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 July 23, 2020:

Designer Kate Lester had known her client, Lisa Newman, for many years before being brought on to reimagine her Southern California home. “Lisa is an amazing mom and businesswoman who is not only a CFO of a wildly successful bar and restaurant company but also an accomplished author, fitness expert, and entrepreneur,” Kate says. “I even used to work for her at one of her bars when I was in college, so I have known her for ages and she has watched my journey as an entrepreneur and designer.”

Because of their history, Lisa trusted Kate’s work ethic and style, and let her run with the design. “We also have pretty similar tastes when it comes to color and pattern so usually when I found something I liked, she liked it too,” Kate quips. At the start, the designer says the home was a total “brownout” — a typical ’90s Mediterranean with loads of taupe, tan, and beige. She recalls her first visit: “There were some really interesting features already existing in the house, like a mural of clouds and blue sky on the dining room ceiling, and a wet bar covering a set of doors with an ocean view. The master suite and bathroom just felt dated, with the built-in mausoleum tub and heavy wood trim. The whole house just felt a little cold and heavy.”

Lisa’s top request was that her house feel brighter, warmer, and more coastal-inspired. “I knew with it being a Mediterranean, that may be a tall order, but I was up for the challenge,” the designer shares. The first step was getting the interior fresh paint just right. “I always turn to Simply White by Benjamin Moore because it’s such a classic, pure white with just a tiny hint of warmth. I much prefer a warm white to a white that reads too grey. The other pillars of the ‘Spanifornia’ palette are a bleached oak and hints of steel, terra cotta, and textural elements like rattan and sisal.”

Throughout the home, Kate’s signature #Spanifornia style shines bright. Spanifornia is exactly as it sounds — a little bit Spanish and a little bit California. Kate explains, “I was inspired by a trip up the California coast where I saw a modern take on a traditional Spanish revival and knew right away that I could infuse some coastal elements and it would be the perfect way to tradition one of those Mediterranean homes so prevalent in our area in the early ’90s.” The first step is to pare everything down (goodbye ornate columns and over-scaled fireplaces). Second, bring in that warm white. Third is oak! “I prefer a bleached oak (this is my coastal California element) and to incorporate it in flooring, furniture, and fireplace mantels. I also got rid of ALL of the crown molding.” With a laugh, Kate says, “Dear builders, crown molding is a traditional architectural detail. Stop putting it in every single house.”

This project was completed in two phases, and took about 2 years to complete. “When they all saw it for the first time, they were thrilled! Lisa has told me over and over that, I finally made the home feel like ‘her’ and that she can’t wait to make many more years of happy memories there,” Kate concludes. “She recently told me that she still loves to travel, but she always gets excited about coming home. That is the best kind of compliment you can get as a designer. It’s such a fulfilling process… transforming a space so drastically that it all feels brand new.”