The new year may find us looking ahead with anticipation toward new projects in our homes and landscapes. But it is also an opportunity to look back at the homes we have profiled during the past year.
Following are a few memorable examples, along with some lessons we can carry forward as we renew and reinvent our living spaces in the months ahead.
What we learned: Budget-friendly can be beautiful.
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The 1979-built San Luis Obispo home of Tricia Hamachai and Jason Wiseman exudes urban chic, as if it were pulled from the pages of a shelter magazine. But this is no showpiece. It is the real-life abode of the couple and their two children.
Although the couple gladly invests in materials that are environmentally responsible and durable, their home’s remodel didn’t come with a designer price tag.
They put as much of the design burden on their creativity as they did on their credit cards. For instance, they frequently repurpose stylish yet modestly priced pieces by IKEA. Their master bathroom vanity is a repurposed IKEA dresser. In the same space, a wine rack contains magazines and a shoe rack stores toiletries (both from IKEA).
Hamachai and Wiseman are also not afraid of putting in elbow grease to achieve a look they want for a lower price tag. For example, when they researched artificial turf as an eco-friendly lawn alternative, they found the cost prohibitive. So they purchased a few rolls at Costco and did the job themselves.
What we learned: Put your own mark on your space.
The San Luis Obispo home of Keith and Cheryl Smith is by no means a fixer-upper. It is a custom home, constructed in 2009 by Benson Construction and designed by architect Bill Isaman.
But fix it up they do. Keith, who is a retired engineer, completed numerous jobs including electrical wiring and fence building. He constructed about half of the cabinets in the home, many from salvaged woods. Cheryl, a skilled quilter, creates one-of-akind wall finishes and handled nearly all of the painting herself.
The couple estimates they have put about 1,500 hours of work into the house. Why go through the trouble? There is acost savings for sure. But they also “really enjoy doing the work and being personally involved in creating our own space,” said Cheryl. “We continue to work on the house pretty much constantly because we enjoy the process.”
What we learned: Rethink your backyard.
By most standards, the Pismo Beach backyard of Edward and Bluma Felix was paradise with its enormous lawn and swimming pool.
The problem was, the Felixes rarely used their yard, or the guest house that was part of it. With the assistance of architect Richard Blair LeGros and landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith, they created a dramatically different outdoor space that better suits their lifestyle — and our community’s water-conserving ethos.
The couple likes to entertain, so the new yard is tailor-made for it. The guest house is now adjacent to the main house and equipped with an extra kitchen.
Gone is the steeply sloped, water-guzzling lawn. In its place is a meandering concrete staircase. Integrated planters overflow with low-maintenance, mostly drought-tolerant plants. Smith wove plant colors and textures into a living work of art, proving that water-wise plantings can easily outshine a monochromatic lawn.
Even the pool area is finally being used — now that it has been filled in and converted into bocce ball and volleyball courts.
What we learned: Differing tastes can live in harmony.
When drastically different decorating styles collide in one household, one partner usually wins. A classic example: the “man cave” where all guy stuff is condensed into a small space to make way for a largely feminine design scheme.
Sean and Kristin Newsom’s San Luis Obispo house proves that Mars and Venus can coexist stylishly together. They worked with designer Erica Gomez to achieve a careful balance of compromise and commingling.
When Sean wanted dark wine riddling racks in Kristin’s soft and feminine dining room, Gomez made them fit in by repeating dark colors throughout the room. It turns out the dusky hues work well to ground the ethereal tones that Kirstin prefers. Gomez softened the strong, masculine lines of the racks with two sansevieria plants.
The next frontier for the couple is their den, where you can bet Sean’s pool table will look splendid beneath Kristin’s glittering chandelier.
What we learned: Forge a connection with your environment.
It’s perfectly fine, of course, to have a home that evokes a Tuscan villa or French chateau. But Eliana de León and Randy Kohn wanted their home to reflect its Paso Robles environment. To them, that meant paying homage to the regional wildlife.
Kohn, who is an interior designer, went with an understated, modern interpretation of the theme. And no animals were beheaded in the process. The deer head that crowns their living room fireplace was carved out of wood. Metal bat sculptures are suspended in their foyer. Above their dining table is a chandelier made from naturally shed deer antlers.
The couple also likes to use locally sourced and locally crafted items, such as tables built by Atascadero woodworker Andy Needles from salvaged local woods. Kohn believes this method of decorating creates a bond between a structure and its environment — as well as between a family and the place they call home.