Home & Garden

How Paso couple gave this dated ranch home a contemporary, wine country look

Even when Michael Bonner and Lizz Kluger lived near the coast, their design inspiration came from the Paso Robles countryside.

Three years ago, the couple wrapped up a remodel of their Laguna Beach home that was so reminiscent of their North County wine tasting vacations, they considered hanging a sign on their garage that read “tasting room.”

Not long after, they found a more fitting locale for their wine country abode: a 1,200-square-foot, 1991 ranch house on 12 acres in Paso Robles.

“The house needed work, but it had good bones,” said Kluger. The couple was drawn to the large kitchen and the view that includes “the willow-lined seasonal creek, the surrounding oaks and vineyards, the grazing cows,” said Bonner.

Unfortunately, the décor left much to be desired. Bonner described the interior as dark and outdated with “a hectic mix of pinks, greens, fuchsias ... fake stained glass, dark wood ceilings.”

Together, the pair had enough design sense to set things right. Bonner is a landscape architect with experience designing remodels. Kluger is an interior designer. They handled the project with help from general contractor Andy Powell.

Their goal: to create a contemporary home with wine country flavor that comes from vintage and rustic details.

Although the couple likes the streamlined feel of modern design, they feel it comes alive when intermixed with timeworn elements.

“In my opinion, vintage pieces have soul,” said Kluger. “They tell a story with their imperfection, patina and texture.”

The remodel made changes to the floor plan to improve flow. The new layout nearly eliminates hallways, which makes the home feel larger, said Bonner. The dining room is now the central hub from which all other rooms radiate.

The mishmash of colors and materials gave way to a cleaner, simpler look that marries modern and vintage, with rustic accents that “reflect the country life,” said Kluger.

In the kitchen, for instance, the couple chose a stainless steel Bertazzoni range with an industrial-style hood, modern plumbing fixtures, and countertops in sleek black granite. The stone has a flamed and brushed finish that gives it a matte, textured look that is subtly rustic. Kluger said that the look is similar to vintage soapstone.

Vintage details include open shelving for glassware and checkerboard porcelain tile for the backsplash. Natural-finish birch cabinets from IKEA have a Shaker door style that “can read modern or vintage,” bridging both styles in the space, said Bonner.

Rustic elements include a light fixture above the kitchen bar that was made from an old wine barrel. Lining the bar is corrugated metal, salvaged from a barn on the property that the couple restored.

They repurposed as many materials as they could from the property, including old lumber and metal for the fireplace surround that, together with a cowhide rug, add personality to the otherwise sleek and modern living room.

Choosing colors was a simple matter — they borrowed them directly from their Laguna Beach house.

The palette blends whites, grays, blacks, tans and browns. Their primary wall color is Benjamin Moore Dove White, a soft white hue. Trim and ceilings were painted in Benjamin Moore Smoke Embers, a dusty gray.

With a neutral backdrop in place, the couple’s furniture and art from their previous home fit in nicely. They have retained many classic pieces, freely mixing styles.

In their dining area, their table has a vintage Saarinen tulip base and custom hand-distressed walnut top. Around it sit Hans Wegner midcentury Danish Wishbone chairs that sport modern lines and seats made from natural fiber. They finish this composition with a traditional Gustavian antique chandelier.

The couple planted a six-acre vineyard this spring which they plan to dry-farm. They are also in the process of building a custom home on the property. When it is finished, the smaller home will be used as a guest house.

Still, the ranch house is such a good fit, the pair insists they would be happy living there. “We are just amazed every day to be living in such a beautiful place,” said Bonner.


FRESH LEGS: Pay attention to leg styles with mixing vintage and modern furniture. For instance, Lizz Kluger likes to combine a straight-legged modern piece with a vintage piece that has curved legs, or no legs. An example would be placing a vintage garden stool between two modern chairs.

POLISHED ECLECTIC: In an eclectic setting, keeping walls neutral and art consistent creates a pulled-together, polished look. Lizz Kluger mixes modern and vintage furniture, but keeps her art modern and her walls white.