Most prefer Avila Beach in the summer — or better yet, the fall, when sunshine finally overpowers the stubborn marine layer.
Not Jody Domingos. She appreciates even the chilliest days of winter, especially when nestled within the walls of her family beach house. “I love the sounds of the beach and the gray skies and to be inside our beautiful home by the fire, feeling safe and cozy,” she said.
Domingos and her three children split their time between the beach house and their primary residence in Palo Alto. When they’re not using the beach house, it’s often occupied by friends and family.
When the Domingos family bought the house in 2010, it was four years old — just a basic, nondescript two-story, 1,500-square-foot condominium that happened to be steps away from the ocean. She contacted Stephanie Rothbauer Interiors about replacing a few materials and ended up at the starting gate of a major remodel. “We wanted to create a brand-new home that reflected our style and feeling of comfort,” said Domingos.
Keeping in mind those cool, fog-laden days, she asked for a place of warmth and comfort that balances beach-inspired elements with a modern, sophisticated aesthetic.
The project required rethinking the floor plan.
Rothbauer, along with general contractor Mikel Robertson of Green Goods, reconfigured the master suite to open it up and expand the bathroom, making the space a “getaway for Jody,” said Rothbauer. The downstairs, originally segmented by walls and soffits, became much more free-flowing. In the kitchen, this meant losing some cabinetry. Rothbauer’s solution was to build custom floating shelves that “eliminated the boxed-in feeling that the original cabinetry imposed,” she said.
Light was another issue.
“With a condo oftentimes you are limited to windows at the front or the back of the unit,” said Rothbauer. Opening walls helped brighten the downstairs. In the master bathroom, originally a dark space, Rothbauer designed a pass-thru window between the bathroom and bedroom with custom-made walnut shutters that can be closed for privacy. The design element not only lets in more light, it gives the space the feel of a “spa getaway,” she said.
Rothbauer also brought in natural, beach-inspired materials, which she said creates “a sense of serenity.”
Select walls were given a new, textural finish. Some were coated in natural clay plaster in a gray hue called “wild horse smoke.” Others were clad in wood that has a weathered, sun-bleached appearance. Green Goods used a flooring wood on those walls, manufactured by US Floors — one of the many sustainable materials used in the house.
Throughout the house, Rothbauer chose colors that evoke the coastline, including fog gray, sandy tan, white, and deep blue. Together, these nature-derived hues create a “calming effect,” she said.
True to the home’s modern aesthetic, Rothbauer kept furniture streamlined and simple. Many furnishings are built-in, and several have a floating design, which gives the illusion of taking up less space. This includes a floating bunk bed in the boys’ room, designed by Rothbauer, where the bed platforms are supported by brackets and cables.
Accessories are minimal, but that doesn’t mean Rothbauer skimped on drama. This comes from high-impact materials in unexpected places.
She chose dramatic, oversized light fixtures for the dining room and foyer. In the kitchen, the countertops are covered in shimmering, translucent Vetrazzo, made from recycled glass, in a cool color blend. The same material reappears in the bathrooms and on a fireplace bench. Also in the kitchen is a hand-stamped nickel sink, made by local company Native Trails.
Tile brings its own drama to the space.
Rothbauer used tiles that are reminiscent of water, and even those resembling fish scales. For the stairs, an oft-neglected spot, custom tiles along with a handrail fabricated from steel by Fusion Fabricators and wood by Green Goods create what Rothbauer calls “a piece of art.”
Domingos and her three kids each chose a tile motif for the stair risers — most of them along a nautical theme. The tiles were then hand-painted by Fireclay Tile in Monterey County. Under the handrail, LED strip lighting adds both drama and a safety feature. “We all feel like we contributed to the beauty of it,” said Domingos.
Domingos took the final steps of personalizing the space, inserting a few favorite mementos including childhood keepsakes that she displays in the kids’ rooms, “so when they come it’s like going back in time,” she said.
The family now finds the house an ideal place to reconnect and rejuvenate, no matter the season. “Every room, every material used flows together, creating a uniform feeling of comfort and style,” said Domingos, who added that the beach house has become “a place of healing and happy memories.”
ADD THE UNEXPECTED: Add drama in unexpected places, such as with textural accent walls of natural clay, wood or grass cloth. Give stair risers a makeover with artful tiles. Or choose a showy light fixture. The key is to keep other accents and furnishings in that area understated.
FURNITURE THAT FLOATS: Floating, built-in furniture makes a small space seem larger because it reveals more of the floor beneath. Examples within the Domingos home include a floating bathroom vanity and media cabinet, as well as bunk beds suspended from cables.
BRING IN SPARKLE: A muted color palette can be elegant and sophisticated — but also a bit boring. To amp up the drama, vary textures, including hits of sparkle and shine. For instance, the Domingos’ kitchen countertops are elegant, simple and mostly white, yet have the dazzling iridescence of recycled glass.