Joe and Georgeanne Penoncello came to Templeton in search of a simpler life. After running a business in Los Angeles County for many years, the retirees sold their 1,800-square-foot home on a half-acre in hopes of finding a smaller home on the Central Coast. Because they planned to spend much of their time on the road in their motorhome, they needed a low-maintenance lifestyle.
“We wanted to downsize, and we didn’t want as much of a yard to take care of,” said Georgeanne.
With fond memories of boating at Nacimiento while on vacation, the couple checked out a home in Templeton. They were won over by the rural locale and the garage that offered ample space for their motorhome.
But downsized, it was not. The home was around 4,500 square feet and sat on eight acres. With few other prospects available, the couple bought the house and moved in January 2008.
Built in 1998, the home is Victorian in style, and the previous owner had decorated it accordingly. Georgeanne’s style is much more eclectic. The couple’s existing furniture was a mix of cottage, traditional and transitional pieces, along with vintage family heirlooms.
“We had to make do with what we had, so it was just going to have to work,” she said.
To their delight, pieces seemed to fit into place. A pub-height kitchen table and chairs they had just purchased for their previous home was the perfect size and style
for their new breakfast nook. Their oak hutch was scaled just right for the dining room, and their grandfather clock, inherited from Joe’s family, found a perfect spot in the den. Only a few pieces of furniture, mostly new, were needed to fill empty spaces.
Georgeanne used color to make disparate elements flow together. Blacks, soft golds and reds comprise the palette she maintained through most of the house —a nice complement to the crisp white-painted woodwork. She kept most of the brightly-hued wallpaper left by the previous owner, only putting up new dining room wallpaper and painting the living room—both in shades of buttery gold.
As someone who once liked to sew, Georgeanne has a weakness for fabrics, and uses them to further solidify her color scheme. A friend turned her on to Arroyo Grande fabric and furniture store, Chameleon. She hired the shop to create a custom sofa as well as draperies for the living and dining rooms.
“Because of all the beautiful woodwork in the house, I wanted to do it justice with really nice window coverings,” she said.
With a keen eye for fabrics, Georgeanne selected a black, cream and red floral pattern for soft swags in the dining room. The fabric ties together the wall color with the black farmhouse-style chairs in the couple’s dining room set. The fabric for their living room sofa contains similar hues, including the same shade of cranberry red as the wallpaper in the entryway.
The Penoncellos like to surround themselves with meaningful accents. Georgeanne keeps her mother’s hope chest in the master bedroom to store family memorabilia. Also in the master bedroom is a print of antique dolls that once hung in the room she shared with her sister as a child. She likes to display tole-painted items she made in the 1970s.
“Whether somebody thinks they work or not, I don’t know, but I put them up because I like to look at them,” she said.
Houseplants, as well as dried and silk floral arrangements, add a layer of softness and color. Curly willow, gathered from trees around the property, bring height and contrast to Georgeanne’s floral arrangements. When the couple visited Minnesota, where they are originally from, they gathered birch logs and stashed them in their suitcases. The logs now sit in a basket by the fireplace, a memento of their home state.
Once the Penoncellos moved into the home, their priorities began to shift. They ended up selling their motorhome. And, this past March, they planted 3.5 acres of zinfandel grapes on their property —not quite the low-maintenance landscaping they originally planned.
“We used to come up here in our motorhome for vacation,” said Georgeanne. “Now that we live here, we’ve found that we don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.