Paula Martinez and Art Serrano had no plans to move from their Milpitas home — until they learned that a new Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) line would soon intersect their neighborhood.
They looked at Bay Area homes, but couldn’t find one with a generous enough yard. Then they found a new home on just over an acre in Nipomo, where their son lives.
The couple was drawn to the open layout, secluded master suite and large room size. The finishes fit their decorating style. It was as if the home was made for them — but it wasn’t.
It was a spec home, meaning it was built before a buyer was in place. Clarence Cabreros, who is semi-retired from a career in banking, purchased the lot and designed the single-level 2,360-square-foot home. Mike Avila of Avila Construction built the home. Together, they have built six spec and rental homes through their partnership, CJI Homes.
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Cabreros brought in Alli Addison Branding & Design to help with color and material selections. Their goal, according to Cabreros, was to design a home with a timeless look that would be “different and stylish enough to make the home feel like a custom home, yet attractive to the greatest amount of buyers.”
Cabreros and Avila decided on a style that leans toward contemporary, which Cabreros described as “slightly different, modern, but not in-your-face modern and still appeal(ing) to the masses,” said Cabreros. His interpretation of modified contemporary includes clean lines, sharp corners, and toned-down colors — elements he applied across the board to the interior, exterior and landscaping.
The team chose higherend fixtures and finishes in order to be competitive in a real estate market that was “starting to heat up,” said Cabreros. They chose birch engineered hardwood floors for their smooth, modern appearance — and lack of red undertones. “Most wood floors the past five years had a lot of red colors in it and had a rough finish, which is kind of a dated look now,” he said.
Barnick Wood Design created custom cabinets in a timeless Shaker style that echoes the home’s sharp corners — a feature Cabreros even carried over to the walls which “have a sharp 90-degree edge versus a bullnose edge,” he said.
Throughout the house there are quartz countertops that were chosen for both style and function. Visually , quartz is less busy than granite, reinforcing the clean, contemporary feel of the home. Quartz is non-porous and does not require sealing. Also, Cabreros considers it an enduring look. “Granite styles from even five years ago look really dated now,” he said.
Upgraded finishes weren’t enough to make the house stand apart. The design team thought out every detail, including creating a good “first impression” with a standout front walkway. To break up the path’s strong linear form, they poured concrete planters on each side, which they filled with plantings. Mexican pebbles offer textural contrast with the grass and bark ground cover.
One of Addison’s jobs was to look at how all the materials would work together — and that included creating an overall color palette. She and Cabreros knew to steer away from eccentric or assertive hues. But Addison had a specific approach to the neutral palette. “I urged Clarence to work with taupe, as it is approachable and adds a bit of warmth to a contemporary layout that can sometimes turn off potential home buyers.”
Taupe walls work well with the range of colors in the house, including the gray countertops, white cabinets, and dark mocha stained bathroom cabinets.
One of the most remarkable features of the home arose from a comment by Cabreros’ mother-in-law. “During framing, I noticed — and my mother in-law confirmed during a visit to the house — that the kitchen was a little dark,” he said.
After considering skylights and solar tubes, Cabreros and Avila decided windows would bring in the most light. To preserve cabinet space, they located windows on either side of the stove and installed glass-fronted cabinets over them. “It’s one of my favorite features, and what we get the most compliments on,” said Martinez.
The house went on the market this April and sold in May to Martinez and Serrano. Its clean lines and updated finishes turned out to be the ideal backdrop for the new homeowners’ contemporary cottage décor, which they pulled together with the help of friend Ines Torres. The taupe palette works well with their beachy turquoise accents, as well as the deep brown hues of their living room furniture.
The family didn’t choose a single finish material — not even the flooring, which wasn’t yet installed when they first saw the house. It proved not to be a problem. “It was something I would have chosen,” said Martinez. “The house has everything we were looking for.”