Transforming a home to stay in the ideal neighborhood
What’s a family to do when they love their neighborhood but hate their house? In the case of a Newport Beach clan in Baycrest with three young children, the answer was simple.
“We love our neighborhood and particularly our street, which has so many kids on it,” explains the homeowner, who prefers to remain unnamed. The family knew the home they moved into in 2008 would need to be remodeled, but what mattered was location. “That’s what my husband and I grew up with, and that was the environment we wanted for our kids. We knew we’d remodel the house so we could stay in this perfect location.”
First up to be tackled: the backyard, which was filled with trees and had only a small grassy area. Enlisting the help of Garden Studios for the landscape design and Sea Breeze Construction for all the planting, they transformed the yard into a year-round playground, with a massive built-in concrete barbecue anchoring one side, an oversize Jacuzzi/splash pool on the other and a convivial fire pit/conversation lounge in the center surrounded by a white brick patio.
When they were ready to begin the bigger job of renovating the house, they assembled a local team that included architect Bill Cope, contractor Chris Jenkins and interior designer Ashley Clark. As Clark recalls, that backyard renovation helped inform the plan for the interior.
“They had put in the brick, but the house didn’t have any white brick. So when we started working together, we decided since we were doing this outdoor-indoor idea and we already had the white brick outside, we’d bring it inside to make it feel like one big space,” she says.
The renovation plan was always to keep the footprint of the 2,150-square-foot house, but also to connect it to the detached garage, which added 380 more square feet to the total.
“Our goal was to make it a family-friendly house that made it easy to entertain, with an indoor-outdoor flow and feeling,” the owner explains. “We changed the entire house. It just wasn’t user-friendly before. The kitchen was like a galley kitchen, right in the front of the house, so we moved it to the rear of the house and opened it up.”
Construction began in March 2015 and the family was back in the home by August, in a living space that Clark describes as “having a summer house all year round. It feels fresh and good to be here.” Achieving that open, airy feeling was accomplished by following Clark’s signature style, using white and light tints as the foundation of the interior look and by making some key architectural changes that transformed the home into a modern seaside farmhouse.
“We vaulted the ceilings,” the owner points out. “We took the 8-foot standard ceilings and raised them to about 16 feet at the highest point. That made a huge difference. It makes our home feel so much more spacious, airy and inviting.”
As do the Dutch doors at the front and back of the main great room that encompasses dining area, living room, kitchen and breakfast nook, which they “leave open all the time for the breeze,” as well as the large window and glass doors across the back, which reinforce the feel of the indoors blending to outdoors.
The kitchen is now the focal point of the house, with a massive light grey marble center slab, matching marble counters and mostly open shelving, all set against a white brick wall. Built-in side cabinets help maintain Clark’s aim of a clean, uncluttered design throughout.
“We put in the side cabinets because we didn’t want things like the coffee maker, blender, even toaster, on the counter. So these cabinets are cool, because those things are all in here, they plug into the cabinet and pull out, you just use the appliance right there, then slide it back out of the way. So it never gets cluttered, which was the goal,” Clark says.
The rest of the house – four bedrooms and two baths – was also redone with that goal of a minimalist style. “We redid every bathroom and every single surface and the floors, but the layout, the bedrooms stayed in the exact same places,” Clark continues. “And we tried to incorporate storage and laundry in each room. We tried to think through everything: Where are you going to put this? Where are you going to put that? How can we keep everything out of the way?”
Thinking through all the details included their plan to make the home virtually kid-proof, the family’s three children range from 10 to 3. That meant using materials designed to take a beating. “The floors are made of an engineered wood; it’s a white oak, which is just super kid-friendly, super user-friendly. They don’t show dust, they don’t show Hot Wheels marks,” Clark says. “They have almost an oil finish, so you don’t put a protective finish on it. But if there is a mark or a scratch, you can just get out your coconut oil and rub it on and it’s gone.”
Furthering that plan, the breakfast nook in the kitchen is covered in white vinyl, the kitchen stools are made of plastic and – most surprisingly – the living room furniture is all covered in heavy white cotton.
“The white slipcovers were Ashley’s idea,” says the owner. "I couldn't imagine having white couches with all my kids, their friends and our dog around. But they’ve been so easy. You can throw the heavy cotton canvas covers in the wash, even bleach them. It turned out to be a great design decision.”
That’s a good thing, considering that this welcoming home is now the happy hangout for all the neighborhood children.
“We wanted our house to be the place where all the kids wanted to come, and we feel very blessed that that is exactly what we have now. It’s just so family-friendly,” the owner sighs contentedly.