Home & Garden

The Grundmeier home in SLO: Traditional ranch house goes contemporary

Removing walls created a new, open great room.
Removing walls created a new, open great room.

Todd and Kelly Grundmeier had their hands full with an active 2-year old and two busy careers when they purchased their San Luis Obispo home in 2013. He is a mathematics professor at Cal Poly, and she is a sales representative for a biotech company.

So they liked the fact that, despite a few dated features, the 1961-built ranch-style residence was clean and well-maintained. “We could easily live there comfortably until the changes we wanted to make were a possibility,” said Kelly Grundmeier.

Though they weren’t in a rush, they longed to transform the mostly traditional interior into a contemporary environment to suit their preference for simple, clean design. Also on their wish list: space-efficient solutions to make the most of their 1,980 square feet.

They started with a kitchen re-do not long after they moved in. That project transformed the cramped, galley-style kitchen into one with an open design, thanks to the removal of two load-bearing walls. A new window opens the room up to backyard views, and new appliances make the space functional for family meals as well as entertaining. The new look of the kitchen was a preview of what the family wanted for the rest of the house: contemporary design with an industrial bent.

This year, they moved on to phase two: a revamp of the family room, centering around a dramatic fireplace overhaul. For this next set of remodels, they brought on Erica Gomez of Inner Light Interior Design and Chris Kassack of Kassack Construction.

Formerly clad in traditional brick, the two-sided, living room-to-dining room fireplace is now a showstopper, underscoring the industrial undercurrent of the new interior. Richard Decater of The Carpenter Shop wrapped the brick in tin salvaged from the roofs of old, local barns, securing each panel with vintage nails. Far from rustic, the new façade is clean and modern, thanks to artful and precise craftsmanship. The team chose to remove the hearth and mantel “for a sleek look and to encourage the viewer to touch,” said Gomez.

Gomez helped the family select a color palette inspired by nature, with ethereal blue and soft green accents against a backdrop of neutrals. The combination “helped make the space a haven where the family can rejuvenate and unite,” she said.

She selected furniture to suit the Grundmeiers’ request for a multi-purpose family room that could be used for television viewing, sitting around the fire, and also entertaining. Multi-functional seating was key to this arrangement. Swivel chairs can turn from television to fireplace without needing to be repositioned. An oversized, custom sofa from Habitat offers ample seating for guests. The sofa was so large, the homeowners doubted until the last minute that it would fit. But it did — all 118 inches of it. According to Gomez, the sofa is an important design element in the small space, providing “a long line for the eye to follow, creating an illusion of a larger space.”

With a large portion of the budget going to the fireplace revamp, Gomez found more frugal solutions when tackling the master bedroom. Much of the bedroom makeover was achieved with reorganization. Gomez created three zones: sleeping, dressing, and seating, and arranged furniture accordingly. She used the existing bed, dresser, and art pieces. The couple chose just a few new pieces that make a strong style statement, such as white leather nightstands purchased from Restoration Hardware.

Budget-friendly solutions continued in the dining room. The couple purchased a used hutch from Brooks Woodcraft that they cleaned, sanded and repainted themselves. It now serves a dual purpose as a display for decorative pieces and photos, and storage space for their daughter Claire’s games and artwork.

The Grundmeiers plan to continue the gradual process of modernizing their home. But for now, Kelly Grundmeier said they find it “comfortable and calming,” and a good fit for their young, active family.

Design tips

SLEEK AND SALVAGED Salvaged materials don’t always result in a shabby or rustic look. Used in a clean-lined or finely crafted feature, weathered metal or wood can add texture and character that fits well in a contemporary design scheme.

USE SPACE WISELY Consider how you would like to use each room, then create zones for each purpose. For instance, a bedroom can have designated spaces for sleeping, dressing, reading and web surfing. A living room can be for TV viewing, hosting guests, and lounging in front of the fireplace. Dual purpose seating — such as swivel chairs — help make a space multi-functional.

GO BIG Using several small pieces in a petite living room or den may make the space seem chopped up and smaller. Instead, consider using larger-scale furniture in a small space. For instance, one long sofa rather than two small loveseats creates a long vertical line, making the space seem larger.