When Empty Nest Syndrome Inspires a Chic Home Makeover
Inside an airy, coastal California abode.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:33 AM
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Nothing in life stays the same—not your job, your friends, nor, for that matter, your home. As your life changes through the seasons, your home does, too. Maybe you’ve spent your 20s (and all your savings) bopping across the globe, so your home starts to embody styles from all your travels. Or maybe after you turned 30, you craved color, and your previously all-white rooms have been transformed into a mix of pattern and prints.
In the case of interior design firm Studio McGee’s newest project, the overhaul was a little more extreme—and the result of a serious case of empty nest syndrome, as the owners were dealing with their children leaving home. “Our client raised their family in this ranch-style Southern California home, and now, as empty nesters, it was time to look at it with fresh eyes,” says Shea McGee. “The goal was to create a relaxed and classic coastal look, with lots of space for entertaining.”
Crisp white walls with natural beamed ceilings lend an airy feel to the space, which benefits from plentiful natural light by way of huge windows. However, the ceiling didn’t always look that way—the number of beams initially overwhelmed the space, but rather than eliminating that style completely, McGee chose to streamline it by creating larger beams that matched the flooring.
The streamlined look was important for McGee, who wanted California vibes while maintaining a somewhat minimalist feel. In order to let the couple’s personality stand out, other elements were later added. “We really wanted the coastal vibe to come through in the overall feel of the home by incorporating a less predictable palette,” explains McGee. “So, we started with foundational neutrals, and subtly worked in color from there.”
In the living room, a grey fireplace provides a fresh take on neutrals. Boho accents including mounds of plants and subtle rugs also lend a more eclectic feel—but not too much, as those textiles all somehow coordinated with the other accents in the home.
“The direction really started to take shape when we pulled the textile schemes together,” says McGee. “Intentionally avoiding a strict blue and white color palette, we aimed to mix in warm textures, shades of green, and black accents.”
A dreamy dining area has a lavender rug and chairs, with modern lighting moving your eyes up to those incredible beams. The black and white combo seems almost mod-like, but in McGee’s eyes, design rules are meant to be broken.
“One of the things we are most known for is our ability to mix,” explains McGee of her design ethos. “Comfortable furniture with big cushions was important to our client, so we knew it was important to pair it with more streamlined selections. I believe this pairing lends the home a more approachable and casual feel.”
Another striking feature in the home is the combinations of white and natural wood overtaking the space. While too much wood might have seemed too rustic, the tonal hue mixed with white added a modern feel in the home. “Just one or the other can be either too stark or too rustic, but together, they sing,” says McGee.
As the main purpose of the re-do was to have more entertaining space, special consideration was given to both the kitchen and den. A sleek island in an deep hue allows the couple to have guests over, and the moody color gives the area a fresh take on nautical.
“The dark countertops add a beautiful contrast with the white cabinets, and kept things from feeling too washed out,” explains McGee. “So often, you see just the paint or countertop color switched on the island, but we wanted to do both. The open shelves and leg details give it more of a workroom table look, which we love.” Some fresh rugs add to the lived-in feel.
The dark shade den might stand out upon first glance, but for McGee, it was a natural extension of the colors in the kitchen. By using Sherwin-Williams’ blue-green hue Still Water, the area contrasts beautifully with the white walls elsewhere. The purpose? To create a playful area for children.
“Our client’s kids are all grown and starting families of their own, so there are always grandkids staying over and needing a place of their own,” explains McGee. “Our client wanted a fun space where they could all play, and toys could be confined to one space.”Open shelving
and a comfortable desk area allows the room to double as a study when the kids aren’t around.
In the bedroom, a fun mix of texture and pattern is utilized for asymmetry. Natural woods and rattan are boho chic additions to an otherwise modern room, while metallic accents and deep blues characterize the clients’ love of mixing and matching perfectly.
“We love the deep blue headboard—it’s one of our client’s favorite furniture pieces,” says McGee. “Pairing it with a pastel pillow helped pull out the vibrancy in the color. We wanted to add depth without making the bedroom feel dark, so we used little hints of black throughout the room.”
The bathroom is a fresh play on tile. Mixing the dark grey and more subtle tile was a great way to add personality to the space without going crazy with color.
“The extra large mosaic on the floor alluded to the marble subway while adding a large graphic element that felt a little more playful in the space,” explains McGee. “The look is more layered, while still being airy and approachable.”
Overall, the new space allows for several rooms for play, and lets the owners to feel comfortable with all their new additional room.
“One of my favorite things about design is that each client’s personality and lifestyle leads every home in a unique direction. At the end of the process, it’s really rewarding to see how our designs have impacted the way our clients live for the better,” says McGee. “It’s the best feeling walking through the space with the client after our final install, and seeing their faces light up with how excited they are to see it all complete.”
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