You’ll Want To RSVP ‘Yes’ To Dinner Parties At This California Gem


Facade of a house facing...

Red tile roofs lend a Spanish Colonial air to a home in Rancho Santa Fe. The homeowners tapped interior designers Kristine Renee and Deborah Costa to give the contemporary spaces personality while making them family-friendly.

Detail of room with green...

In the playroom, a rattan Serena & Lily chair with a vintage flair joins a Four Hands stool and Schumacher drapery fabric. Gallery Green by Sherwin-Williams coats the walls. Completing the setting is an old church pew on the patio the interior designers found at the Original Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas.

Covered outdoor room facing pool

The covered California room gives owners Katie and John Mardikian additional space to entertain or relax with their kids in front of the fire. Swivel chairs, a sofa and a coffee table, all by Sunset West, sit atop a jute rug from Jaipur Living.

Dining room with table, chairs...

In the dining room, Renee and Costa paired leather upholstered chairs and a bench, all by Organic Modernism, with an Oly table. “Here, the lower-scale furniture not only grounds your eye but brings intimacy to the space,” says Renee. The rug is from Jaipur Living.

Pantry with stools and dishwater

As food industry professionals, it stands to reason that one of the homeowners’ favorite amenities is the ample pantry. A striped wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries and new Emtek hardware bring an organic vibe, as do the rustic R. J. Imports stools and a vintage rug the homeowners bought on their honeymoon in India.

Main bedroom with bed, sofa,ottman...

At the foot of the Room & Board bed, dressed in a Pine Cone Hill coverlet and shams, is a Lee Industries sofa upholstered in durable Crypton fabric. Regina Andrew lamps rest on Oly nightstands. Commissioned from Jeffery R. Pugh, the painting depicts a favorite spot in Jackson Hole. The overhead lighting is by Arteriors.

Hallway with antique carpet and...

Renee and Costa replaced contemporary can lights in the hall with semi-flush lights from Visual Comfort & Co. With the wallpaper added in the niche and the couple’s artwork on the walls, the space feels like a gallery. The wood-and-leather bench is by Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture, and the vintage cabinet is from China.

John and Katie Mardikian have some serious food credentials between them. He built a career running restaurants in the Bay Area and has a beer garden in Oakland called Telegraph, and she ran (and was the pastry chef for) a wedding cake and dessert catering company. So, it’s no surprise that the kitchen in what would become their Rancho Santa Fe vacation house got some intense scrutiny when they first toured it. “When Katie and I have a dinner party, we cook,” says John. “We wanted a space that worked for that.”

The just-built California home offered a setting for convivial gatherings and room for their twins and two dogs to roam. Illuminated by large sliders and clerestory windows, the public spaces opened onto courtyards and a backyard with a pool. But despite their unobstructed views of the canyon, the high-ceilinged rooms needed some warmth and personality. “The house connects so well to the outdoors,” Katie explains, “but with all that indoor-outdoor living, we were aching for more coziness.”

To pull the spaces together, Katie and John called on interior designers Deborah Costa and Kristine Renee, who’d worked on their 1930s Tudor-style residence in Sacramento. Sizing up the new home’s layout, the mother-daughter duo saw an opportunity to inject it with much-needed character while putting a fresh spin on the couple’s existing furnishings. “The layout was great,” Renee explains. “But the interior was cold, and there was no variation in color. Katie and John are young and hip and like to travel, so bringing in materials that add texture and reflect their lifestyle was key.”

Since there were no walls to move, the interior designers focused on creating flexible furniture arrangements that would suit large parties and quiet family evenings. They took inspiration from boutique hotel lobbies and created low-slung furniture groups in the living room and an adjacent indoor-outdoor California room that bring intimacy to the airy spaces. “The idea was to position the furniture to take advantage of the open floor plan and make the space work for the way they live,” says Costa. “People can congregate and turn their chairs around and have a conversation.”

And while the cabinetry and bleached-oak floors were left unchanged, the designers replaced the existing contemporary chrome hardware with more earthy and organic materials. Similarly, they swapped can lights out for semi-flush and pendant lighting that combine bronze and other metals. For Renee and Costa, it was all about bringing interest to a home that Renee calls “a very clean slate.”

Throughout, the furnishings and artworks feel as if they were collected over time. Rugs the couple brought back from their honeymoon in India sit comfortably alongside antiques from John’s family, as well as new pieces that read vintage, like the wood-and-leather bench that accompanies their modern dining table. “Choosing surface materials that are easy to clean and durable was really important,” emphasizes Renee. “But Katie and John still wanted that cool factor and an easy-breezy lifestyle.” The solution was stain-resistant, kid-friendly fabrics that can stand up to heavy use. And rather than a traditional coffee table, the designers brought in an oversize ottoman that they upholstered in a flat-weave rug.

Echoing the colors seen in the distant hills, the palette for fabrics, upholstery and rugs combines cognac and taupe hues with blue-grays and greens. But there’s still room for the large-patterned chinoiserie Schumacher wallpaper covering a wall of the kids’ bedroom. “They’ve named the people in the wallpaper,” says Katie. “They’re their little friends.”

Then there’s the kitchen. “Being able to cook and host friends at the same time is really nice,” says John. “Our previous home had more of a galley-style kitchen.” Another bonus is the pantry, which holds storage and a second refrigerator and dishwasher. Says Katie, “We can keep the mess back there. It takes the pressure off having an open-plan kitchen.” 

One feature the couple hasn’t used yet is the window that opens from the bar to the front courtyard. “When we bought the house, I said, ‘We can pass out Champagne to our guests as they come in,’ ” says Katie with a laugh. “We haven’t done it yet, but I can see it happening one day.”