there — my husband does not spend time in the living room.”
Orange also snuck its way into the dining room, almost hidden in muted tones on the back fabric of chairs and popping out on a handful of accessories. “We fashioned a huge hutch that’s long and low, has plenty of storage and includes an undercounter refrigerator so that if you want a drink, you don’t have to get up to go to the kitchen,” Michelle says. “The custom dining table, with a macassar ebony top and brushed stainless steel base, is extendable with a self-storing leaf. Because the side-yard fountain view was framed within the window’s white wood trim and it looked so pretty, we opted not to do any kind of window treatment.”
Next to the dining room, the kitchen and breakfast nook functioned ably, with a whole wall of pantry storage, plenty of cabinets, well-maintained granite counter-tops and high-performing appliances.
Switching out Victorian-style valances and furnishings for contemporary pieces; painting over wall stenciling; getting rid of the over-the-island pot rack; and restaining the crackle-finished cabinetry with a deep, espresso tone gave the space a new, younger life.
“If it’s already working well, there’s no reason to change it,” Michelle says. “We just updated the kitchen to make it more Corinna and Pat’s style.”
In the family room, on the other side of the house across from the dining area, an overhauled fireplace — transformed from a heavy, mountain-stone cabin style to seagrass limestone sleekness — lightened the space. The same limestone installed as a border around the existing carpeting accommodates family members and guests coming in from the pool.
“We went with a large sectional, so the family can cuddle together or lay down,” Michelle says. “We added shades so you can watch TV when it’s sunny out. Orange accents put pop in the room without being in your face. It’s a cozy space now.”
Upstairs consists of a loft to the south; the kids’ rooms and baths, along with an extra bedroom used as an office, through a separate hallway to the east; and the master suite to the north. The loft and master suite have ocean views. “I really wanted the loft to be a space that the kids and adults could enjoy,” Michelle says. “The coffee-table top lifts up to make it more convenient for the kids to do their homework and have a snack up there. We switched out the fireplace surround to blue glass and did a waterfall mantel to give it a little something three-dimensional.”
The kids have telltale bedrooms — with Anthony’s being blue and Alison’s a pinkish purple — and their own bathrooms. “Everything was made functional so that the kids could grow with it and we wouldn’t have to replace it in two years,” Corinna says. “My daughter is a lefty, so Michelle made sure that things opened easily for her. Her shower tile is a beautiful flower pattern that will last her into adulthood. “Our master bathroom is where half the money went,” she continues. “It’s like a re-creation of a scene from Dynasty. We replaced the step-up bathtub and redesigned the opening so that we could have more wall space for sinks and the vanity. I wanted an annex for my closet, but that didn’t work out because my husband wanted a big shower. “My husband is busy and left most of the decision-making to me. All he wanted was hardwiring and a big shower, so that was very reasonable. And, besides, we snuck in all that orange. To give him a big enough shower, we had to cut the closet annex idea. Instead, I have a beautiful shoe and accessory cabinet that lights up.”
The master bedroom remains a work in progress. So far, repainting the walls has been accomplished; and there are no orange surprises — yet.