Home & Garden

Their Cambria home was custom-made for someone else. Here’s how they made it their own

The master bedroom
The master bedroom

In 2013, Guy and Susan Newman bought a home in Cambria that was perfect in many ways. They loved the ocean view, open floorplan and vaulted ceilings of the 2,352-square-foot contemporary Craftsman home.

Built in 1999, it was a custom home — though it was customized for someone else. The Newmans began a process of reinventing the house to fit their own lifestyle.

They started with the exterior, re-landscaping and improving decks and patios with Shana McCormick of Great Gardens Landscape Design in Cambria.

Last year, the improvements moved inside with a remodel that included the kitchen and bathroom, designed by Tallon Designs and built by Michael McKinney Construction. Their goal was to create a comfortable space, ideal for entertaining, with a contemporary, beach house feel. They also wanted the house to be more environmentally friendly.

The couple wasn’t swayed by convention. For instance, many people wouldn’t dare remove a large spa tub in the master suite. But “we seldom took tub baths,” said Susan, who added that showers are more water-conscious. So out went every tub in the house. Showers in the guest baths are spacious — a more comfortable option than standing up in a shower/tub combo. The shower in the master bathroom is also luxurious and allows enough space for a separate toilet room.

In the living room, the focal point was a grand, wood-burning fireplace. While some would consider this a delight, the Newmans seldom used it and found it dirty and inefficient. They had it replaced with a gas fireplace with under-lighting that provides “lighted ambiance, even if we don’t want to have flame and heat,” said Susan.

The kitchen was the largest project. Here, they scrutinized everything from the way they use the space to what types of appliances would be most efficient for the way they cooked. They eliminated a raised counter to open the area up to the dining room. A new center island provides a workspace, casual dining area, and space for a wine refrigerator beneath.

Once again, all under-performers had to go, including a seldom used desk area. In its place is a French door oven, convention microwave and warming drawer, all from the GE Café Series. There was even enough room for a narrow pantry with rollout drawers and a space below for large items like cookie sheets and cutting boards.

Of all the kitchen amenities, the French-door oven is Susan’s favorite. She appreciates its smooth-gliding roll-out racks, and its eye-level positioning. Previously, like many ovens, theirs was awkwardly located under the cooktop.

Thoughtful details make the kitchen more pleasurable. The extensive use of pullouts keeps items from being lost at the back of cabinets. All doors were retrofitted with European self-closing hinges (no more banging cabinets). A special pullout next to the sink neatly contains the trash and recycling bins. New skylights keep the space bright throughout the day. And the new sink area faces the dining room, so the cook can prep while talking to guests — or enjoying the ocean view that extends to San Simeon.

The beach theme comes through in subtle ways, including the soft hues of the walls and furniture that evoke sand and fog. The porcelain tile floor has the look of driftwood, yet stands up to sandy feet. Sea glass, driftwood and moonstones found on local beaches are displayed artfully throughout the house. In a guest bedroom are 1940s black and white photos depicting Susan’s parents at the beach.

Once the remodel was complete, they “realized that much of our living room and dining area furniture just didn’t fit,” said Guy. They purchased furniture from Pottery Barn. All wood pieces are either in a bleached wood finish called “seadrift” or made from reclaimed materials.

The house fits the couple’s lifestyle — and has changed the way they live. They find themselves in the kitchen more and inviting friends to enjoy the house along with them. ‘It turned out better than we imagined,” said Susan. “It is so comfortable and functional — just what we were hoping for.”


TAKE A TOUR: The Newmans got many of their ideas by attending home tours. This was also how they found key players for their project, such as general contractor and interior designer.

FIND A THIRD PARTY: A remodel can be hazardous to a relationship! If your styles tend to clash, it may be worth it to hire a designer who can help mediate and find compromises.

BE USER-FRIENDLY: When remodeling your kitchen, pay attention to how you use the space. If you bake frequently, you will want easy access to pans and minimal steps between the oven and counter. If you cook with a partner or friends, consider two separate prep areas, both located near the trash, and ideally with two separate sinks.

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