Survey the clean, unblemished surfaces and pristine modern interior of the Hamachai-Wiseman home, and you’d never guess that two young children and two Great Danes are among its residents.
This is also the home of Tricia Hamachai and Jason Wiseman, the masterminds behind a remodel that merged aesthetics with family-friendly concerns such as comfort, durability, ease of maintenance and eco-friendliness.
When they purchased the 2,100-square-foot, split-level home in March 2007, they had a newborn and a five-year-old. The 1979-built home suited their preference for contemporary design. “It had good bones,” said Hamachai. “We didn’t want to have to do any substantial structural modification.”
Hamachai is an independent designer and project manager for Santa Monica-based Killefer Flammang Architects. She also owns Thai Talay restaurant in Pismo Beach. Wiseman runs an internet marketing firm and also happens to have good design sense. The two planned and oversaw the renovation that completely changed the look and feel of the home.
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They started inside with a seven-month remodel that took place before they moved into the house. To boost natural light, they removed half walls that ran along a staircase and an upstairs.
They freshened up the interior with new finishes and fixtures with a modern bent. A combination of terra cotta tile and carpet gave way to sleek, ebony-stained bamboo floors. “I’m not a big fan of carpet, because of the maintenance and health issues,” said Hamachai. “It’s much easier to clean hard surfaces.”
They moved the kitchen to allow space for an office. Contrary to the overriding trend, they actually reduced the size of their kitchen, but Hamachai wasn’t concerned.
“I’ve designed a lot of lofts which tend to have really small kitchens,” she said. “You have to be really efficient with space and storage.”
Her tricks to maximizing kitchen space include using full-extension drawers that allow easy access to the entire drawer. She is a proponent of the sink/range/dishwasher work triangle for efficiency. She also built in plenty of storage to keep countertops as clear as possible. For instance, in the corners of the kitchen — areas she considers “really tricky” — she designed countertop appliance garages, which are alcoves where small appliances like the toaster and blender are tucked out of sight.
The couple chose Thermafoil cabinets over wood to resist the dings and dents that young children can inflict. The choice of stainless steel counters came from Hamachai’s work designing commercial kitchens. “It’s super durable — you can set down hot pots and not worry about ruining it like you do with natural stone,” she said.
The eating bar is covered in a composite material made of concrete and paper, with some recycled content, sourced from Green Goods.
An exterior revamp came after the family moved into their house. Instead of rebuilding any portion of the exterior, they simply covered the old wood siding with corrugated metal, combined with renewable ipe wood for a warmer look. Both will be durable and low-maintenance over time.
This juxtaposition of modern and high-tech with earthy and organic repeats throughout the house: a weathered wood fireplace mantel is paired with a stainless steel fireplace surround and concrete hearth; a chunky teak table with picnic-style benches sits adjacent to their sleek, modern kitchen.
Reining in clutter is important to the couple.
“It’s a lifestyle,” said Hamachai. “We make sure to purge regularly, not buy more than we can accommodate.”
It also means having designated spaces to keep those carefully curated belongings out of sight. Built-in storage was limited in the house, so the family was forced to find creative solutions that happen to also be budget-friendly. In the master suite, they sacrificed closet space in order to expand their tiny bathroom. So they made use of an existing niche that they concealed with a curtain for clothing storage.
Hamachai is a big fan of IKEA for sleek and stylish pieces that are also economical. In the master bathroom, an IKEA dresser stands in for a vanity, providing ample storage for grooming supplies. A shoe rack holds extra toiletries, and a wine rack stylishly contains magazines.
Naturally, toy storage is the most challenging. To keep kids’ rooms neat, the family stores most toys in the living room in two white IKEA cabinets. Extra toys are stashed in chests and storage ottomans.
Hamachai is selective with toy purchases and prefers those that foster creativity and can be used in a variety of ways, such as art supplies and Legos. The kids are also encouraged to be imaginative and incorporate everyday items into their play. Hamachai removed the doors from a small storage area under the stairs to create a space where the kids read and build forts with pillows and blankets. She painted her daughter’s closet doors with chalkboard paint so that the kids can create art without the mess and waste of paper.
Although the house is tidy, it is not spartan. The couple does hold onto heirlooms and mementos such as a 1940s radio that was a wedding gift for Hamachai’s grandparents, a flag commemorating her grandfather’s service in the military, a cow’s skull the family picked up on a vacation in Montana, and a baby grand piano Hamachai’s mom purchased for her when she was 11.
“Because we are selective in our belongings, we keep things that are important to us,” said Hamachai. “They are reflective of our pride in our children and our fond memories of our family and relatives.”