As a family evolves, so does their home – even a holiday home. When a Mexico City couple bought their 3,495-square-foot, three-bedroom, 3½-bath condo in the Muirlands area of La Jolla in 2010, their young family had very different needs than today. Now, with a teenage son and daughter, the couple could go for a more sophisticated, lighter look with plenty of lightweight fabrics.
To make this happen, the couple, who wished to remain anonymous, hired interior design firm South Harlow Interiors in collaboration with designer/project manager Katie Porter.
According to Porter, the project was originally intended to focus only on remodeling the kitchen and master bathroom. But the scope grew to also include the remodeling of all bathrooms, laundry rooms, fireplaces and furniture throughout. The project started in the fourth quarter of 2020 with construction beginning in early 2021.
“The interior was very dark,” Porter said. “The walls were originally a darker grey. The heart of the home – the kitchen – was tucked away. The style was very classically traditional.”
In fact, it was all pretty much the opposite of the wife’s taste.
“Her style can be described as earthy, organic, modern and inspired by the beaches of California,” said Porter. “She likes light and bright materials and soft sound textures.”
To manage the long-distance project, Porter and her colleagues were on site when the wife couldn’t be, sending her updates and videos of the work in progress. They considered family-friendly designs around teenage children and their friends.
“She really wanted to open up the space, eliminate walls and connect spaces as much as possible, to invite the possibility of family gatherings in the kitchen – spilling out into the family room – in both comfort and style,” noted South Harlow Interiors founder Erika Gervin. “The design was very strongly influenced by the coastal setting and high, yet relaxed, life in California.”
To that end, Porter said she went with lighter wood tones, natural stones like quartzite and limestone, and a lot of soft textures to give the space a very neutral, calming feel.
While there are floor-to-ceiling windows across one side of the apartment, the interior gradually darkened towards the home’s entrance. To add more natural light to flow into areas like the kitchen and dining room, which were themselves enclosed by four walls, the designers opened it all up. Although the walls were removed, the function of the rooms surrounding the dining room remained the same.
The dining room is now completely open. The long, wide entrance hall and the passage to the kitchen take up two sides, and the living room is on the third side. Removing the fourth side of the wall resulted in the dining room facing the kitchen. The former wall space is utilized as a bar, with cabinets in the bottom for storage on both the dining and kitchen sides, along with a Sub-Zero beverage center on the kitchen side. Two white, open shelves with wine glasses and a decanter sit above the beverage center.
Porter also opened what had been a small passage between the kitchen and family room. This not only let in light, but also allowed the kitchen table that holds the sink to be extended about 18 inches to create a table overhang on the family room side, where they placed four light oak and woven leather Greely stools from McGee and Co. .. Two Agnes pendants with plaster-white matte metal finish and gilded interior from Visual Comfort & Co. hangs over the counter.
The designers kept the kitchen’s original footprint, but replaced the old cabinetry with white oak from Classical Kitchens and added Leather Taj Mahal quartzite from Amazon Stones to the countertops. A long shelf was also installed across the stove side of the room, covering the hood. An Angie wall lamp from Mitzi Lighting was hung above the shelf on either side of the hood.
Porter dressed the island with cabinets painted with Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace high-gloss paint and surrounded it with white Haku Quartz from Arizona Tile. Apart from the Sub-Zero side-by-side fridge, the rest of the appliances are Bosch including an induction hob. South Harlow even outfitted the kitchen with accessories such as a black jug, cutting board, dishware and candlesticks from their South Harlow Home.
In the dining room, grounded by a Salina rug from Jaipur Living, sits a Lunas oval dining table in gold Guanacaste with seating for eight. Bryce dining chairs in Gibson Wheat, all from Four Hands, complete the table. Above is a large Utopia linear pendant from Visual Comfort.
In the common areas of the home, Porter had wide-plank Tableau Renoir wooden floors from Monarch Plank installed. The previously gray walls were painted white and the ceiling painted highly reflective white to add even more lightness to the space.
The family room may be large, but it’s a cozy retreat from the world, not only thanks to a fireplace, but also thanks to a huge and comfortable sectional Cloud sofa from RH filled with a selection of squooshy cushions in neutral colors and patterns from Linen + Cloth. The sofa rests on a 10-foot-by-14-foot custom 2000 Ribbon rug in White Truffle and made of wool and sisal from the Designers Resource Collection (DRC). In front of the sofa is an Alex round stool in white hemp. The designer found space for a small desk next to the sofa by the window: a Hammond Console in Distressed Minki from DRC is topped by a contemporary ivory crackling white ceramic table lamp from Arteriors. A teak tube Jude chair, also from DRC, provides seating for the desk.
Next to the family room and opposite the dining room is a slightly more formal living room with a balcony. It mirrors the family room thanks to another fireplace, double carpet and cream-white furniture. That includes the Italia slope-arm sofa from RH that the homeowner bought, which shares the same fabric as the family room. The sofa sits in front of a Meadow Grasscloth console table from CB2. The coffee table is a pair of kidney-shaped pieces with bleached Guanacaste veneer. Two armchairs that the client already owned were reupholstered by South Harlow Interiors in Arctic Oyster linen by Otis Textiles.
The main bedroom is next to the living room. The windows in all three rooms are dressed in Brussels Sandstone linen and viscose drapery from Covington. The couple kept their bed, but South Harlow Interiors added built-in white oak cabinets alongside the wall opposite the bed, with floating shelves above topped by Link sconces from Worley’s Lighting. On the floor is a 12-by-15-foot Idris rug from Loloi.
The attached bathroom is magical, the focal point being a large oval NativeStone freestanding bathtub from Native Trails, which sits on a teak base platform from Carib Teak that juts out from the wall. Behind the tub and leaning against the wall is a Bloak Ladder from Lostine with towels.
“We couldn’t move the drain to the tub because the unit was on the second floor and located within a slab,” Porter explained. “We came up with this fun idea of incorporating teak as a base platform to hide the plumbing. We’re really happy with how it turned out and fits the overall design of the bathroom.”
The two vanity units and floating shelves are in the same white oak as the kitchen and master bedroom with Cloe tiles in white variations from Bedrosians Tile & Stone on the vanity wall. Above the vanities are rectangular steel mirrors from Mirror Image and Nala pendants from Arteriors. The floor is Classic Limestone tiles ground in natural stone from Arizona Tile.
The project, which took nine months to complete, was ready for the family in the fall of 2021. Porter said the wife was “a blast to work with.”
“She was so sweet and very thoughtful about all the elements,” Porter said.
Caron Golden is a freelance writer.