While it’s not technically in a designer’s job description, a truly skilled one knows how to deliver hard truths. Kelly Berumen needed to do exactly that when a previous client brought her on to design his new home in Arcadia. What he had in mind was a modern farmhouse-style house—but Berumen managed to convince him otherwise. “I’ve worked with the homeowner before,” Berumen explains. “So I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want this style? Because I really feel like that’s been done so much.’”
Instead, she suggested that they try something a little more progressive, and architect Jim Blochberger was equally onboard. “We started out design-wise with the character of a more modern farmhouse,” says Blochberger, who collaborated with builder Brett Brimley. “Then, as we got into the aesthetics, we shifted a little bit toward cleaner lines. So I would call it a transitional ranch with a modern interior.”
The slate roof, stone exterior walls and creamy white stucco lean traditional, while larger bronze windows, dark trim and shorter eaves inject a sleek contemporary style. Berumen knew the client didn’t want the home’s interiors to be sterile or “extremely modern,” so she found clever ways to reach a happy medium. Certain details, like the wooden trusses and floor, bring the coziness of the modern farmhouse aesthetic but lend it a more refined touch via the use of rift white oak. Others, such as the 16-foot-wide steel fireplace and sculptural lighting fixtures, add that desired sophisticated and contemporary edge. “I wanted it to be a little different and an art form on its own,” Berumen explains of the lighting, which includes futuristic chandeliers and horse-hair sconces. The brass-and-black metals of the fixtures also tie into one of the home’s most consistent visual threads, carried through in furniture frames, bathroom faucets, window frames and cabinet hardware.
While the home’s color palette is mostly black and white, sporadic bursts of warmth come from neutral tones, such as camel and leather. Textures like alpaca keep the minimalist furnishings from being too stark, as do the many pieces of commissioned art that fill the home. “The client wanted every piece to be an original,” Berumen explains, pointing to pieces such as the abstract Jennifer Jones painting in the entry and the Kerry Vesper wood sculpture in the living room.
In the primary bathroom, black marble mosaic tile continues that artistic sensibility, while the black freestanding tub infuses the space with a little “glam,” as Berumen puts it. “It feels a little luxurious,” she says. “He’s a bachelor and we didn’t want to be too feminine, but we also didn’t want it to necessarily be overly masculine either.”
With his children now grown, the client wasn’t looking for a family house, but it had to be comfortable, livable and spacious. “He wanted it to be impressive, but not ostentatious,” Berumen says. “It needed to be a space where people felt they could sit down and hang out. But he also liked the idea of it being something conversation-worthy.”
Keeping that in mind, she encouraged the client to go beyond his comfort zone for the kitchen. And the end result shows just how convincing she was: sleek hardware on the Shaker-style cabinets, a steel riveted range hood that matches the fireplace, streamlined marble counters and discreet storage rather than traditional floating shelves. The bifold windows, which open out to the covered terrace, embrace the indoor-outdoor living ethos that anchored Blochberger’s architectural plans.
The home’s landscaping references its design. “We’re always trying to complement the architecture of the home,” says landscape architect Jeff Berghoff. “So we take visual cues and elements of the home to select materials for the garden.” For this project, that included limestone paving and a black granite water feature in the front of the home, with a sour orange hedge lining the property, and dwarf ollie, boxwood, iceberg rose, lavender and gardenias throughout.
The home nods to the success that comes from taking a few risks. “There’s a piece of my heart and soul in there and that’s because the client really allowed me to stretch a little—he allowed me space to design, which was great,” Berumen says. “It was hard to walk away from this project when it was done.”