Most people who want a swimming pool but don’t have a big enough yard to fit one either join a YMCA or befriend a neighbor who does have one. But Ashley Clark’s Newport Beach, California–based clients had a different idea: They bought the single-story house next door, plopped in a pool, and created a streamlined pathway lined with plants connecting the two properties. “There are a lot of reasons why we kept it two separate parcels with two separate addresses,” says Clark, the founder of local design studio Skout. The biggest one was for resale: If ever the family of five were to leave the area, they could sell each of the places separately a lot more easily than they could as one big compound. Down the road, all they’d have to do is put the fence back up and—voilà—ready to list. 

Still, Clark’s job was to make the adjacent homes (the smaller of the two now a guest-slash-pool house) look cohesive from the outside and inside. At the beginning of the two-year-long project, Clark, along with an architect and contractor, tackled the kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms in the main house while simultaneously renovating the 1,975-square-foot home next door (Garden Studio Design was responsible for the landscaping). Once the guesthouse was finished, the couple and their three young boys moved in there, while the formerly dark kitchen and main bathroom underwent a transformation. Ahead, the designer walks us through the double-duty remodel. 

Round the Bend

The kitchen, before.

While Clark ripped out the preexisting appliances, cabinets, and countertops in the kitchen, everything ultimately stayed in their original location. The biggest upgrades were leveling the once-tiered island structure and nixing the bulky upper cabinets. “Because it’s not a giant kitchen, and with three boys in and out of there all day, we wanted it to feel much larger than it actually is,” shares the designer. 


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Painting the cabinets and grooved accent walls in the kitchen an earthy hue (Portola Paints’s Piano Room color-matched by Dunn-Edwards) helped make the new durable white porcelain counters feel less cold. Clark continued this strategy by using the color throughout the house on all the baseboards, many of the interior doors, and in the couple’s bedroom, where it lends a calming touch to the angular space. 

Spotlight Tight Corners

As a self-proclaimed “symmetrical person,” the kitchen’s awkward angles stumped Clark at first. “I like really clean right angles and rectangles and squares,” she says. But with a slight change in perspective, she began to view the odd corners as focal points and decided to make the most of them with statement lighting. The slanted sink area is now highlighted by a Kelly Wearstler–designed pendant lamp for Visual Comfort

Go Back to Gym Class

The kids’ bathroom, before.

Since she wanted to keep the two eldest boys’ shared bathroom kid-friendly without going too theme-y with dinosaurs and race cars, Clark took the space in an elevated locker room direction. Where there was once a former reach-in closet, there is now a recessed wall of army green storage lockers. “They provide a lot of space for their swim trunks, towels, toilet paper, whatever’s needed,” she points out. The vanity is painted in Sherwin-Williams’s Oak Moss to match, while the striped tiles from Alyse Edwards in Whipped Cream and Too Burnt that extend from the floor up the shower wall add a nautical touch. 

Soak in Charm

The primary bathroom, before.

Vintage-inspired Arto Brick tiles cover the primary bathroom floor, keeping the space from feeling like a “smooth, shiny spa,” says Clark. She cleaned up the old vanity by reducing the size of the cabinetry, replacing the sinks with under-mount versions, and tiling the whole wall in zellige squares. They said goodbye to the built-in Jacuzzi tub and swiftly replaced it with a freestanding one from Hydro Systems.


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“The wife takes a bath every single night, so it was important to her to have this lovely spot that was functional but also has things she can look at,” the designer says of wrapping the alcove in artwork. 

Bring on the Block Party

The pool house is primed for entertaining, with a spacious dining area with a floating bench so that they can easily cram six or eight kids in there—no fussy chair maneuvering required. Clark filled the rest of the space with vintage and flea market finds to make it feel as equally personal as the main house. Large sliding glass doors are easily opened so friends can pop over to the kitchen across the way or jump back into the pool—and there’s no stressing over being too rowdy when your neighbor is you.