The first time Cliff and Nan Bianchine set foot in their 1890 Paso Robles Victorian, they had a strong reaction.
“We just turned around and walked out,” said Nan.
Put off by the dated décor, the San Juan Capistrano couple continued viewing properties to fulfill their dream of owning a home in Paso Robles. After a change of heart, they visited the home again and saw glimpses of potential.
“It had such good bones, just so many things had been done to it over the years,” said Nan. “There was this total disconnect, so our biggest challenge was trying to marry everything in the house.”
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Cliff is president of Summit General Contractors, and Nan is vice president. She and her sister also stage houses. In restoring the 2,100-square-foot, twostory home, they sought to honor its roots while bringing it into the modern era. They also wanted to undo a major remodel that was likely completed in the 1970s. Doing so meant gutting and rebuilding the kitchen and bathrooms.
Also, there was a staircase built in an awkward spot, impeding the entryway. After some poking around, they found the original staircase hidden behind the kitchen pantry. They removed the new staircase and restored the original one.
Whenever possible, the Bianchines preserved elements original to the home. When they removed a small door from the back of the original staircase, they built an upstairs linen closet sized to fit the door perfectly. The original hardwood floors were covered by multiple layers of paint and carpet. After a lengthy search, they hired Van Patten Hardwood Services to restore the floors to their original beauty.
Windows were in poor shape, and the couple went out of their way to repair them in a historically accurate manner. Many of the old double-hung windows required very tricky and time-consuming repairs. Neighbor Bryan Carroll of A-1 Glass replaced other windows with vintage-style seeded glass and repaired a leaking upstairs skylight. They kept stained glass windows that are not original to the home, yet add character to the front of the house.
Many moldings were original and most were in good shape. An exception was the wainscoting in the dining room that was stripped to reveal wood so damaged that it needed to be repainted.
The kitchen blends modern and vintage details. They chose contemporary stainless steel appliances and a commercial stove, balancing them with vintage-style Carrara marble subway backsplash tiles and walnut countertops.
“Granite felt too modern,” said Nan. “We wanted to bring it in line with today, but not forget that the house is 120 years old.”
Before the remodel, the décor of the house was a mishmash of 1970s and 1980s styles.
“Upstairs was all gray and pink — that ’80s Southwestern look, which doesn’t connect with the house at all,” said Nan.
Nan calls her decorating style eclectic, melding European elegance with vintage, contemporary and rustic elements. She furnished the house with clean-lined traditional pieces, including French country and rustic farmhouse items. Some pieces the Bianchines already owned, and others were custom made for the house.
She avoided anything that looked ordinary or mass-produced. They replaced all of the hollowcore doors with vintage ones. In one bedroom, they removed a bulky, added-on prefab closet and brought in a large armoire outfitted with a hanging bar. In one bathroom, in lieu of traditional cabinetry, they opted for a rustic shelving unit with baskets to store hand towels and bath tissue.
To pay homage to the age of the home, Nan accessorized with vintage pieces that range from elegant to rustic. She purchased four vintage crystal chandeliers that were imported from Europe. They add a touch of glamour to the dining room, family room, entryway and master bedroom.
“They just felt like they fit the period of the house,” she said.
When traveling to Paris, the couple brought back decorative accents small enough to fit in their suitcases. Nan also shopped vintage and antique stores. One of her favorite finds is a 6-foot-tall metal fan, formerly used in an Indian factory, which she found at a Los Angeles import store. She decided to display it in the dining room.
“It was something I knew nobody else would have in their dining room,” she said.
The project took around six months, wrapping up last June. Workers lived on-site to maximize work time for a remodel that, according to Nan, had a “snowball effect.”
“It required more work than we anticipated,” she said. “But it was absolutely worth it. It was like the house deserved it.”