An effortless reflection of traditional East Coast cool, peppered with subtle nods to California living, you’d never guess this bright and breezy farmhouse was ever anything but. But, as the story often goes, looks can be deceiving.
“It felt closed off and tight. All the bathrooms were outdated with ’80s flair—Pepto pink in one of them,” recalls designer Becky Shea, who oversaw the renovation and redesign of the once lifeless Port Washington, New York home. “The overall energy after we opened everything up made the space feel 10 times bigger, and drenched with light.”
With a strong vision already in mind, Shea’s clients, Sara, a former elementary school teacher, and her husband, who runs the local marine supply store, brought the designer in for the fine tuning.
“Sara is originally from LA, so she had major California vibes to bring to the project’s energy,” says Shea. “By the time we got involved, they had the majority of their desired looks saved on Pinterest, and turned to me to bring those looks to life with my own spin.”
Along with expanding the home to make room for a breakfast nook, the project also entailed four full bathroom renovations and a new kitchen and mudroom. Now privy to an abundance of natural light and a pared down color palette, the ultra homey abode ignites a sense of togetherness.
Prior to kicking off the renovation, the couple and their two children had been living in the home for two years. While the space was far from being in disrepair, the rooms were dark and disconnected enough to demand an inspired facelift. Shea and her team started by opening up the galley kitchen and carving out a designated spot for the little ones to drop their daily gear.
“Sara definitely wanted a mudroom for the kids to store their backpacks, shoes, stuffed animals, and everything in between, so we carved out the area between the family room and new breakfast nook to furnish them with an area that was partially concealed, but served up major intention for everyday life,” explains Shea.
Along with wider floorboards (to achieve that fresh farmhouse look), an open concept kitchen and casual dining nook were also high on the couple’s must-have list. Wherever possible, Shea added custom millwork to maximize the family’s room for storage, and from start to finish, the reno took a little over a year to complete.
“The longest period of the project was before we even started,” recalls Shea. “Before we broke ground, the town had to approve the work in order to pull the permits—it took a little over six months.”
In the joint living and dining room, mixed metallics, leafy greens, and rich leather moments complete the “California modern farmhouse” aesthetic. While earthy browns, ocean blues, and charcoal grays now fuel the home’s quiet, country narrative, it was one color in particular that informed the home’s decorative direction.
“Sara was afraid of black when we first got started—my tried and true signature. Fast forward, I was there a few weeks back, and now everything is black! Plates, bowls, silverware… it makes me so happy when clients lean into a style or detail you knew they’d love to begin with,” shares Shea. “Adding this tiny detail really helped achieve that modern farmhouse vibe, without leaning too far into the Cali vibe.”
Alongside its color partner in crime, splashes of black pop against the almost all-white scheme in the breakfast nook, where an industrial cool fixture presides over the round, farmhouse-style table. For the pantry, Shea and her team were able to repurpose the home’s original floorboards.
But what is a kitchen renovation without a little (or a lot) of trial and error? “Where the bay window is, we originally had a desk spec’d out, but decided against it after Sara and I sat and really dove into the process flow of her home,” says Shea. “The backsplash was another one that took a few iterations of tile approvals.”
For said backsplash, the couple eventually went with an extra long subway tile in marble—a pricey, but oh-so-worth-it pick that ended up being “one of the splurges for the space.”
In an effort to introduce more light to the kitchen, Shea and her team also added more windows, as well as a separate entrance.
In the first floor powder room—a space which, before the renovation, did not exist at all—Shea went darker with cool blue walls, but kept things clean and chic with all-marble flooring.
Renovating one bathroom would be hard enough, but four? Consider that a design feat to put them all to rest. With functionality top of mind, each of the four bathroom’s purpose is reflected in the materials.
“I always run through each case scenario for each bathroom with the client: Is this a bathroom for guests? For you and your husband? For your kids? Is this a bathroom that rarely gets used? Or is this a bathroom that has insane traffic? Asking these questions in the beginning will help define a road map in terms of what materials should be used.”
Given that the powder room downstairs is a fairly low traffic space, Shea opted for sleek, marble floors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Shea chose a “porcelain made-to-look-like-wood for the boy’s room, because it can take a beating and still look perfect.”
Although the white-painted shiplap in the children’s bathroom coincides with the rest of the home’s farmhouse cool aesthetic, the dreamy statement wall was almost a potential eyesore.
“When I stepped foot into the boy’s bathroom upstairs, I knew immediately that the shiplap had to be completely redone. None of the lines matched up, there were splinters poking out from certain panels… it was awful,” says Shea of the final walk-through.
And although the second go-round proved to be nearly perfect, an unforeseen re-do like this can be tough on a family that has already been living through nine months of construction.
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