There are plenty of reasons why potential buyers gravitate toward new-build houses—they are move-in ready, offer upgraded appliances, the floors don’t slant—but there’s not a lot of room for personality. Loving the modern lines of her circa-2019 home, however, one California homeowner wasn’t looking to add crown molding or Art Deco sconces, she just wanted some color—and functional storage. In desperate need of a drop zone for her kids’ shoes and backpacks and a decked-out laundry room, she and her husband called on Alisha Stuart of Honné Studio.

The nearly two-year project (they had to pause construction when COVID-19 hit) wasn’t all Stuart, though; the designer insists it was a team effort with the family. “It was good to be able to talk through different options and weigh pros and cons, rather than just telling someone what the plan was,” she says. Together, they landed on mint green paint and kid-friendly drawers for a space they all can use.

Find Your Middle Ground

Baskets, Rejuvenation; Faucet, Brizo.

The rest of the Pacific Palisades home stuck to the client’s preferred color palette: neutral creams and warm browns. In the laundry room, however, she looked to Stuart to step out of her comfort zone. The pastel cabinet hue Stuart put forward, Benjamin Moore’s Flora, is the perfect middle ground between safe gray and zingy green. “It’s a step above gray in terms of the vibrancy, but it still feels calming and grounded with the cool tone running through it,” she says. 

However, if you still haven’t decided on the perfect shade, Stuart suggests asking for a 75 percent, or even 65 percent, strength to lighten it up. “You’re able to utilize the color,” Stuart explains, “but it ends up feeling softer and a bit subtler.”

Mix Up the Finishes

New builds are often all-sleek everything—white walls, hardwood floors, stainless steel. In order to have some fun with an otherwise utilitarian area, Stuart chose beadboard for behind the bench (she likens it to a backsplash) and slatted cabinets for the adjoining mudroom, while the laundry room has flat front doors; the herringbone stone floors provide the dimension there. “It was important to balance out the color and not make the room feel harsh,” she says. Another material choice was less expected: leather. It shows up on the woven bins on the open wood shelves; Stuart loved the baskets so much she was tempted to design the whole space around them. “They just make functionality chic and overall aesthetically pleasing,” she says.  

Hide the Essentials in Plain Sight

In lieu of traditional hardware, Stuart opted for grooved cutouts in the mudroom drawers—easy for little fingers to grasp. “The two kids are super-curious, so ensuring they could access their masks and shoes by themselves was a big priority,” she says. Off-limits cleaning supplies are above reach in the upper cabinets or decanted into jars. “It’s accessible but concealed,” Stuart explains. 

Hanging up your coat is a choose-your-own adventure. Stuart made a last-minute decision to add two extra hooks behind the door that connects the two spaces, two more than the family of four technically requires. “Especially with kids, make space for more storage than you think you need,” she notes. Sure enough, these days every single one is in use.

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