After 12 Years of Renting, Concrete Collaborative’s Founder Finally Got Full Reno Rein
And she made it count with lots of terrazzo.
Published Oct 9, 2023 1:04 AM
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When you own a concrete and tile company, it makes sense that you’d want to put some of your own product in your home. But for Kate Balsis, a cofounder of Concrete Collaborative who bought her first family house after 12 years of renting, finally being able to use the goods from her day job was a dream come true. She and her husband bought a four-bedroom in Dana Point, California, with a sprawling backyard, a pool, and a room for each of their three sons. Some friends couldn’t see the potential in the ’70s-built residence, but Balsis was thrilled. “It was definitely a novelty for us,” she says. “Having always rented, [my husband] Chad would say, ‘I wish I could fix that or I wish I could change that.’ Now we can actually do stuff.” So they immediately started renovating.
“It had carpeted stairs and was all just very gray,” she recalls of the house when they purchased it. Their priority was keeping the integrity of the architecture but updating everything else to make it feel more modern.
One of the smallest rooms in the house, the powder room, was the first one Balsis tackled during the renovation, and it set the tone for the rest of the home. It started with a key piece: an Etsy-sourced vintage pink toilet bowl that just so happened to be the perfect match for her brand’s new sink basin. She leaned into monochrome and circular motifs that gave the tiny space a strong sense of identity. “It doesn’t really tie into any of the other architecture,” she says. “But it’s kind of cool for it to be such a concentration of style that then flows out to the rest of our home.” Curves continue through archways and swoopy furniture, and shades of blush almost create a gradient from the living up to the hallway of the second floor.
In the kitchen, the pair then completely demoed, then focused on the fridge, a Samsung Bespoke with a tricolor combo. “That was the first thing we got, and everything else went around it,” Balsis says. “We were really ambitious and moving quickly, so we sketched up the room and just went for it.” They kept the peninsula layout, but all the cabinets had to go to make way for open shelving, drawers (three of which match the refrigerator panels), and lower cupboards in warm walnut wood. They picked the countertop and tile from their line (a collab with Brooklyn-based artist Heather McKenna) out of necessity because they were in stock, but Balsis was more than happy with the outcome: “It turned out really cool. The tile almost looks like wallpaper.”
Outside of the kitchen, the existing wet bar became a place for Balsis to show even more personality. “Everyone who came to our house originally said, ‘You’re obviously gonna get rid of that,’” she recalls. “Obviously not!” Fluted wood on the front, a tropical covering on the walls, and bright pink cabinets beneath the counter brought her playful Hawaii vision to life. “We’re not even big drinkers, but we use it a ton,” she says. “It’s such a cool spot to gather when we entertain.” With extra counter space for appliances like an espresso machine and a mini fridge under the counter, it’s also where Balsis makes her daily pistachio milk lattes.
With a closer look at the dining area, you start to notice the table almost blends into the floor. Balsis explains that both terrazzos have the same aggregate and pink marble (from her brand’s Alabaster line), though the floor mixes in some yellow and white stone, too. The top of the bar is a green-on-green mix, and in the kitchen, it’s a micro pink. “Pretty much every hard surface is terrazzo,” Balsis says. “There are nine different styles in here total.”
Although Balsis put a lot of effort into bringing all the design into this decade, the boys’ bathroom upstairs is full-tilt retro. “We wanted to have something that felt fully ’70s,” she says. “In our head, that meant doing a 4-by-4 tile and using a mustard color, but in a new way.” In a go-with-the-flow energy that matches the era, she embraced what became a happy accident during the demo. The construction team mistakenly ripped out the vanity Balsis planned to keep, but she was able to find a new one online that actually fit the space better. With a coat of buttery yellow paint and, of course, a new slab of terrazzo, the groovy makeover was complete.
While different shades of pink and green saturate the space, Balsis toned things down in the primary bedroom—it’s the only room with all white walls. Breezy curtains and a flood of natural light set the scene for a peaceful escape from the teenagers who skateboard through the house downstairs. Color makes a comeback in her 14-year-old’s room, though, with a retro surf mural from Society 6. On the floor, a low-slung leather sofa is the perfect place to plop for his version of escapism—an hours-long gaming session.
The entire family often comes together outside, and they have options for where to hang. It’s no coincidence it feels like a resort there. “We were the most excited about this space,” Balsis says. “We travel a ton and wanted to bring some of those elements home.” Between the pool, stand-alone sauna, cold plunge, and outdoor shower, the backyard rivals the type of hydrothermal spa you’d find at a 5-star stay.
There’s also an outdoor dining area and a custom-built surfboard stand. Luckily, Balsis’s husband is an architect who loves a DIY project. He sketched all the outdoor pieces by hand, then he and the boys worked together on everything from cutting wood for the deck to tiling the shower. The latter has become a unanimous family favorite. “We use it every day,” Balsis says. “When [the boys] go surfing, they have a shower before they come inside. Sometimes they even shower out there in the morning on a regular day.” A family of five in a rental could never.