Lightening the look: Fresh design helps family fall in love with Del Sur home

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

What sold the couple, who asked to be anonymous, was the big yard and the 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 spaces,” said the wife. “I originally saw the home listed on Zillow and crossed it off our list based on the interior photos. Our Realtor convinced us to come look at it because of the rare large lot size in Del Sur.”

The home’s failures included a kitchen with a huge wall of cherry wood cabinets that the wife and her husband felt wasted space. They didn’t like the outdated cherry wood, the busy granite countertops and traditional nickel light fixtures. The primary bath had a tub with a large ledge around it that was also considered wasted space. The cherry wood and busy counters continued in the bathroom along with ornate mirrors and light fixtures. The playroom was a large, plain room without a light fixture or any character. All of the rooms had a warm, gray paint that darkened the entire home.

What the couple did want 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 those changes were doable.

“We wanted to utilize all the spaces with functional storage and open shelving to display decor pieces. We wanted the large, built-in bathtub removed and replaced with a stand-alone soaking tub. We wanted all of the cherry wood and dark paint gone to brighten the space,” the wife explained

But without a specific vision of how that would actually look, they hired Caitlin Wright and Hannah Rodriguez of Realm Design, whom they found on Instagram.

“We originally were hired to help with their kitchen,” said Wright. “As we worked through the design with them, they added on their primary bathroom and a playroom for their daughter. We eventually helped with styling and minor changes to other areas in the home.”

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

What the designers learned was that with two dogs and a toddler at the time (the couple has since had a son), the design needed to be kid- and pet-friendly. It also needed to have a functional kitchen and entertaining space because the family enjoys having family gatherings, play dates and friends over for meals.

“We took out quite a bit of cabinetry in one corner of the kitchen to build in a banquette,” Wright explained. “This made more sense for their family to have a cozy place to cuddle up and work on art while Mom’s cooking. We selected performance fabrics, leather stools and chairs, and wipe-able materials to ensure there wasn’t stress about tiny sticky fingers.”

Because the kitchen felt so dark and heavy, the designers set out to create a lighter, brighter space, punctuated with gold and black metal. The existing cabinetry was high quality — just too much of it and too dark — so they removed some and painted others white along the room’s perimeter, topping it with light-color Linea quartz slab from Arizona Tile.

Against the back of the kitchen, the designers sated the wife’s love of cooking while also creating visual contrast with a 48-inch ILVE Nostalgie Italian range in matte graphite with brass trim. Above is a white herringbone pattern backsplash with Rhythmic Cellar 9-inch-by-2-inch glazed clay subway tile from North County Tile and Stone; a pair of adjustable Study wall sconces in matte black is installed within the backsplash near the ceiling. At the bottom edge of the backsplash, Wright and Rodriguez designed a sleek quartz shelf that was tricky to install.

The designers added a nice natural touch of oak with another set of shelves on either side of the Imperial stove hood. On the wall to the right of the island, the side-by-side KitchenAid refrigerator front is paneled in white, and next to it the designers 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 charcoal and matched with an almost 8-foot Black Mist honed slab, also from Arizona Tile, for the countertop. The three pendants above the island are a mixed-metal Schoolhouse pendant with antique brass bronze. The sink has a touch of glam with the Kraus Artec Pro Single-Handle Pull-Down Sprayer kitchen faucet and pot filler in brushed gold and black matte. A KitchenAid custom-paneled dishwasher is installed in the island by the sink.

The cozy banquette, with storage below the built-in seating, sits at the foot of the kitchen beyond the back wall with the stove. It’s anchored by a Chapman Marble Oval table that features an antique bronze finish iron base. The table is outfitted with two woven, black leather dining chairs, while the large Bodhi Dome pendant above, made by hand of aluminum and iron, provides both light and a striking focal point.

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

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 that with just the right amount of pink — a throw, throw pillow on a marvelous Luna Star Parchment hanging chair, a blush 8-by-10-foot Astrid rug and a couple of pink poufs. A pretty wooden trapeze bar with beaded ropes holds delightfully poufy dress-up clothes. But these are all adjustable for a growing girl and her little brother of her. The bones of the room will outlast toddler years.

“The playroom is my favorite room in the house. Realm chose a stunning wallpaper with flying sparrows and paired it with beautiful wainscoting,” raved the mom. “Every detail from the floating bookshelves to the pale pink rugs to the rattan daybed is perfection. It is serene and cozy and so special.”

The designers included a Bentwood Kids 5 Piece round table and chair set — perfect for coloring or having a tea party. A Hera side table in a water-based Haze finish sits along the daybed. The owner said her daughter loves to play dress up and dance around in front of the 76-inch-tall, high-gloss floor mirror, while her son walks along the white Cameron wall unit, opening the doors of the storage cupboards to see what’s inside. Above it all is the glitzy Weyand Statement Bowl pendant to add light to the space.

That room makes the kids happy. Upstairs is a restorative space for Mom and Dad. The primary bathroom’s makeover features the same light and dark dichotomy highlighted with a punch of gold as the kitchen below.

“She wanted it to be light, bright and airy, but she wanted to add contrast and patterns in a subtle way,” Wright said.

Gone is the super dark color of the cabinetry of the his-and-her vanities. Now they’re a brilliant white with Black Mist honed slab and flat black faucets. Above each vanity is a pair of Tapered Corset sconces with a linen shade and aged brass and black trim, as well as an Edge Gunmetal Arch wall mirror.

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

Between the vanities is the room’s clear focus, a 67-inch Scarlett Acrylic freestanding soaking tub with a black exterior and white interior that the designers found on Wayfair.com. Above it is a brilliant, aged brass Striped Drum Chandelier. To create more storage for towels and other essentials, the designers placed a Kelby Sideboard in Vintage Brown against the wall by the shower. For the shower, a lively Montpelier mosaic tile in black-and-white marble sits on the floor, with the walls lined vertically in a clean Boston Arctic ceramic tile.

The lockdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays, but Wright said the project was wrapped up by July 2020.

“The house is wonderful,” the homeowner said. “Realm helped us create our dream home that is perfect for entertaining. Every room they designed brings us such joy. We love being at home with our family and enjoying the spaces. We still have two bathrooms left to renovate and will be calling Realm again soon to design them.”

Caron Golden is a freelance writer.