Around 40 years ago, Kelly Lipton’s father made an impulse buy while on a fishing trip in Morro Bay: a small 1940s home overlooking the ocean.
He and Lipton’s mother moved from the San Diego area into the 1,300-square-foot summer cottage and set about making it their own. Not long ago, Lipton decided to do the same.
Her parents lived in the house for 30 years. In their later years, they fell ill and had difficulty maintaining it. The roof, for instance, was in dire need of repair.
“There was two inches of water on the floor and mold growing on the walls and all over the furniture in the front sunroom,” she recalled of one visit while her father was living in a nursing home.
When she and her siblings inherited the home, they initially made plans to repair it and put it on the market. But after several visits to the area, Lipton had a change of heart.
“I really started to fall in love with Morro Bay,” said Lipton, who decided she wanted to retire from her job in Saratoga, California, and move to the area.
She worked with architect Ruel Czach and general contractor Marc Eisemann. It took one year to repair extensive water damage and rebuild the front of the house with an open floor plan that highlights the view. They reinvented the exterior in a European cottage style with shutters, carriage house-style garage doors, and accents of white weath- ered brick and shingle siding. Lipton finished the look with window boxes, climbing roses and ivy that she hopes will someday cover most of the house.
In decorating the interior, she started from scratch.
“Very few pieces were able to be salvaged from the water damage,” she said.
When Lipton’s parents purchased the home, it was dark and clad with wood paneling.
“My mother, with her love of the color white, began painting everything in the house that color, inside and out,” she said. “My father even had his two aged cars painted white.”
In homage to her parents, she took their favorite hue and translated it into an elegant French cottage interior.
Lipton layered in colors ranging from buttery yellow to beige to crisp white. She painted the walls a soft yellow and added thick white baseboards and crown moldings for architectural interest. For romance and drama, she draped the windows in sheer white panels that drape on the floor and used chandeliers wherever possible, even in the bathroom.
At the time, Lipton was working for a consignment furniture store in Campbell, California. To stay within her modest furniture budget, she purchased one piece a week, hauled it to Morro Bay in the back of her car, and spent the weekend painting the piece white.
“I used warm whites, cool whites, creamy whites, as well as flat, eggshell and gloss paints,” she said. “This made the pieces look less ‘matchy-matchy,’ like they had been acquired over a great deal of time.”
Nearly every piece of furniture in her home was purchased second-hand, including some needing a good dose of TLC.
One of her favorite pieces is a 300-year-old German grandfather clock that she spent a weekend repairing and two full weeks painting and adding decorative appliques. A 1940s walnut bedroom suite that she found in poor condition was resuscitated with a new finish of white gloss paint.
Embellishments such as gilt frames, greenery and floral arrangements add polish and pull the look together. Even utilitarian items like light switch covers, towel holders, and a floor fan coordinate with the decor. A lover of plush pillows, she took an array of inexpensive ones and dressed them up with her mother’s vintage pins as well as old buttons.
She grounded all of the ethereal hues in the house with a darker floor color: cinnamon-toned handscraped maple. She also opted to leave a few pieces unpainted, such as her prized mahogany buffet, which, due to a crack in its marble top, she acquired “for almost nothing.”
Lipton moved in this past summer. Her most recent acquisition is a new shih tzu puppy named Taffy who is, of course, white.
“I know now how my mom and dad felt about this home and about Morro Bay,” she said. “I’m so happy to be living here.”