Lighten up the look: New design helps family fall in love with the Del Sur house


A large backyard and square footage can go a long way in helping buyers decide to buy a home, despite qualms about interior aesthetics. That was certainly the case for a couple who overcame their reservations about dark, dated interiors when they purchased a two-story, 3,800-square-foot home in Del Sur in 2019.

What sold the couple, who asked to remain anonymous, was the large yard and spacious rooms in the five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom home, which was built in 2013.

“We loved the layout of the house and the size of the bedrooms and living areas,” the wife said. “I first saw the house listed on Zillow and crossed it off our list based on the interior photos. Our realtor convinced us to come see it due to the rare large lot size in Del On.”

Failures of the house included a kitchen with a huge wall of cherry wood cabinets that the wife and her husband considered wasted space. They didn’t like the outdated cherry wood, heavily trafficked granite countertops, and traditional nickel fixtures. The main bath had a tub with a large ledge around it which was also considered wasted space. Cherry wood and busy countertops continued in the bathroom with ornate mirrors and light fixtures. The playroom was a large, simple room with no light fixtures or characters. All the rooms had a warm gray paint that darkened the whole house.

What the couple wanted was a modern, warm and comfortable home for their growing family, which at the time included a young daughter and two dogs. And these changes were doable.

“We wanted to utilize all the spaces with functional storage and open shelving to display decorative pieces. We wanted the large built-in tub removed and replaced with a freestanding tub. We wanted all the cherry wood and dark paint to disappear to brighten the space,” the woman explained.

But without a clear vision of what it would actually look like, they hired Caitlin Wright and Hannah Rodriguez of Realm Design, whom they found on Instagram.

“We were originally hired to help with their cooking,” Wright said. “While we worked with them on the design, they added their master bathroom and a playroom for their daughter. We eventually helped with styling and minor changes to other areas of the house.”

They began the design process in October 2019 and construction was launched in January 2020. The designers went through their typical process with the wife, including concept boards, 3D renders, and then all final selections, collaborating on the items she wanted to exchange.

What the designers learned was that with two dogs and a toddler at the time (the couple have since had a son), the design needed to be child and pet friendly. It also needed a functional kitchen and entertainment area, as the family likes to have family gatherings, play dates and friends over for meals.

“We removed quite a bit of cabinetry in one corner of the kitchen to make it a bench seat,” Wright explained. “It made more sense for their family to have a cozy place to snuggle up and work on art while mum cooked. We’ve selected performance fabrics, leather stools and chairs, and washable materials to take the stress out of sticky little fingers.

Because the kitchen seemed so dark and heavy, the designers decided to create a lighter and brighter space, punctuated with gold and black metal. The existing cabinets were high quality – too many and too dark – so they removed some and painted others white along the perimeter of the room, covering them with a light-colored Linea quartz slab from Arizona Tile.

At the back of the kitchen, the designers have indulged the woman’s love of cooking while creating visual contrast with an ILVE Nostalgie 48-inch Italian range in matte graphite with brass trim. Above, a white herringbone pattern backsplash with 9-inch by 2-inch Rhythmic Cellar Glazed Clay Subway Tiles from North County Tile and Stone; a pair of adjustable Study wall sconces in matte black are installed in the backsplash near the ceiling. At the bottom edge of the backsplash, Wright and Rodriguez designed an elegant, hard-to-install quartz shelf.

The designers added a nice natural touch of oak with another set of shelves on either side of the Imperial cooker hood. On the wall to the right of the island, the front of the KitchenAid side-by-side refrigerator is paneled in white, and next to it the designers have created a hidden coffee cabinet. The designers chose 9-inch-long cabinet pulls and Channing Cup cabinet pulls, all finished in honey bronze.

To break up all the white, the island cabinets were painted in charcoal and matched with a nearly 8-foot Black Mist honed slab, also from Arizona Tile, for the counter. The three pendants above the island are a Schoolhouse pendant in metal mixed with antique brass bronze. The sink gets a touch of glamor with the Kraus Artec Pro single handle kitchen faucet and pot filler in brushed gold and matte black. A KitchenAid custom panel dishwasher is installed in the island near the sink.

The comfortable bench seat, with storage under the integrated seats, is at the foot of the kitchen beyond the far wall with the stove. It is anchored by an oval Chapman marble table with an antique bronze finished iron base. The table is fitted with two woven black leather dining chairs, while the large Bodhi Dome pendant above, handcrafted in aluminum and iron, provides both light and a striking focal point.

So what did the designers do with the extra cabinets? They joke about Tetrising them in other spaces in the adjoining family room. The white fireplace is flanked by charcoal painted cabinets with the same slab as the island. They are in nooks with open shelves above. On the opposite wall, near the courtyard entrance, is another cabinet, painted white with features that mimic the back wall’s backsplash, lighting, and shelving.

Just past 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 pillow on a wonderful Luna Star Parchment hanging chair, an 8ft by 10ft blush Astrid rug, and a few pink ottomans. A cute wooden trapeze bar with beaded strings holds delightfully poofy costume wear. But all of this is adjustable for a growing girl and her little brother. The bones in the play will outlast toddlers.

“The playroom is my favorite room in the house. Realm chose a stunning wallpaper with flying sparrows and paired it with beautiful wall paneling,” the mum said. “Every detail, from the floating shelves to the pale pink rug to the rattan daybed, is perfect. It’s serene and cozy and so special.”

The designers have included a Bentwood Kids 5 Piece Round Table and Chair Set – perfect for coloring in or hosting a tea party. A Hera side table in a water-based Haze finish sits alongside the daybed. The homeowner said her daughter loved dressing up and dancing in front of the shiny 76-inch-high floor mirror, while her son strolled along the white Cameron wall unit, opening the storage cupboard doors to see what is inside. Above all of this is the shimmering Weyand Statement Bowl pendant to add light to the space.

This piece makes children happy. Upstairs is a restorative space for mom and dad. The master bathroom makeover features the same light and dark dichotomy highlighted with a punch of gold as the kitchen below.

“She wanted it to be light and bright 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 hers vanity cabinets. Now they’re glossy white with a Black Mist softened slab and flat black faucets. Above each vanity is a pair of Tapered Corset sconces with a linen shade and aged brass and black accents, as well as an Edge Gunmetal Arch wall mirror.

The back wall is covered in soft white-on-white chevron pattern wallpaper, while on the floor is polished Bianca Narino tile in a Versaille pattern.

Between the vanities is the focal point of the room, a 67-inch Scarlett acrylic freestanding tub with a black exterior and white interior that the designers found on Above is a brilliant striped drum chandelier in aged brass. To create more storage for towels and other essentials, the designers placed a Kelby sideboard in vintage brown against the wall near the shower. For the shower, a lively Montpelier mosaic tile in black and white marble sits on the floor, with the walls lined vertically with clean Boston Arctic ceramic tile.

Lockdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays, but Wright said the project was completed in July 2020.

“The house is beautiful,” said the owner. “Realm helped us create our dream home, perfect for entertaining. Every room they designed brings us such joy. We love being home with our family and enjoying the spaces. We still have two more bathrooms to renovate and we will soon call on Realm to design them.

Caron Golden is a freelance writer.


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