From brown to vibrant: Del Sur residence sheds darkish inside, embraces the sunshine

The size was perfect. Such was the situation. The view from the back of the house and the terrace? Stunning open space with rolling green hills. The Del Sur house was exactly what this young French couple with two young boys could have hoped for – apart from the brown furnishings.

The floors were dark brown wood. So were all closets. The window coverings were also dark brown. And the tiles. And the countertops. Everything else was kept in beige tones.

The couple, who asked that their names not be used, left France for an adventure in California in 2011. He’s a software engineer, so they headed to San Francisco. She’s an event planner and has found work in the Bay Area. Ten years later his job took him to San Diego and by that time they had the two children. A 3 month old chocolate labrador recently joined the family.

The question the couple initially faced was whether to live on the coast, where the boys go to school, or inland, near the man’s office. After searching for homes, they found that they could get more bang for their buck inland and found a spacious, two story, 3,000 square foot home built in 2011 with four bedrooms and 4 ½ bathrooms.

The woman was drawn to the kitchen, large enough for cooking and entertaining. Husband loved the views of the hills beyond which also afforded privacy and the community’s many inviting paths for running and biking. It was just the right mood for both of them.

“When we visited the home, I thought I didn’t want to move,” the woman said. “But I felt so comfortable in this house and I could imagine living there.”

Even before it was renovated?

“My job is to be creative,” she explained. “You can visit an awful hotel and have a vision of turning the space into a spectacular event. So I’m used to seeing the potential.”

They bought the home in late 2021. The husband researched Yelp to find an interior designer and was impressed by the reviews for Blythe Interiors in San Diego. The couple hired the company, which assigned senior designer Janice Tran the project. The couple had discussed making some structural changes — like angling outdated hallway arches and removing bathroom walls that separated the main room from the toilet and shower — and found Tran, with her expertise in the area, to be a natural choice.

As Tran met the homeowners, she learned that their style is “young, fresh, clean lines, modern but homelike.” And with two young boys, everything in the house had to be “durable, easy to clean and easy to maintain.”

Tran said the couple “was a big part of the design process. We worked hard in the beginning to nail down their vision and once we got our concepts in place we started to choose the finishes for all the rooms.”

Tran selected and presented initial finishes such as tile and paint, and solicited feedback from the couple. Revisions would be made based on how they all envisioned each space and detail.

The couple moved into a rented apartment during the six-month renovation that began in January 2022. Tran said the scope of the project was to update all of the interior finishes and modernize the home as much as possible.

We ripped out all the floors and put in new (floors), ripped out the existing kitchen and installed new cabinets, counters, backsplashes, plumbing and appliances,” she said. “The arches in most areas of the house have been squared and opened up.”

Other elements of the project included rounding out the sweeping staircase on the ground floor, replacing the carpeting on the steps with white oak floors, and adding new iron handrails. All bathrooms have been refreshed with an overhaul of existing cabinetry and the addition of new countertops and accessories.

Originally, the couple wanted to create a French-style space by converting the ground floor’s spacious master bedroom with its stunning views into the dining room and using the smaller dining room area as a bedroom. That way, her guests would benefit from the view.

“In France, you put the bedroom where you don’t have a view, because we only go to sleep,” says the husband. “We don’t care about the view. We wanted the living room and dining room to have a view.”

But the cost of removing a structural wall in this area was prohibitive considering everything else was planned. Thus the bedroom retained the precious view, although the dining room is bright with natural light with an abundance of windows on two walls and overlooks a separate courtyard.

Dark hardwood floors gave way to French oak in a California Classics Bayonne finish. Gone is the beige wall color, replaced with a bright white, along with new baseboards and door panels. And Tran had numerous recessed lighting installed throughout the house.

In the great room, the wall has been updated with shelves, cabinets and a fireplace for a sleeker look. The original heavy hearth has been removed. The fireplace is now almost flush with the wall, surrounded by Arizona Tile’s Carbon Gray Satin Granite, with a slim piece of floating white oak as the mantel and a TV above.

The cabinets, shelves and interior have been stripped of the dark wood paneling. Now the two shelves in each recessed storage space, along with the closet doors, are a calming blue – Behr Ocean Swell Flat. For this room, as for the rest of the house, the couple brought their own furniture from their previous home.

The kitchen footprint remained the same, but the unsightly original island was lost. Instead, Tran designed a streamlined 172″ x 60″ work and dining area – with seating for up to 10 people on three sides – but packed with storage. To differentiate between the living room and the kitchen, the kitchen cabinets and adjoining butler’s pantry are finished in a darker blue. The island and countertops are Della Terra Quartz in Portofino by Arizona Tile. Tran had a Miele induction cooker and extractor hood installed in the counter opposite.

Behind those appliances and the glass-fronted kitchen cabinets is the wow factor of the space – a backsplash of white Hedron 4” x 5” 3D hexagonal tiles by Bedrosians. Another wow factor is a delightful Grohe Blue chilled and sparkling water filtration system supplied by Ferguson. The couple retained the previous owner’s dishwasher, refrigerator, and ovens.

The master bedroom features the couple’s original furniture and new carpet. They instead focused on creating a lighter, brighter, and more sophisticated bathroom. Like the rest of the house, the original closets had been dark and bulky. It also had an awkward lower vanity between the two sinks. Now the room is a clean black and white. The cabinets have been redesigned in white with matte black handles, and the vanity is gone. This wall and shower features a crisp white 16″ x 32″ Bedrosians tile reminiscent of the kitchen splashback. The flooring is 12″ x 24″ Chateau porcelain tile in a smoky slate-like finish, also by Bedrosians. Tran also used the tile in the shower niche.

At the opposite end of the bathroom, beneath a window overlooking the Del Sur open space, is a sexy 65-inch white Barclay Pilar bathtub with a floor-mounted Artos Opera bath filler.

Throughout the house, Tran focused on keeping the color palette in cool neutrals with lots of black detailing. And she found that most tile materials had a somewhat geometric shape with muted tones.

The family moved back into the home last summer and the couple are delighted with the updated design.

“It’s a very quiet house,” said the woman. “It’s quiet. It’s great to entertain people. You can have up to 12 kids running around, playing upstairs and having fun downstairs.”

Caron Golden is a freelance writer.

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