On a quiet cul-de-sac in Ross, there was a Cape Cod-style house in desperate need of an update. Built at the turn of this century, the home was traditional in style, with small, sectioned-off rooms and a few too many interior columns.
Despite their reservations about the design, a couple with two young boys bought the house because they were drawn to Ross’s strong sense of community and the property’s tranquil views of Mt. Tam and Mt. Baldy.
They brought in San Rafael-based interior designer Jennifer Wundrow to make the home everything they wanted.
“When I met with the homeowners for the first time, the living room had a peek-a-boo pass-through window into a family room and kitchen, and the kitchen was very dated and small,” Wundrow says.
Her challenge was to design a remodel that took into account both the wife’s traditional preferences and the husband’s modern preferences while adding nothing too precious for their two kids.
REWORKING THE FLOOR PLAN
The remodel focused on reworking the floor plan on the main floor of the two-story house, to enlarge the kitchen and create an easier flow between the kitchen, living room and dining room.
Wundrow relocated the kitchen and, in doing so, doubled its size and gave it an airy view of the deck. The peek-a-boo wall was taken down, making the kitchen and living room into one expansive space where the family could spend most of their time. Relocating the kitchen also allowed for many practical features: an expanded laundry room, complete with two washers and two dryers; a larger pantry; and an added butler’s pantry.
The formal dining room was separated from this main living space by the entryway, with four columns and two pony walls on each side, making for a very tight, enclosed feeling. Wundrow tore down the columns and pony walls, which transformed the feel.
“The whole house feels more open, connected and airy,” she says. “The columns were very restricting.” Conveniently, Wundrow was able to manage the permitting and plans without bringing in an architect.
Outfitting the new kitchen was a huge focus, Wundrow says, because the family loves to cook and entertain. She added taller windows that let light flood into the space.
Next came some luxurious touches. A counter-to-ceiling slab of Calacatta marble satisfied the clients’ love of stone without adding a ton of grout.
Glass cabinet doors were also on the wish list but not necessarily practical for a busy family. Wundrow designed custom cabinets, including a row of small, decorative glass cabinets along the ceiling. Those cabinets display beloved and rarely used pieces, while the regular cabinets below conveniently hide mismatched, quotidian kitchenware.
THE OUTDOOR SPACES
Creating one big kitchen-living room space meant that it was easy to come and go from the home’s deck via the living room’s existing set of French doors. Wundrow expanded the patio and deck area to accommodate a new sectional, a fire pit, an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor dining table.
THE DINING ROOM
For the furnishings and finishes, Wundrow aimed for a clean, understated look, with organic colors and textures. For example, in the dining room, she brought in black CB2 dining chairs, a Palacek pendant lamp made of rope woven over a metal frame and a Phillip Jeffries grasscloth wallcovering.
THE LIVING ROOM
The living room is mostly white, with touches of light blue in the upholstery, throw pillows and table lamps.
“Blue is a neutral to me, because it works with so many other colors,” Wundrow says.
For the living room furniture, Wundrow chose indoor-outdoor performance fabric from Mariaflora, so the family doesn’t have to worry about stains marring their beautiful new digs. “Their boys are very active, and they have a big rescue dog, so we needed to make the space both luxurious and durable,” Wundrow says.
For movie nights and big games, the TV above the fireplace in the family room can be pulled out from the wall and turned to face the patio. But that’s rarely called for, thanks to the captivating views.
New motorized awnings above the expanded patio and deck provide shade on sunnier Marin days, while mature plantings and trees create privacy. The new features enhance the private feel that the patio already had, thanks to mature plantings and trees.
“You feel like you’re in an oasis with nobody around,” Wundrow says. “This house is very much about being outside.”
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Theresa Gonzalez is a Bay Area-based writer specializing in interior design and architecture. She is the author of Sunday Sews (Chronicle Books) and has contributed to San Francisco Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Visit California and more.