Home & Garden

Spanish-inspired architecture meets coastal vibe for vineyard owners’ SLO home

The kitchen remodel included painting cabinets white and adding concrete balusters to the island.
The kitchen remodel included painting cabinets white and adding concrete balusters to the island.

Maria and Matt Bennetti appreciate Spanish style, in part because of how well it plays with other styles. Spanish with contemporary? Sure. How about Spanish and coastal? That works too.

All of these looks coexist in the San Luis Obispo home that the Bennettis, who are part-owners of Stolo Family Vineyards in Cambria, share with their two sons, ages 10 and 7.

The Bennetti family bought their 3,300-square-foot, two-story house in 2013, when it was about 6 years old. It had a style that went to extremes: Some portions were boldly Spanish, others nondescript.

Among the Spanish features were Saltillo tile, decorative wall paintings and warm, saturated colors like burgundy and mustard yellow. However, the kitchen was plain with its medium-toned generic cabinetry and beige tile.

While the couple leans toward contemporary, Maria Bennetti said, they “really didn’t have a style.” So when they approached designer Erica Gomez of Inner Light Interior Design, they came with a list of requests.

Mikel Robertson of Green Goods was the general contractor for the project. The family had completed an earlier redesign with Fortini Interiors that included wall colors and window coverings.

For this most recent project, the family wanted a cleaner, updated version of a Spanish style that would work well with the Spanish-inspired architecture of the house.

They also needed the house to be family-friendly and durable in order to stand up to their two active boys. Finally, the beach and surf-loving family wanted a subtle coastal vibe.

Most of this was accomplished without major structural work. A large part of the project focused on the kitchen. Custom cast concrete balusters on the island pull in the Spanish theme.

Workers stained the island dark brown to coordinate with the hue of the ceiling beams. The kitchen beams were installed to match those elsewhere in the house and create continuity throughout the first floor.

Gomez persuaded the Bennettis to keep their existing cabinets and granite countertops. A new white paint finish gave those cabinets a fresh look and brought out the depth of color in the earthen-hued countertops.

Even the stainless-steel range hood received a powder coating in white “to make it disappear,” and to keep the focus on the more decorative elements of the kitchen, Gomez said.

Gomez also persuaded the couple to install a green backsplash tile that would continue up over the cabinets to the soffit area for a dramatic presentation.

“She had to talk us into it, but we’re so glad we did it – it looks great,” Maria Bennetti said. The tile is handmade in a Moorish shape called arabesque, but with a glaze that gives it depth, making the overall look contemporary.

The spicy wall colors and murals of winding vines didn’t work with the cleaner, more contemporary feel that the Bennettis sought. The walls were painted earlier in a soft beige. Gomez reworked the overall color palette into blues, greens and whites. The blues and greens bring in the coastal feel the family was looking for.

A few accents in rust and copper tie in the Saltillo tiles and “give the wood features a pop of life,” Gomez explained.

Family-friendly materials finished and furnished the home. A nonessential butler’s pantry was removed, making room for a large hall tree that keeps the kids’ backpacks, shoes and coats from taking over the entryway.

The family chose durable, transitional-style furniture, such as slipcovered chairs, sturdy tables and an oversized sectional for the den that is the family’s favorite spot to unwind.

Gomez finished up by inserting elements of surprise and drama.

The dining room is one of her favorite spots for this, turning unexpected items into dinnertime conversation pieces.

In this case, Gomez helped the family select an antique brass drum pendant, light, hand-woven Mexican string art, and a 10-foot Dracaena tree to soften the wood and tile and create a calming effect.

Distressed architectural panels with mirrored inserts add Spanish style with a modern twist and also enlarge and brighten the space.

The project that took about five months to complete transformed the Bennetti residence.

“It finally feels like our home,” Maria Bennetti said. “A perfect mix of our personality, everyday ease of use, and a touch of character that makes it our own.”

Design tips

MIND THE VIEW: Views to the outside aren’t the only ones to consider. Look at how doorways frame views to other rooms of your house. Consider adding a striking material, color or vignette, and eliminating clutter to enhance that view. In the Bennetti house, the view toward the kitchen is framed by a graceful arch, so Gomez selected a dramatic tile treatment to enhance the kitchen wall.

DRAW THE LINE: Long lines can enlarge a space. For instance, a piece of art with strong, horizontal lines can make a cramped area feel larger, and a tall piece draws the eye upward, making the entire room feel more spacious.

BIGGER IS BETTER: Be bold when furnishing a small room. Multiple small pieces can make a space feel even smaller. Try one large sectional instead of a cluster of chairs, or one bold piece of art instead of a collage of smaller pieces.