Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series showcasing the homes of local interior designers.
Two years ago, Amy White moved with her husband from a 2,800-square-foot San Luis Obispo home on a quarter acre to a 1974-built condo in Pismo Beach that is just under 1,300 square feet. More than halving their living space came with a big gain: a stunning ocean view.
Size wasn’t their only challenge. “It was very dated with green Formica counters and 40-year-old original cabinets,” said White. As the owner of interior design firm, Design to Sell, she felt up to the challenge of updating the interior and using the available space well.
“Simplicity was the overriding theme,” she said of the condo’s new design.
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A large part of the remodel involved creating a sleek and updated look in the tired kitchen. She consulted with designer Jan Kepler to make the most of every inch of space. White had a non-load bearing partial wall removed between the kitchen and living room that was blocking light and views. She chose leathered black granite countertops rather than polished stone that “would call more attention to itself,” she explained.
To create a seamless look, she chose a black Silgranit sink from Pacific Coast Kitchen & Bath that coordinates with the counters. White Shaker-style cabinets and refrigerator paneling create a clean backdrop for the room.
White had most of the walls, as well as the previously mustard and brown ceiling, painted in a warm white. “Super saturated colors are sort of out now,” she noted. She saved deeper hues for select furniture and accents, mainly in a palette of black and blue.
In a small space, small details make a big impact, so White chose her focal points carefully and with restraint.
In the great room, boldly patterned blue and black backsplash tile is the star, setting the tone for both style and color for the home.
She chose fixtures and accents that wouldn’t compete for attention. Graceful white pendant lights hang in the kitchen. A selenite crystal chandelier over the dining area is neutral in color, yet still adds texture and interest. She replaced a freestanding wood stove with a sleek fireplace, clad in cast concrete, created by Wells Concrete Works of Los Osos.
Even in the bathrooms, she contemplated every last detail, choosing intricately shaped shower drains and toilets with graceful lines. In the master bath, she splurged on neutral yet stunning Calacatta marble for the floor, baseboards and shower wall accents.
“In a space that small, you can afford to go with something expensive like marble — you don’t need much of it,” she said.
Sadly, White had to part with most of the furniture from her previous home in favor of pieces that fit the scale of her new abode.
Her look is transitional with a French twist. She took a meticulous approach to plotting out her furniture layout.
In the great room, for instance, she realized she had just 11 feet of space to work with between the wall and kitchen island. That space would need to accommodate a conversation area, barstools and room for traffic flow. She chose the shallowest sofa possible. Exposed legs and arms that don’t extend all the way to the edge of the piece create a “lighter look,” she said.
The two chairs in the room are armless slipper chairs, which are much less bulky than armchairs. “Every inch of furniture counts when you have smaller spaces,” she said.
Whenever possible, White chose built-in storage over bulky freestanding storage. Even the china cabinet is built in, creating a large amount of storage with only 11 inches of depth. She chose to line the back of it with mirrors which, along with built-in lighting, create drama at night and visually enlarge the space.
Mirrors and glass are two of White’s favorite space-enhancing tricks. A round mirror sits above the sofa, creating more depth in the small room. She replaced a wrought iron stair railing with a contemporary glass version by C & S Shower Door of Grover Beach. For the master bedroom, she had mirrors cut to top dressers that double as nightstands.
White acknowledges that the remodel wasn’t always easy, because “the hardest project for any designer is their own home,” she said. However, she feels that the gains in function and style — not to mention her new, improved view — made the process of downsizing much simpler.
SIZE IT RIGHT: Small isn’t always better, even when space is tight. For instance, baseboards should be the proper scale for the height of your walls. Also, instead of choosing small window coverings for tiny windows, hang draperies high on the wall to draw the eye up.
A WARMER WHITE: White is trending as one of the most popular wall colors these days. It amplifies light, makes a space seem larger and also is a great backdrop for art. To avoid a cold, institutional look, find a shade with some warmth. Amy White’s go-to shade is Sherwin Williams “snowbound,” which reads bright white but has a warm depth. She uses it in flat on the walls and ceilings, and in semi-gloss on trim, cabinets and doors.
TAME KITCHEN CLUTTER: If your kitchen is visible from your living room or den, try to keep it as visually uncluttered as possible. This may mean finding ways to stash small appliances to keep countertops clear. If possible, conceal large appliances behind paneling, use a limited color palette, and choose simple lighting and accents.