Before + After / Santa Cruz Surf House Backyard

AFTER: French doors were added to the house to provide direct access to the backyard.

AFTER: French doors were added to the house to provide direct access to the backyard.

This might be my favorite Before + After for 36th Ave, so I'm excited to finally share it! As you can see below, the backyard was a pretty sad place filled with mulch, a few stepping stones, and some random plants. It was also very inconvenient to use as there was no direct access from the house. You had to enter the backyard from the front of the house and walk down the sides to get to the back. 

BEFORE: The backyard.

BEFORE: The backyard.

The client had several goals for the updated backyard:

  1. Maximize usable square footage.

  2. Provide ample seating for a fire pit and space for a hammock.

  3. Use concrete.

  4. Create direct access to the yard from the house.

I made extensive use of concrete and designed a low concrete wall enclosure (the perfect height for setting down a drink) and concrete pavers. Pea gravel was used in between the pavers and provides great drainage during rainstorms. A low and deep custom redwood bench was built to hug a corner of the concrete wall. Moveable chairs, hammock, side tables, and fire pit were added for maximum flexibility in layout. To contrast with the hardness of the concrete, I added several potted palms and a built-in concrete planter for a lemon tree. Take a look!

AFTER: The backyard's fire pit and custom built-in bench.

AFTER: The backyard's fire pit and custom built-in bench.

AFTER: Another view of the bench and fire pit.

AFTER: Another view of the bench and fire pit.

AFTER: Hammock and lemon tree.

AFTER: Hammock and lemon tree.

AFTER: Transitioning from the pea gravel side yard to the paved backyard.

AFTER: Transitioning from the pea gravel side yard to the paved backyard.

Before + After / Santa Cruz Surf House Bedrooms

Because 36th Ave is a vacation house that's rented out when the owners aren't using it, one of the first things we did was rip out the built-in closets in all three bedrooms. To the left of the below photo was a closet that spanned the length of the wall. Given that these bedrooms were relatively small and all of them had existing nooks, it made sense to tear the closets down to open up the space and build new closets into the nooks.

BEFORE: The master bedroom.

BEFORE: The master bedroom.

Here's a shot of the offending closet that was taking up precious bedroom space. (Also note the wall-to-wall carpeting.)

BEFORE: The master bedroom closet that was removed.

BEFORE: The master bedroom closet that was removed.

For the bedroom adjacent to the backyard, we performed one additional major change: french doors. The house had one critical flaw in it's layout: it was missing direct access to the backyard. You had to go outside from the front, open the fence gate on either side of the house, and then walk down the side of the house to get to the back, basically making the backyard unusable. We decided to provide better access to the backyard by adding these french doors, and making this bedroom a convertible living/bedroom space.

New Milgard french doors installed in the downstairs bedroom and the carpet ripped out.

New Milgard french doors installed in the downstairs bedroom and the carpet ripped out.

For the floors, we extended the red oak flooring in the main living spaces to the master bedroom which is located on the same floor. For the ground level, where the two other bedrooms are located, we did a "skim coat" of concrete which is basically a special concrete product made for thin layers. It's added directly onto the concrete foundation and creates a durable surface. For the bedroom furnishings, we went with neutrals to create a relaxing, restful vibe, and designed window shades with blackout liners. The bright artwork in the rooms keeps it interesting.

AFTER: The new master bedroom.

AFTER: The new master bedroom.

AFTER: The new french doors give the downstairs bedroom ample light and direct access to the backyard.

AFTER: The new french doors give the downstairs bedroom ample light and direct access to the backyard.

The Before + Afters are almost done for 36th Ave, but I'm saving my favorite Before + After for last: the backyard!

Before + After / Santa Cruz Surf House Living & Dining Spaces

Now that I have a little more free time on my hands, it's time to get these Before + After posts rolling! What I loved about working on the living and dining spaces for this house was how easy it was to transform them. It's amazing what some paint and a handful of light fixtures can do! If you want to go the extra mile, you can refinish the floors which is what we did. The red oak floors had yellowed and darkened quite a bit over time, but with some sanding and a clear water-based sealer, they look fresh and modern. Here are some shots of the before:

BEFORE: The living room, as staged.

BEFORE: The living room, as staged.

BEFORE: The dining space as viewed from the kitchen.

BEFORE: The dining space as viewed from the kitchen.

We painted over all the walls, beams, and trim in Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace, which is a perfectly neutral, bright white. I looked at a lot of white paints and Chantilly Lace was the one that had no yellow or gray undertones but wasn't as stark as some other bright whites. The furniture, art, and lighting is a pop-y mix of new and vintage pieces sourced from 12 different stores.  

AFTER: The refinished living room.

AFTER: The refinished living room.

AFTER: View from the kitchen. Given how small the dining space was, I had to look for a narrow 30" dining table and make use of a bench against the wall.

AFTER: View from the kitchen. Given how small the dining space was, I had to look for a narrow 30" dining table and make use of a bench against the wall.

The black accent wall was added after most of the house was done because with all the white paint, a defined space was needed to ground the dining area. We used Benjamin Moore's Jet Black, which is a perfectly neutral black that pairs really well with the Chantilly Lace white. You might also recognize the Jet Black on the kitchen cabinets. 

My favorite, but most random, detail is the light fixture we used to replace the old track lighting. It's designed as a bathroom light, but I love the line of it against the beam and how it's reminiscent of a Dan Flavin fluorescent light installation. 

AFTER: My favorite lighting fixture in the living room.

AFTER: My favorite lighting fixture in the living room.

Next up in Before + After: the bedrooms!

 

Before + After / Santa Cruz Surf House Kitchen

Kitchen remodels can get crazy in terms of cost, especially here in California where labor is expensive. Given the relatively low budget for the renovation, I had to reuse as much of the existing kitchen as possible. That meant keeping the cabinets, the simple, spacious refrigerator, and the adequately placed recessed lighting. Gone were the tiled countertops, old gas range, dishwasher, hood vent, and crusty sink.

BEFORE: The kitchen, pre-renovation and staged.

BEFORE: The kitchen, pre-renovation and staged.

The one splurge we did make was on the countertops, the most visible part of the kitchen. Because concrete pavers and floors were put into the indoor and outdoor living areas on the ground floor, I added this concrete element on the main floor to provide continuity in material choice. Concrete countertops are not cheap at $120/sq ft all-in, but they're substantial and beautiful with their surface imperfections. These are 2" thick and were poured in place. 

Concrete countertops poured in place. You can still see the wood framing.

Concrete countertops poured in place. You can still see the wood framing.

To open up and modernize the kitchen, the upper cabinets were completely removed and replaced with open shelving. In a vacation house, only basic dishes and kitchenware are needed, so we weren't concerned about the diminished storage space. The shelves also help bring more light into the space; surprisingly for all the skylights in this house, the kitchen was one of the darker rooms. One thing I really appreciate: it's awesome not having to open every cupboard to find a drinking glass!

AFTER: The remodeled kitchen.

AFTER: The remodeled kitchen.

More details on the kitchen design to come...

Before + After / Introducing Santa Cruz Surf House

This surf house in Santa Cruz was a classic Monet: "From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess" - Cher from Clueless. From the photos you'd think it's not much work and a quick renovation, but up close and in person, all the details were dated and wrong. The shortlist of issues included:

  • heavily spackled texture on all wall and ceiling surfaces

  • yellowed red oak floors and wall to wall carpeting

  • no direct access to the backyard

  • original 1970s kitchen with tile countertops

  • tiny, dark bedrooms

Santa Cruz Surf House, pre-renovation.

Santa Cruz Surf House, pre-renovation.

However, there was also a lot to love: the big windows on the facade, the multiple decks, and proximity to one of the best surf breaks in Northern California. Purchased as a vacation home, the owner had several requirements for the renovation:

  1. Maximize functionality and comfort of indoor and outdoor spaces.

  2. Appeal to both masculine and feminine tastes.

  3. Stand up to the wear and tear of vacation renters.

  4. Capture the feel of a modern surf house.

What will follow is the transformation of said 1970s surf house into the modern-day.

Santa Cruz Surf House, post-renovation.  Photo courtesy of the    Airbnb listing   .

Santa Cruz Surf House, post-renovation. Photo courtesy of the Airbnb listing.