Home & Garden

The Bridwell home in Atascadero: Old World elegance in a 1914 farmhouse

For the first 20 years of marriage, Jack and Barbara Bridwell were focused on family. According to Barbara, this involved “raising our two daughters and getting them through school, college and giving them their fairy-tale weddings.”

But when the last wedding wrapped up, everything changed.

“It was time to concentrate on us,” Barbara said.

The couple became avid international travelers. And they finally turned their attention to their timeworn but beloved family home.

Built in 1914, the 2,800-square-foot, two-story Atascadero colony home is what Barbara calls “a basic farmhouse — much simpler than many of the other colony homes.”

It sits on an old 19th century stagecoach stop called the Cashin Station. Many of the original outbuildings still remain on the 3-1/2-acre property.

Jack, who received his agribusiness management degree from Cal Poly, purchased the home in 1979 and rented it to a Cal Poly professor until 1988, when he married Barbara. Over the years, the couple made minor improvements to the hardworking family home including new flooring, sinks and laminate countertops.

As empty nesters, their goal was to create a luxurious, grown-up space that reminded them of their favorite travel destinations.

Barbara is a diagnostic cardiovascular sonographer with a penchant for interior design. She was the mastermind behind the entire renovation. Jack, who transitioned from raising sheep to investing in rental properties, was the project manager.

Barbara wanted the home to exude Old World elegance — but with a twist. Her style is Old World meets Southern plantation. The home’s plantation vibe comes from its “all white (exterior) with shutters and a large front porch with wispy ferns, as well as large parklike yards framed in with boxwoods,” she explained.

Inside, they amped up the architectural interest with new crown moldings, pilasters and pediments with the help of carpenter Chris DeLisle. They cloaked walls in a palette of earthy, Tuscan-inspired hues. In the living room, she used richly textured Ralph Lauren suede paint in “snowdrift,” a deep gold.

The focal point of the remodel was the kitchen. The couple cooks together and frequently entertains. They wanted a modern kitchen with “all the warmth of an Old World kitchen,” Barbara said.

She began with a year of research, scouring Houzz.com and HGTV for ideas. “I would print out rooms that I loved and then stare at them for a couple of weeks before I decided on what textures I like and what I didn’t,” she said.

She then headed to the computer to research her favorite products online. Shopping online not only uncovered a wide selection of products and many bargains (they estimate they saved $20,000 on kitchen cabinets), it easily fit into Barbara’s 12-hour workdays.

She ordered samples of products that made the final cut.

“I had a room full of examples of granite, backsplash and cabinets and paint colors,” she said. “I would put all the different combinations of products together and take pictures of them.”

Weeks of study yielded careful, confident choices — as well as some novel looks. For instance, for the kitchen backsplash, she became enamored with an unusual combination of glass and stainless steel tiles in varying sizes and patterns that turned out to be a showstopper.

Barbara is comfortable with contrast, juxtaposing traditional with contemporary, and understated with opulent. For instance, to create drama over her simple fireclay farmhouse kitchen sink, she designed a half-moon pediment held up with plantation-style pilasters.

Barbara decided to update rather than replace the furniture they already owned. “My style of furniture has always been traditional, so it was an easy transition into Old World,” she said.

Many pieces come with a story, such as the 1920s Louis Vuitton wardrobe steamer trunk that sits in the entryway. Jack traded two lambs for it in 1974, not knowing its value would someday be in the tens of thousands.

Barbara transformed existing furniture with textiles. She invested in luxurious pillows, bedding and rugs. She created her own dramatic window treatments, even using window draperies and a valance instead of a shower curtain in the guest bathroom. She brought warmth and color to her dining room table with a handmade runner purchased on a trip to Guatemala. She even uses a runner to spruce up her washing machine.

Barbara quickly learned that working with a historic home requires both patience and flexibility.

“I had to put my perfectionistic personality on hold,” she said. She also discovered that “caulking can cover a multitude of errors” in an old home that has survived several earthquakes and a century of settling.

A little elbow grease also helped. When her carpenter became ill just before the house was scheduled to be featured on a home tour, the Bridwells learned how to install crown molding by watching a video and finished the job by themselves.

Overall, the project proceeded smoothly and most work was completed in less than two months, wrapping up last November. The couple was so thrilled with the outcome, they celebrated by taking a cruise to Central and South America. But the real journey lies in finding new projects to tackle.

“I’m looking forward to embarking on my new adventure — transforming my bathrooms,” said Barbara.

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