The idea of showcasing friend's homes for tours here is something I've been wanting to include for a long time now, so I'm delighted to have Kate and her lovely, light filled Mission Viejo home as debut feature to the series. If you're a regular here then you probably recognize Kate and her girls from plenty of photos from weekend adventures and family camping trips taken together. Especially in the summer season when the kids are all out of school and we try our hardest to be out of the house as a group as much as possible.
Here she shares a bit about the transformation of this their first home which they've been working on over the last year or so with the end result proving a beautiful, breezy space perfectly suited to the kind of afternoons they love best, spent poolside with friends and fresh squeezed cocktails & great music overhead. The kind of house where every time I leave I'm already looking forward to a next visit. Speaking of which, I think I'm about due.
She is a stellar cook, loyal and devoted friend, excellent hostess, suburb gift giver, dedicated mother to Evie and Iris (whom my family adores) fabulous brunch buddy, fellow Dylan fanatic, dancing queen, and loving wife to Rob, equally charming and currently working on his residency in the ER department at UCI.
What did you love AND despise about this house upon purchase?
It's funny we only looked at the house two times very briefly before making an offer, we both had a really good feeling about it and trusted that if it worked out it was meant to be. That being said, we didn't know a whole lot about the house, so there were definitely surprises when we came to do the inspection. We both like light and bright homes and all of the walls were a sand color, I couldn't wait to get a fresh coat of white paint on them. I also was very excited to make changes in the kitchen. The cabinets were a very dark brown, so lightening them, taking many of them down, and getting new fixtures made a world of difference. The fireplace was not our style and it being a focal point when you walked into the home we knew we were going to have to change it. It was a real treat to have one made that we adore every time we walk in the front door.
How did you envision the major structural changes you made? And where do you like to go for design inspiration?
We didn't have the budget for any major structural changes, so the bulk of what we did was cosmetic. Luckily the changes we were able to make really made it feel like our home. It's amazing what a little paint will do. Oh and new wood floors really transformed the space. I was surprised at how much I could love flooring. Not only did they lighten the house tremendously, they don't show dirt, are incredibly durable, and eco friendly. So many pluses in my book. Overall, we were able to make some big changes by remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms, repaint the interior and exterior of the home, add new flooring, build a mantel for the fireplace, add a fence in the front yard, & add drought tolerant landscaping.
As far as inspiration, I definitely found myself on Pinterest way too much while we were drawing ideas on what we wanted to do. It's just such an easy resource with endless visual inspiration. I feel like traveling and just being out and about has been a huge inspiration. Many times a hotel, flower shop, a friend's home, a coffee shop, or even being in nature will inspire me and I'll make a mental note or snap a photo.
What about the guest room? It looks pretty tranquil. Can I request a pillowcase with my initials embroidered on it for the next slumber party?
You sure can! I expect plenty of sleepovers this summer. Our guest room is small and doubles as a movie room and play room, so we decided to turn the bed horizontally to act more as a daybed. It gives us more floor space and having the bed turned is awfully cozy for watching movies. As soon as we finished decorating the room, I made Rob and I sleep in there to "test" the comfort. We gave it two thumbs up, hopefully our guests do the same.
What might surprise us? Any cheap items you adore that you care to share with us?
Ha, I'd say most everything was a deal of some sort. Here are a few of my favorite deals we lucked out on.
Rob found the rug in the living room on eBay and we adore it. I think we paid $175 for it and its huge!
The large mirror in our bedroom was $25 unframed, I got it framed for around $50, so it turned out to be a great deal for how large it is.
We had no pantry space in the kitchen so I scoured the Internet for an option and came up with nothing that I felt would be neutral enough for the space it was going. We decided to get a wardrobe from Ikea (Pax system) and it has worked out so well, fully equipped with pull out drawers and tons of storage. It's great because you can create any kind of layout you want & it was way cheaper than any of the free standing pantries I could find, the real bonus is it was under $200. I matched the brass handles I used with the rest of the kitchens drawers to pull things together.
We found our kitchen table on EBay for under $200 (the guy even delivered it for free!) & and the vintage dresser in our room was another EBay find. I think we paid $500 for it, but it's flawless, so I'd say a pretty good deal.
All of our linen curtains are from IKEA and they are great. They wash up nicely, which I do often since there are often small finger stains all over them.
As for art, you've got some good stuff - what is the story behind some of your most beloved prints?
Well, thanks. Let's see, as you know, my most beloved print is a Jim Marshall original that my sister gave me. She had the privilege of knowing him & he let her pick any print he had stashed away at his home. She picked the image of Bob Dylan kicking the tire down the street and she gave it to me, just because she knows how much I love him. Hands down the best present ever.
We have recently accumulated three Kevin Russ prints. The guys got major talent (& Rob has a major crush on him.)
My friend Jason Branson, out of Chicago is incredibly talented at drawing, we have three of his pieces that we simply adore. The two beetle drawings in the girls room were made especially for them & I love the contrast that they give to their relatively girly room. He blows me away with the details to his work. Pencil drawings are so delicate, I just love them.
We have a painting from my grandparents home which hold a special place in my heart, not only from the memories it holds from it being a part of their home, but also for the history it possess.
We are very lucky to have very talented photographer friends, particularly you & my sister who have taken beautiful photos of our girls. We have prints scattered throughout our home that we cherish. So many happy memories captured so perfectly.
What about paint colors - Do you remember which ones you used?
Picking the paint was so much fun. I will say I went a little nuts with the whites. There are so many opinions out there. I think I had seven different white samples on our walls and it took me entirely too long to finally decide. Overall, I am very happy with the colors we finally decided on. For the living room we used BM - Hale Navy, for the girls bathroom we used BM - Dark Harbor. In the girls room we used Valspar - Eternal Moonrise. All of the remaining walls were Behr - Swiss Coffee and BM - White Dove.
What would you say were your main splurges in furnishing the space?
The light fixtures for sure. I had lived in rentals for so long with horrible lighting, I couldn't wait to pick my own. We even invested in the Phillips light bulbs you can adjust from your phone to create the perfect lighting. They are pretty amazing. The girls love it because the can change their overhead light to pink or purple and have a dance party.
We also spent more money than I had hoped on framing art. Over the years we've collected quite a bit and never really properly framed things, so we decided that with the new home we would be grown up and get some of our special pieces framed professionally. It sure was worth it.
Evie and Iris share a room, right, how has that been so far?
Pretty darn good, knock on wood. Rob and I love the idea of them sharing a room for as long as possible. They've always shared a room, so they don't know any different. I imagine there will be a time that they may want their own space, but for now they enjoy each others company and (most of the time) live in a beautiful world all their own. The two of them can sit in there room and play with their dollhouse for hours. It's amazing to hear them pretend, they really have wild imaginations. They are actually pretty good at sharing with one another & I think it has something to do with their belongings being so intertwined. To be honest, it'd be really hard to separate things into two rooms at this point. Don't get me wrong, there are moments I'd love to separate them, mostly because they gang up on me, but I feel like there would be a different drama that would come with their own rooms. Hopefully they will look back on this experience fondly. In the very least we hope they learn to respect shared spaces.
Let's talk about the yard. Looks lovely. I've seen the transformation firsthand so I can appreciate all the work that went into the final results but can you tell readers here a little bit about what you did to get it there and how you made good use of the local rebate program in your area?
I'd be happy to, we were reimbursed for removing our grass in the front yard and replacing it with drought tolerant landscaping. For the ground we chose a mix of stabilized DG (decomposed granite) and mulch. In the end we gained so much more usable space by creating an enclosed front yard with a large table, small garden, and a swing for the girls. Our backyard is mostly pool, so we wanted an area where we could host a dinner party or have brunch with friends. I feels like we gained square footage to our home by making this change & practically broke even financially doing it. Major win. Adding the fence was something we did on our own and was not covered by the rebate program. We live on a corner and we didn't like the idea of the girls or our pets having direct access to the road when they went outside. It's been great. We can have both our front door and back doors open and enjoy the cross breeze without being concerned that anyone's going to take off.
The rebate program itself was pretty simple. You complete a basic application online, an inspector comes out and verifies the square footage of grass you will be removing (this is how they determine what dollar amount you will be eligible for), you get an "OK to proceed" letter, you do the work, file for a "final inspection", somebody comes out and verifies the work you did & collects copies of your receipts, it gets approved, and you get a check in the mail. Easy peasy.
We also used the rebate program for our three rain barrels, a toilet, and our sprinkler system. Really all were fantastic deals and for those of you living in Southern CA I highly recommend taking advantage of all of the many different programs out there. They make it pretty darn easy with online applications. The only qualm I had was the waiting game for the reimbursement checks, but hey it's free money so how can I complain.
What are your favorite plants in the space?
Gosh, that's a hard question. We found an amazing nursery outside of Riverside and the guy who runs it was very educational and taught me so much about the different drought tolerant options out there. There are so many great choices that not only save water, but also attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Plus many of them smell amazing! When we first planted everything looked small and I could hardly imagine them filling in the space, now that things have grown and it's all blooming I'm pretty in love with everything. We have a lot of salvia which I love for there delicate bright flowers, and the Mexican grass is so pretty when there's any sort of breeze, I really like the texture it adds to the yard. There's a succulent with leopard stripes (sorry I'm not sure if it's official name) that has bloomed at least three times since we planted it and it has the loveliest orange flowers. Actually all of the succulents have made little babies and we are getting ready to transplant some of them to other areas of the yard. Huge bonus - free plants for life! The lavender smells amazing and also brings beautiful color to the yard. Our olive tree is small, but I look forward to it growing and providing a little shade. It's just so much fun to see everything come to life.
In the backyard (which was not part of the rebate program) I really enjoy the hanging succulent baskets I made. The baskets where left from the previous owners, however most of the succulents were dead. I bought to liners and soil and replanted what I could, then we lucked out at the local hardware store and were given a bunch of free succulents that they were ultimately going to throw away. In the end I had so many fun plants to work with. They are all very happy now. I love to see them flowering. I also have been enjoying the Jasmine that has been making the entire backyard smell heavenly.
Any you are experimenting with any unfamiliar ones currently?
We received 3 stag horns as gifts and are doing our best to care for them, however they make we nervous. We love them so much we don't want to wrong them in any way. So far so good, but any tips would be greatly appreciated!
Ok, swimming pools are a major plus in California, right? And your girls are serious water babies so how would you say the addition of having one in your lives has changed things for the better?
I don't know what we would do without the pool. It gets very warm in Mission Viejo and our pool gets used a lot of the year. It takes so much pressure off of summer because no matter what they can always go swimming & I can basically chill out. I love it. They love it. It's the best. The hot tub is also a major plus. Rob and I don't get to go out much these days, so even when he gets home late we can always relax in the hot tub. We both really like that it's an opportunity for uninterrupted conversation, no phones or computers to distract us. It's pretty cozy when we put a couple logs in the fire pit that's right next to it. It always turns out to be a pretty nice "date night in".
Tell us about that handy outdoor shower system you've got going on.
Oh the shower, Rob's very favorite thing about our home. Since we've put it in, I think he's showered inside maybe twice because it was raining out. It is pretty glorious to take an outdoor shower in the morning & or late night. It's also great for the kids when they get out of the pool, no more running through the house all wet to the shower. Another plus is when we get home from the beach we just walk around to the side yard and clean up avoiding sand in the house altogether. We were on a tight budget for that, so aesthetically we did what we could. I had grander plans for the hardware, but in the end the hot water and a nice shower head is all we really needed and it has not disappointed us.