This Airy Bungalow Reno Got a Last-Minute Dose of Oxblood Drama in the Kitchen
Plus a front yard that’s actually usable.
Published Nov 3, 2023 1:30 AM
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Artist Jenna Rainey is drawn to color. So it might come as a surprise that the three-bedroom property she and her husband, John, recently bought on a tree-lined street in Southern California started out as a million different shades of flipper’s gray. But they had a different picture in mind. When they first came across the home, the Raineys were enamored with the seemingly bygone setting of kids playing in the street as parents looked on and socialized. They imagined themselves doing the same one day, and felt confident that the 1950s property could eventually encapsulate their creativity and closeness. It was just going to take a while before any of that could happen. “The original vision we had was to rip apart the whole house and make it larger,” says the couple’s designer, Jen Mac Beth, owner and creative director of California Casa Interiors.
Phase one of the project was reimagining the studio and guesthouse, situated behind their main address, but once that was finished, Mac Beth and the couple accepted that their total-gut aspirations up front were probably too ambitious. “We decided a smaller interior remodel would be the best fit for them at this point of their lives,” Mac Beth continues. “I knew a pared-down footprint would still be amazing, because they were open to incorporating beautiful materials like marble and white oak.”
In keeping with the mindset they shared for their first go-round, the trio streamlined the main house by tweaking some structural items, like lowering the peninsula to counter height and slightly raising the beam overhead, while holding onto the home’s casual-cool California design. Read on to see how they made all that gray go away.
Soften Corners—And Big Beams
Somewhere along the way, a previous owner had made funky additions to the kitchen that made it feel closed off, Mac Beth quickly identified. A peninsula blocked off the cooking zone from the adjoining living and dining areas, while a beam in the center of it all exacerbated the cramped feeling. The catch? Due to budget constraints, the designer had to work with it.
“The beam sat right between the kitchen, hallway, and living space, and ripping it out would’ve been like reinventing the wheel,” she says. “We wrapped it in white oak, and now it’s a really beautiful accent that makes the other materials around it shine.”
The revamped beam complements the new breakfast nook as well as the nearby open shelving, while adding a curved edge to the peninsula made it feel less imposing. It also doesn’t hurt that the countertops and backsplash are now made of marble. “There were a lot of conversations around how to stop the peninsula from getting too far into the hallway, and this solution is simply stunning,” shares the designer.
Add Some Drama, Even If It’s at the Last Minute
As they updated the 1,500-square-foot home, the couple and Mac Beth leaned on an airy palette that would make the home feel larger than it was. Cream-colored bouclé furniture in the living room and woven lighting and stools in the kitchen stuck to this plan, but there are occasional deviations toward more drama. Take the kitchen’s lower cabinetry. Mac Beth and the couple were just about to finish their four-month-long project together when the designer felt that the space needed more depth.
“Incorporating the oxblood color was a last-minute decision on my part,” she notes. “Once I saw the countertops in place, I thought that painting everything in the same shade of white would’ve been a missed opportunity.”
A saturated shade of green tile enveloping the full bathroom and its new square-edge tub is an equally surprising yet satisfying shift, but the custom millwork on the medicine cabinet still mimics the curves seen in the kitchen. “It keeps that theme going,” Mac Beth says. For one last punch of moodier-than-expected, a wallpaper resembling a tropical scene at night was used as an accent in a bedroom.
Give the Front Yard Beautiful Function
With the Raineys wanting to have a front yard where they could play with their son and bond with their neighbors, Mac Beth couldn’t live with its existing concrete and dried-grass state. What better place to find inspiration for the outdoors than by tapping into the couple’s past trips.
“They travel the world quite a bit for art retreats, and it felt appropriate to have stone on the ground to incorporate that European feel that they love so much,” Mac Beth says. Painting the house white was key to brightening up the home as well, given the trees shroud the yard in shade. “We wanted it to stand out among the greenery,” she adds.
The new stone hardscape is lined with no-fuss plants that gently climb toward the windows, and a circular firepit makes impromptu hangouts a cinch. The couple is currently experiencing their first season in their neighborhood as they dreamed, while Mac Beth left them to it with the lesson that a home doesn’t need to be an entirely blank canvas to become a masterpiece.