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 2020’s top stories. Enjoy!

Previously published on May 14, 2020:

When it comes to their lifestyle, the homeowners of this bungalow in Manhattan Beach, California are anything but sedentary. He is an avid surfer, she started her own recruiting business, and together they love to travel – even so far as to be away almost every weekend before they decided that they wanted a change of pace and enjoy their new home. Small walled-off rooms, a tiny kitchen, and little square-footage made it not the ideal space for them, but they chose it for its beachside location and design potential.

After living in their home for a few months as is, to see in practice what was missing, they contacted Ashley Ausland to give it the transformation that it needed. “They were very easy going and trusting clients throughout the process,” she shared. “They wanted the home to reflect their relaxed vibe on the interior and exterior, where they could entertain easily, and live casually.” As you enter the home, the new Dutch doors completely communicate that California-surfer vibe.

On to the main level, Ashley opened up the entire space to connect the entryway, dining room, kitchen, and breakfast nook. “I realized that once we removed the walls, the large, long room would feel like a bowling alley,” she explained. “So, I proposed that we expand the footprint three feet wider, made possible by the fact that we were already enlarging the second story, therefore not adding a huge financial cost. Once we expanded the footprint the space felt much better.”

When looking at possible configurations for the kitchen, though, the only realistic option seemed to be a galley-style kitchen, which wasn’t the designer’s overall preference. However, with a bit of creativity, they were able to make it work for the family and be a standout feature within the home. “I convinced my clients that they could do without the uppers and promised them there would be enough storage for all the kitchen essentials,” she said. Along the wall opposite the island, Ashley worked with the carpenter to create a double pantry, integrated refrigerator, and coffee bar. “I wanted to make sure that it looked as much as possible like an architectural element, essentially disappearing, yet adding some texture with the vertical tongue and groove detailing,” she said. “I also had to convince my client that this unique layout was the best option. He was not sold on the fact that I broke the rules of the traditional kitchen triangle and was concerned that the refrigerator would be too far away from the sink, but at the very end of the project, he told me it was the best kitchen layout ever!”

Throughout this space, Ashley continued to take risks. One example was the six-foot ledge that ran the entire length of the kitchen cabinets and behind the range. “I wanted to create a beefy looking statement wall, but also add visual interest, and necessary functionality. However, it was definitely one of the decisions that kept me up at night throughout construction, wondering if it was going to be amazing,” she admitted. Ashley also included a seating area made up of two washed linen swivel chairs floating in between the kitchen and dining table, which at first, was a bit out of the box for her clients. “They provide another casual, cozy, and completely unorthodox use of the space, but have become one of the most functional parts,” she added. “When I visited them after the project was done, the client’s mother was sitting in one of the swivel chairs in the kitchen, working on her laptop, drinking tea, and utilizing the space exactly as I had pitched it to them.”

On the second story of the home, Ashley’s clients wanted a walk-in closet, a luxurious master bathroom, and a laundry room. To do so, they expanded the upper level by 700 square-feet including a cozy window seat in the master bedroom that adds architectural interest. To keep costs down, she sourced tile for the bathroom and a few pieces of furniture from less expensive big box stores. “We wanted to achieve a custom look without breaking the bank, so we did a lot of high/low design,” she said. The tub and entryway mirror, for example, are from Wayfair. The chairs in the breakfast nook are from Ballard Designs. “Many of the accessories are vintage because all of my projects have the vintage element,” she smiled. “I know my clients value the affordability and unique curated feeling it provided the space.”

In the end, Ashley created a home for her clients that they now affectionately call “Vacationland”. No longer are they away on a trip every weekend, now, they truly feel at ease in their new home, excited to host friends and family.