A note from our editors: 

It’s time for one of our favorite traditions! Each year, we spend the holidays reflecting on the stories and articles you loved most. It’s the “Best of Rue” and this is one of 2019’s top stories. Enjoy!

Previously published on May 23, 2019:

When faced with a property that’s had many renovations over the years — questionable paint colors, mismatched woods, dated fixtures — a designer might see a challenge. However, as soon as the A 1000x Better team laid eyes on this home, there was nothing but excitement. “It was an original ranch house with an abundance of character. The home had incredible bones,” principal designer Kirsten Blazek tells us. “Our goal was to lighten and modernize the whole house while maintaining its integrity as a true California ranch home. Our design was realized according to the original plan with few – if any – significant obstacles or changes.”

The clients were a young couple who were expecting their second child. “At the time they purchased the house, they were out of the country for work and they remained out of the country for the duration of the remodel,” Kirsten shares. “Our clients were unique in that they really wanted to leave the design decisions regarding remodel and furnishings to our discretion – a designer’s dream client!” Of course, there was an early discussion about how they saw themselves using each space functionally as a family, but beyond that they really wanted AXB to have the freedom to create a space that felt unique and personal to them.

One thing we love about this home is that each room has its own unique characteristics. In the living room, there’s a beautiful vaulted, wood-paneled ceiling, along with wainscoting, concrete floors, and a very large brick fireplace. The fireplace was painted the same color as the walls, and there was the addition of a custom wood mantle that looks as though its always been there.

In the kitchen, which the design team refers to as the “crown jewel” of the home, the original mid century cabinets were repurposed and refinished. “We removed the upper cabinets and found a new home for them in the form of a custom pantry surrounding the fridge,” Kirsten explains. The mismatched countertops were replaced with an organic French limestone, while a reclaimed Spanish tile acts as a key focal point and backsplash to the range. To finish the look, they added airy open shelving and a neutral field tile to the window wall.

Elsewhere in the home, smart design decisions made the most of unused space. A vacant corner in a hallway was transformed to a cozy reading nook with a storage bench and comfy cushion. In the master bedroom, a previously open vaulted area above the closet was enclosed. The master bath and guest bath received light makeovers, with fresh paint and new hardware, mirrors and lighting. 

The biggest challenge throughout this project was modernizing the space while respecting the history. “At first sight, the home had an abundance of beautiful redwood paneling,” Kirsten recalls. “When we looked closer, however, it was clear that much of the wood was piecemeal and not at all authentic to the home.” Their decision to paint the redwood was in an effort to streamline the appearance of the home, and hide some of the incongruous elements of this otherwise genuine ranch. It was a careful balance of modernizing and brightening while not stripping the house of too much character.

This balance was also achieved through lighting, an element the AXB team is passionate about. “We always try to push ourselves in our decisions with lighting and try not to conform to expectations,” Kirsten explains. They sourced from many places: some vintage, some vintage reproductions, and some unabashedly clean and modern. “We knew we wanted to incorporate a Katy Skelton fixture for the dining area from the design’s conception, which influenced the direction of the entire lighting package,” the designer says. “Lighting is an element that can easily be edited and mixed, so we like to play with shape and ultimately blend a lot of different styles together. Our lighting philosophy is to keep it instinctual and fun!”

The home follows this philosophy as it’s clearly both instinctual and fun. Take a peek in the slideshow. Pro tip: You’ll want to take your time and soak up every last detail.