A large backyard and sizeable square footage can help homebuyers make the decision to buy a home despite concerns about interior aesthetics. That was certainly the case for one couple who overcame their reservations about dark and dated interiors when they bought a two-story, 3,800-square-foot home in Del Sur in 2019.
What the couple, who asked for anonymity, were selling was the large yard and spacious rooms of the five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home, built in 2013.
“We loved the layout of the house and the size of the bedrooms and living areas,” the woman said. “I originally saw the house on Zillow and took it off our list based on the interior photos. Our agent convinced us to look into it because of the rare large lot size in Del Sur.”
Among the home’s failures was a kitchen with a huge wall of cherry wood cabinets, which the wife and husband felt was a waste of space. They didn’t like the dated cherry wood, busy granite countertops, and traditional nickel lamps. The main bathroom had a tub with a large ledge around it, which was also considered a waste of space. The cherry wood and busy countertops continued in the bathroom along with ornate mirrors and light fixtures. The playroom was a large, plain room with no lighting or character. All the rooms were painted a warm gray color that darkened the whole house.
What the couple wanted was a home that felt modern, warm and comfortable for their growing family, which at the time included a young daughter and two dogs. And these changes were feasible.
“We wanted to use all the spaces with functional storage and open shelving to display decorative pieces. We wanted the large built-in bath to be removed and replaced with a freestanding bath. We wanted all the cherry wood and dark color gone to brighten the space,” the woman explained
But with no precise idea of what that would actually look like, they hired Realm Design’s Caitlin Wright and Hannah Rodriguez, who they found on Instagram.
“Originally we were hired to help them in the kitchen,” Wright said. “As we worked through the design with them, they added their master bathroom and a playroom for their daughter. We ended up helping with the styling and minor changes to other areas of the house.”
They began the design process in October 2019 and construction began in January 2020. The designers walked the woman through her typical process, including concept boards, 3D renderings, and then any final selections, collaborating on items that she wanted to exchange.
What the designers learned was that with two dogs and a toddler at the time (the couple now have a son), the design had to be kid and pet friendly. It also had to have a functional kitchen and entertaining area as the family loves to have family reunions, play dates and friends over for meals.
“We took out quite a few cabinets in a corner of the kitchen to put in a bench seat,” Wright explained. “It made more sense for her family to have a cozy place to snuggle up and work on the art while Mom cooks. We chose high-performance fabrics, leather stools and chairs, and wipe-clean materials to ensure little sticky fingers don’t cause stress.”
Because the kitchen felt so dark and heavy, the designers set about creating a lighter, brighter space that was punctuated with gold and black metal. The existing cabinetry was of high quality – just too much of it and too dark – so they removed some and painted others white along the perimeter of the room and covered them with a light slab of Linea Quartz from Arizona Tile.
At the rear of the kitchen, the designers satisfied the woman’s love of cooking while creating a visual contrast with an Italian ILVE Nostalgie 48” series in matte graphite with brass detailing. Above is a white herringbone backsplash with 9-inch by 2-inch glazed clay subway tiles from Rhythmic Cellar of North County Tile and Stone; A pair of adjustable matte black Study wall lights are installed within the splashback near the ceiling. At the bottom edge of the backsplash, Wright and Rodriguez designed an elegant quartz shelf that was difficult to install.
The designers added a beautiful natural touch of oak with another set of shelves either side of the Imperial stove hood. On the wall to the right of the island, the front of the KitchenAid side-by-side refrigerator is paneled in white, with the designers creating a hidden coffee cabinet next to it. The designers chose 9 inch cabinet pulls and Channing cup cabinet pulls, all finished in honey bronze.
To break up all the whiteness, the island cabinets were painted charcoal and paired with an almost 8-foot tall Black Mist sanded slab, also from Arizona Tile, for the countertop. The three pendants above the island are a mixed metal antique brass bronze schoolhouse pendant. The sink gets a touch of glamor with the Kraus Artec Pro single lever spray head with pull-down kitchen faucet and pot filler in brushed gold and matte black. A KitchenAid dishwasher with custom trim is installed in the island next to the sink.
The cozy banquette with storage space under the built-in seating is located at the foot of the kitchen behind the back wall with the stove. It is anchored by an oval Chapman marble table that features an iron base with an antique bronze finish. The table is furnished with two woven black leather dining chairs, while the large Bodhi Dome pendant above, handcrafted from aluminum and iron, provides both light and a distinctive focal point.
So what did the designers do with the extra cabinets? They joke about tetrizing them to other rooms in the adjacent family room. The white fireplace is flanked by cabinets painted in charcoal with the same top as the island. They are in corners with open shelves above. On the opposite wall, near the entrance to the courtyard, is another cabinet, painted white with features that mimic the splashback, lighting, and shelving of the back wall.
Just beyond the kitchen is the playroom. The couple’s daughter was a toddler at the time of the renovation and a very girly girl. The room reflects this with just the right amount of pink – a throw, a cushion on a gorgeous Luna Star parchment hanging chair, a 8×12 pink Astrid rug and a couple of pink poufs. A pretty wooden trapeze bar with beaded ropes holds gorgeous baggy clothes. But these are all adjustable for a growing girl and her little brother. The room’s bones will outlast infancy.
“The playroom is my favorite room in the house. Realm chose a stunning flying sparrow wallpaper and paired it with beautiful wall paneling,” enthused the mother. “Every detail from the floating bookshelves to the pale pink rugs to the rattan daybed is perfect. It’s quiet and cozy and so special.”
The designers have included a Bentwood Kids 5 piece round table and chairs set – perfect for coloring in or for a tea party. A Hera side table in a water-based Haze finish sits next to the daybed. The owner said her daughter loves to dress up and dance around in front of the 76-inch high-gloss floor mirror, while her son walks along the white Cameron wall unit and opens the closet doors to see what’s inside. Above it all is the glittering Weyand Statement Bowl pendant to add light to the room.
This room makes the kids happy. Upstairs is a recreation room for mom and dad. The master bathroom makeover features the same chiaroscuro dichotomy highlighted with a touch of gold as the kitchen below.
“She wanted it to be bright, light and airy, but she wanted to add contrast and pattern in a subtle way,” Wright said.
Gone is the super dark color of his and her vanity cabinets. Now they’re gleaming white with a honed Black Mist top and flat black faucets. Above each vanity is a pair of Tapered Corset chandeliers with linen shades and aged brass and black trim, and an Edge Gunmetal Arch wall mirror.
The back wall is covered in a soft white-on-white herringbone wallpaper, while the floor features honed Bianca Narino tiles in a Versailles pattern.
Between the vanities is the clear focal point of the space, a 67-inch Scarlett acrylic freestanding bathtub with a black exterior and white interior that the designers found on Wayfair.com. Above is a brilliant aged brass striped drum chandelier. To create more storage space for towels and other essentials, the designers placed a vintage brown Kelby sideboard on the wall next to the shower. For the shower, a vibrant black-and-white marble Montpelier mosaic tile sits on the floor, while walls are clad vertically with a clean Boston Arctic ceramic tile.
The lockdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays, but Wright said the project would be complete by July 2020.
“The house is wonderful,” said the homeowner. “Realm helped us create our dream home that’s perfect for entertaining. Every room they have designed brings us so much joy. We love being at home with our family and enjoying the spaces. We still have two bathrooms to renovate and will be calling Realm again soon to design them.”
Caron Golden is a freelance writer.