Home & Garden

This Cambria couple completely transformed their home in just 10 weeks

The kitchen of Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home features Shaker-style cabinets and a 10-foot-long island with a sink.
The kitchen of Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home features Shaker-style cabinets and a 10-foot-long island with a sink.

About a year ago, Jeff and Melinda Baker departed for a weeklong trip to Mexico — and returned to a completely transformed house. It was the final phase of a super-fast, 10-week remodel of their Cambria home, built in 1997.

They initially had some trepidation. “We’ve always heard remodels are a nightmare,” Melinda Baker said.

To their advantage, the Bakers had owned a Bakersfield masonry company for 35 years before retiring to the Central Coast. They took on the remodel methodically and used their industry know-how.

The couple chose a team with members that frequently worked together and were familiar with their tastes: designer Mindy Nickell and builder John Hernandez. Their architect was Rick Low of Cambria’s ADS Corporation.

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The exterior of Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home features stone accents and a new garage door. Rebecca Juretic

The familiarity between Nickell, Hernandez and the subcontractors made the process smooth and efficient.

“They were like one organism – they worked incredibly well together,” Baker said.

To facilitate the project even more, the Bakers rented a house down the street and let the workers live in their house. “If there was any question, they just walked over and asked us,” Baker said.

It also allowed the couple to lend a hand. Melinda Baker drove loads of waste to the landfill, allowing the crew to finish demolition in just two days. Her husband helped his former company, Kern Masonry Structures, install stonework on the exterior of the house.

The couple had purchased the house in 2005 as a vacation home. It was move-in-ready, but not quite to their tastes.

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The master bathroom of Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home resembles a spa with a jetted tub and steam shower. Rebecca Juretic

The house was dark, with brown faux-texture painted walls and brown Berber carpet. The small galley-style kitchen was dated, with white tile and French doors separating it from the dining room – making it not functional for a couple that loves to entertain.

The remodel, which started six months after the Bakers moved into their new home permanently, expanded and completely revamped the kitchen into a brighter, more open space with a sophisticated coastal vibe. It also update the master bathroom, exterior walls and flooring.

First to go was the structural wall between the kitchen and dining room, opening up the entire first floor. Reworking the downstairs floor plan more than doubled the size of the kitchen.

The new space combines bright, cheerful cottage-style elements with refined and contemporary touches.

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The first floor of Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home has an open feel, thanks to a remodel that knocked down a structural wall between the kitchen and the dining room. Rebecca Juretic

A 10-foot-long island, painted antique blue, is topped by Carrara quartz that has the elegant, classic look of marble. The island with its extra sink adds both prep and seating space.

Cabinets are white and Shaker-style with beadboard detailing. An armoire-style cabinet painted to match the island has the look of a freestanding piece of furniture.

Light fixtures in the kitchen and throughout the house have a contemporary bent.

The Bakers moved from a nearly 5,000-square-foot house into their current 3,000-square-foot Cambria home, so storage was a priority.

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About half of the furniture and accents in Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home reflect a laid-back coastal theme. Rebecca Juretic

“We wanted to keep things, like extra dishes and serving pieces, and actually use them for guests – not have them all boxed up somewhere,” Melinda Baker said.

They sacrificed some space from their den to build a spacious pantry just off the dining room. Featuring custom cabinetry with hand-carved drawer and door fronts, the storage space is attractive enough to show off to guests.

Barn-style rolling doors match the dark stain of the couple’s dining room set.

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Cottage-style elements mix with refined and contemporary touches in Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home. Rebecca Juretic

The exterior of the house was restyled with stone accents and a new garage door, while the master bath is now spa-like with a jetted tub and steam shower.

Throughout the house, flooring went from dark carpet to a light, grayed-out oak that resembles driftwood and works well with a new color palette of grays and blues. The Bakers almost chose a dark wood, then thought twice when they considered their active grandkids and two yellow labs.

The Bakers replaced about half of their furniture and accents to transition to their laid-back coastal theme. They worked with Nickell to select mostly traditional furniture with simple lines, easy-care materials and comfortable proportions.

When the Bakers left for their Mexico trip, only one small section of flooring had been completed, walls were bare, and the new furniture and appliances had not yet arrived.

“When we returned, there was art on the walls, furniture in place, and they had had the house cleaned,” Baker said. “It was all ready for us.”

The house has hosted numerous gatherings, including a Thanksgiving meal for 14 diners.

“Everyone stays here, cooks together, eats together – it’s so functional and comfortable,” Baker said. Even given the remodel’s short timetable, she said, “There’s pretty much nothing we would do differently.”

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Jeff and Melinda Baker’s Cambria home boasts a new color palette of grays and blues. Rebecca Juretic


Lend a hand. Helping out your contractors with jobs such as demolition work can shave both time and cost from your project.

Forget the kitsch. Beach décor doesn’t have to be kitschy. Achieve a more sophisticated coastal look with details such as white painted cabinetry, rustic accents and natural fibers that are balanced with clean lines and classic materials.

Pantry primer. A pantry can make entertaining a breeze, with extra dishes, serving pieces and small appliances within easy reach. Add counter space to hold platters of appetizers or beverage bottles. You can also stash dirty pots, pans and dishes out of sight to keep the kitchen clear.

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