Chris and Erleen Clawson know what it’s like to live in a ghost town — or a former one, at least.
Their home is in Nipomo Costa Pacifica Estates — a development that bore the unenviable nickname after it was abandoned around 2007 by its then-developer due to issues with water access.
“They just sat for years and languished,” said Erleen Clawson, who noted that the high-end homes were purchased and hastily finished in 2013.
At the time, Chris, an attorney, and Erleen, a retired attorney, were relocating to San Luis Obispo County to escape the sweltering Orange County heat. They imagined their single-level, 3,100-square-foot home would see them well into their retirement years. They liked the Nipomo climate, and considered the house solidly built.
But that’s where the good feelings ended.
Finish materials were nondescript and chosen for economy’s sake, Erleen Clawson said. So the couple decided to start over.
“People looked at us like we were nuts when we said we were remodeling our new house,” she said. Nonetheless, they proceeded with the help of general contractor California Millwork. Clawson directed the design of the remodel and interior décor.
It started with a simple kitchen remodel and replacement of flooring. Cal Coast Flooring ripped out new carpeting, which was donated to a local church, and laid down dark stained walnut. Scabos travertine now brings refinement to the floors in the entryway, bathrooms and laundry room.
Next came a complete redo of the generic kitchen. Its new look is traditional with a farmhouse spin. They chose a granite called “mascalzone” with dramatic veining in grays, beiges and metallic gold. Custom cabinetry is rustic knotty alder. They opted to paint the island and one glass-front cabinet red, Erleen Clawson’s favorite hue, giving those pieces the look of freestanding furniture. A wine refrigerator and refrigerator drawers make the kitchen a prime spot for entertaining.
Creating a custom house after the fact wasn’t always easy. For instance, the couple wanted an oversized kitchen island with its own sink, but that required jackhammering through the concrete floor to wire and plumb it.
“We can’t imagine our kitchen without it,” Erleen Clawson said. “It was well worth the time and effort.”
Once the kitchen was complete, the couple elected to keep the ball rolling with a remodel of the master bath and closet.
New furniture and accents were also on the agenda. The overall look of the house is traditional, but Clawson “wanted to have some fun,” so she added a smattering of vintage farmhouse elements, including vintage-inspired light fixtures.
When they needed to move a wall to accommodate their front-loading washer and dryer, California Millwork crafted a rolling barn door for the newly enlarged entryway.
Clawson maintained a color palette of earth tones and rich red — “a palette we’ve carried with us from house to house,” she said. Leather seating, dark woods and traditional fabrics create a masculine environment for the couple, who don’t like anything “too frou frou,” she noted.
The Clawsons purchased pieces from a variety of sources. Their burl wood bedroom set is an antique, said to have come from an Italian castle. Vintage-style lighting is from Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware. Leather living room seating is from Habitat, and several other pieces were purchased at Donna’s Interiors.
The Clawsons’ previous home was a prime spot for outdoor entertaining, with mature trees, a pool, and extensive patios. Their new backyard is petite by comparison, but the couple still wanted to maximize every inch.
They hired Addison Landscape to create a “California lifestyle-oriented yard, with a modern Italian influenced and living room feel,” said Alli Addison, who owns the company with husband Tyler.
Addison Landscape created several zones with specific purposes, including entertaining and relaxation. There are multiple paver patios, a sunken outdoor fireplace flanked by birch trees, an extensive outdoor kitchen, and a vegetable garden.
Two fully-mature olive trees anchor the backyard which, according to Addison Landscape lead designer Josh Huttle, “puts things into the proper scale — a difficult thing to create with small plant material and the lack of major verti cal elements.”
The finished home is not precisely what the couple would have chosen, had they started from scratch. However, according to Erleen Clawson, “we are extremely happy with the outcome and, most importantly, it feels like home.”