When a couple with two young children bought land in a quiet community of semi-custom homes in San Diego County, a house had been designed for the lot but not yet built. They saw this as an opportunity to finally create the home of their dreams, and to carry out their vision, they knew just whom to call. At their kids’ school, parents kept raving about designer Rebecca Robeson. “So when we bought this land,” the wife explains, “my husband said, ‘We’re going to hire Rebecca to design the whole house.’”
Robeson’s first steps involved scaling down some of the home’s cavernous spaces to create a sense of intimacy. “The entry had a 19-foot-tall ceiling, but it’s only a 10-foot-wide space,” says Robeson. “It felt really tall and skinny, so I dropped in a ceiling at 10 feet and created a library above that.” For the entry’s staircase, she designed a striking hand-forged iron railing that helps define the space with a sense of glamour.
Robeson didn’t stop there. Throughout the Colonial Revival-style structure, she added classic millwork elements, such as built-in cabinetry, wainscoting, coffered ceilings and generous baseboards and molding. “I wanted to make it more customized and personal,” she explains. “And I wanted it to be reminiscent of the East Coast with a Hamptons feeling, but be casual and comfortable for this West Coast family.” Before furnishing the home, Robeson met with the husband and interviewed the children about what they liked, and she took the wife on shopping trips to glean her aesthetic. “That allowed me to see her taste for color, shape and form,” says Robeson, who learned that the owners both had a penchant for clean lines. “They didn’t want a bunch of frilly embellishments or over-the-top swirly lines.” To accommodate their sensibility, Robeson stuck to solid fabrics with the occasional ikat pattern. In choosing furniture, she turned to “an eclectic mix of transitional pieces,” she says.
The homeowners love the soothing effect of gray, and for visual interest, Robeson added other neutrals. “The gray is mixed with white built-ins to make it pop and distressed walnut flooring in espresso for contrast,” says the designer, who hung custom horizontal striped drapery panels in the living room and placed captain’s chairs upholstered with a bold geometric pattern in the dining room. Robeson also custom-designed many pieces throughout, including a hand-carved four-poster in the master bedroom, and chose a varied range of accessories to suggest a collected-over-time feel.
As she dealt with aesthetics, Robeson didn’t overlook functionality. The designer turned an awkward narrow space into a multiuse family room by designing floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall built-in shelves, and she created a built-in with window seats and storage options for an eating nook off the kitchen. “Rebecca tailored everything for exactly how we live,” says the wife. In addition to the big-picture designs, Robeson was also thoughtful of the small details. The wife’s office doubles as a crafts room, so the designer put in a sink for washing paintbrushes. In the kitchen, if the couple’s young daughter pushes the baseboard, a platform step pops out, allowing her to hop up and use the microwave.
But Robeson did leave some things to chance. She wanted to surprise the family with the final decisions, and they were happy to take that leap of faith. “Rebecca didn’t tell us which fabrics or flooring she finally selected, and she had furniture custom-made, so we didn’t see it until the day we moved in,” the wife says. “It was risky, but we trusted her, and she just blew us away.”