When Scott and Carolyn Britten need to decompress, relief is just 130 miles away — the distance between their Visalia residence and their Morro Bay vacation home.
But the journey between dated 1970s condo and tranquil, coastal retreat wasn’t quite as easy.
The empty-nesters purchased the approximately 1,500-square-foot, tri-level condo in 2011, sight unseen. They were sold by an attractive price, a friend’s recommendation, and its location overlooking the Embarcadero and Morro Rock. “After buying it and during the walk-through, we realized that it was so dated from the ’70s that we needed to do more work than anticipated,” said Carolyn.
Unwilling to let their vacation home be a source of stress, they hired interior designer Karen Hutchinson of Hutchinson Design to head up the remodel. Tony Rende was the general contractor for the project.
Their aim was to transform the space — all dark paneling, old carpet and dated fixtures — into something fresh and modern. “Our goal for Morro Bay was to create something completely different than our home in Visalia,” referring to their 1940s ranch-style residence.
The Brittens wanted a beachy feel without the customary kitsch or nautical clutter. Hutchinson achieved this with a color palette that evokes sand, fog, surf and sunlight.
Rende and his crew almost completely gutted the house — except for the old drywall and paneling. As a cost-saving measure, most walls were painted in variations on light cream. They concealed the old paneling with paint in a soft, sandy gray. “Carolyn was unsure about this at first as I recall but in the end I think they love the texture it brings to the space and it really looks beautiful,” said Hutchinson.
They replaced old carpet with hand-scraped white oak in a light stain. “Lighter colors are more in style currently and will be in the future,” Hutchinson explained.
The fireplace, the focal point of the living room, looked dated with its cedar paneling. Workers removed all of the paneling, created a surround of cream and gray slate, and added a sleek wood mantel.
The bathrooms were a complete re-do with new fixtures, updated tile in travertine and glass, and an ocean-inspired color palette. They kept the kitchen layout the same, but gave it a sense of more space with a light color palette. They ripped out the old Formica countertops, worn white cabinets and vinyl flooring. Cream and gray tones in the granite countertops echo the predominate palette of the home. Rende built custom Shaker-style cabinets out of maple with a painted finish — white for upper cabinets, gray for lower ones.
The Brittens enjoy entertaining and knew the nondescript dining room would not suit their needs. The space is part of the great room, so Hutchinson used a sofa to divide it from the living room area. To further give the space its own identity, they installed an eye-catching chandelier made of nickel and iron, and hung a bold, oversized painting commissioned from Carol Paquet of Arroyo Grande. The space is narrow, so they used petite, straight-back dining chairs along the sides of the table, and plusher chairs at each end. Low stools tucked under the bar counter allow for overflow seating.
According to Carolyn, they “did not want to overdecorate” or add unnecessary clutter that would detract from the view. So she and Hutchinson carefully selected a few special pieces of furniture for the condo. Tony Rende built the dining table and a chest out of a fallen ash tree. Many of their other contemporary pieces were purchased at Marcela’s Home Store in San Luis Obispo.
An overall neutral color palette allows Carolyn to swap out a few accessories to quickly transform the feel of any room. For instance, they purchased two sets of sofa pillows. “She has yellow and gray to pull the colors out of the artwork. She also has a purple set to change out for a different look,” said Hutchinson.
The Brittens frequently entertain friends and extended family at their redesigned condo. With the renovation behind them, leisure is their primary activity. “Sitting on the couch and enjoying the gorgeous view is one of my favorite things to do,” said Carolyn. “Despite a little bit of extra work that we did not anticipate, it was all worth it.”