Ken and Sue Jostes built a new home in San Luis Obispo 12 years ago, but it took hundreds of hours and many gallons of paint to make it seem anything but new.
The couple works together as decorative painters for their business, EuroMex Designs. As its name suggests, they specialize in antique finishes influenced by both European and Mexican cultures.
They worked with Pults & Associates Architects, Steven D. Stewart Architects and T. Granvold Construction to design and build a Mediterranean-style villa. Once the 2,800-square-foot, two-story home was built, they treated it as their blank canvas, using more creativity than cash to make the space their own.
Some hallmarks of age came naturally; over the years, their exterior walls have gradually darkened, and their copper gutters have acquired a verdigris patina. For other surfaces, Ken called upon his craft to create a look of antiquity.
He gave some of the interior walls a heavy texture with hand-troweled plaster. Others received a decorative paint finish that accentuates their existing texture. The bedroom walls were coated in a blue-green lime wash for a chalky, tactile look that resembles velvet. Even their built-in speakers received a specialty paint treatment to help them blend into the living room walls.
Sue followed up with her artwork, adding murals, trompe l’oeil paintings, Italian sayings and other flourishes in her characteristic Old World style.
Paint was key in giving their new kitchen the look of a well-used farmhouse kitchen. Although their whitewashed alder cabinets had antique-style seeded glass, they “just weren’t working for us,” according to Ken. He applied several coats of milk paints and distressed them to reveal the layers. Even the stainless steel refrigerator went undercover with an antique finish and lemon tree-motif artwork.
The couple had a limited budget for furniture and fixtures. They purchased some pieces from Mexico, including an authentic tequila bar for their upstairs office. In other cases, they created the look of Old World antiques from miscellaneous items.
“There’s nothing in the house that’s expensive,” noted Ken.
They found a coffee table at Goodwill for $25 and gave it a special paint finish embellished with Sue’s artwork. Their old, dated pine dresser now looks like a treasured heirloom, made over with crackle-finish milk paint and a spray of roses.
Paint was often a handy problem-solver. For instance, Sue consented to a big screen television, if Ken could figure out how to disguise it. He built a wall cabinet out of white melamine, then purchased a simple melamine cabinet from Ikea to store audio and video components. A milk paint finish makes them a matched set.
When the bedroom ceiling seemed bland, Ken installed a long ridge beam and later added tongue-in groove paneling. He coated it all in a classic Old World paint technique he commonly uses on cabinetry.
To dress up their fireplace, they took an old glass-topped harvest table that didn’t fit with the new home, turned the legs upside down and used them as corbels. Ken built a mantel and embellished it with plastic Grecian leaves.
“I gave it all the same finish, so it all blends together,” he explained. “It just looks like an old mantel.”
When they don’t have a paintbrush in hand, the Josteses like to relax and entertain outdoors. The house has five secluded courtyards, each with its own water feature. The largest patio is for entertaining, so Ken built an outdoor kitchen counter from rustic materials like cedar grape stakes and Mexican tiles.
“I wanted it to look like an authentic taqueria kitchen rather than something from Home Depot,” he said.
In front of the house, they planted a micro-vineyard bordered by a rustic fence inspired by country fences in Italy. Ken made it with mounds of Adelaide limestone, rope, and irregular poles purchased as seconds from Farm Supply.
The Josteses worked on their home in their spare time over the past 12 years, yet are hesitant to call it finished.
“It’s an ever-changing home — there are things in my head that will still happen,” said Ken. “It’s a home, a hobby, and a place where we can show our work.”