Home & Garden

Illusion of space in a smaller place

Small-scale chairs and rug make the living room nook seem larger. The chairs are from Cost Plus World Market in SLO.
Small-scale chairs and rug make the living room nook seem larger. The chairs are from Cost Plus World Market in SLO. TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY DAVID MIDDLECAMP

Bigger isn’t always better — and one local couple set out to prove this in remodeling their Paso Robles home.

In 2000, Ruben Peterson and Rosemarie Fusano were recent Bay Area transplants living in San Luis Obispo but hoping to relocate to the North County. While scanning real estate ads, they came across a 1978-built cottage on a terraced hillside lot in one of Paso Robles’ older neighborhoods.

“The property has a gorgeous view of Paso Robles’ eastside and north to San Miguel,” said Rosemarie. “We bought with the idea of remodeling.”

The cottage had two bedrooms, one bathroom and was just 500 square feet. As empty-nesters and busy entrepreneurs (they own Fusano Olive Co.), they had no intention of building a large home. Energy-efficiency and ease of maintenance were major factors in choosing to live in a compact space.

With plans to design their own remodel, they immediately began researching small-space architecture. They looked to books by architects like Sarah Susanka, who specializes in designing small living spaces.

“The idea is to use a space efficiently by creating the illusion of largeness by utilizing every foot of floor space,” Rosemarie explained.

With the help of contractors Dan Barry, Brad Nay and Walter Basch of Paso Robles, the couple designed a 1,800-square-foot house. They kept the original footprint, and added on two bedrooms, an entryway, laundry room and second-

story master suite. The redesigned home would have four bedrooms, each with a private, full bath. The master bath would be large enough for a whirlpool tub, shower and bidet.

To create an illusion of more space, the couple designed a large, open great room to encompass the kitchen, entryway, dining room and living room.

Abundant light contributes to the openness of the home. The couple installed French doors, solar tubes and skylights to bring in more natural light.

“I love watching the stars through the skylight above the bed, and when it rains, hearing the rain showers on the glass,” noted Rosemarie.

They extended their living spaces outdoors by adding a wraparound porch with ample seating areas. Even in the front of the home, the steep pitch of the hillside affords the couple considerable privacy.

The remodeled home is Craftsman in style. The look fit well with the historic neighborhood, as well as the couple’s aesthetics.

Ruben is a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and also a stained glass hobbyist. He designed and created stained glass panels, inspired by Wright’s work, for the home’s French doors.

Rosemarie is an acknowledged clean freak, and chose many features for their low-maintenance qualities. A stainless steel backsplash in the kitchen is easy to wipe clean. In the bathrooms, she chose wall-mount faucets and frameless showers that “don’t have a track to grow mold,” she explained.

Rosemarie realizes that living well in a relatively small space requires attention to detail. She was careful to choose smaller-scale furniture and fixtures (baby grand piano aside) and pieces with simple lines. Glass furnishings and mirrors offer a feeling of lightness. Pedestal sinks free up space in small bathrooms.

She is also fastidious about cutting down visual clutter. She keeps accessories to a minimum and even scrutinized her new toaster and blender to make sure they contributed to a cohesive look in the kitchen.

Building a smaller home does have its perks. With their savings on construction costs and furniture, the couple was able to afford a few splurges such as glass and abalone accent tiles in the bathrooms, and high-end cabinet and door hardware throughout the home.

The remodel, which took three years, wrapped up in 2003. Since then, the couple has hosted everything from play dates with the grandkids to dinner parties for 30 people.

“The home functions beautifully,” said Rosemarie. “People come in and say it feels very homey — and that it feels much larger than it actually is.”

Rebecca Juretic is a freelance writer who lives in San Luis Obispo.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune