When a designer’s brief is to create a home that will easily accommodate some two dozen family members on a regular basis, ingenuity is a must. “We had to be as creative as we could be!” says designer Ashley Canty. Her clients were moving to the Bay Area from Chicago to be close to family, but the dwelling they chose—just a few minutes away from the whole clan—also meant downsizing in square footage. Key to the renovation was making smart use of every inch of the house and creating year-round outdoor living areas that work as effortlessly as the interiors.
“These clients wanted to make a fun, warm home that acts as a hub for the family,” Canty explains. Changes began with refreshing the exterior (painting the formerly gray house “a bright, crisp white” and adding brass elements for a contemporary look) but inside there was more to be done. “It was built in 2004 and had been renovated, but things were showing their age and it was time for a full remodel,” she says. With the help of engineer Ali Adib of ATA Engineering, who handled all of the architectural drawings, and builder Mark Vahdatpour, Canty added skylights, raised ceilings and reframed passageways. She also designed a new lower-level suite for guests, adding a gym and study area for the couple’s three children. There is also a wine room and stack-back glass doors that open the rear façade to the garden. But nowhere is Canty’s inventiveness on greater display than in the kitchen. “We flipped the original living room and kitchen so that we could make an indoor-outdoor pass through, or lunch counter, from the kitchen to the patio,” says the designer. She also created a custom vent hood over the wife-requested La Cornue range that accommodates the ceiling’s pitch and designed a pull-out table that seats 12. “It’s all hidden in the island,” she notes proudly. “It took a lot of engineering.”
Canty also took a clever approach to furnishing the home, outfitting most rooms with custom built-ins that made bulky case pieces redundant. And because this move west meant a big lifestyle change for the family, the owners were open to exploring new design ideas. “Their home in Chicago was more traditional, but here they were up for something new. The wife wasn’t scared of wallpaper patterns or color—so you see hues of deep marine blues, malachite, red jasper and clay throughout,” says the designer. “Wallpaper is a brilliant way to inject personality into rooms, so we used it where we could: bolder patterns in some spaces and more textural papers where we needed a simpler backdrop.” The kitchen’s black stone counters are another example of the wife’s willingness to take risks. “Friends tried to talk her out of it, pushing for white, but she went for it and she loves it,” says Canty. “It’s dramatic and glamorous.”
And while most of the furnishings are new, Canty did incorporate a few of the clients’ Windy City pieces, including their dining room table and a pair of twin beds that were repainted for their son’s bedroom. The children, at their parents’ urging, played a big role in the design of their rooms and sent wish lists to Canty. “It was asking a lot for the kids to uproot and leave all of their friends, so the clients wanted to make sure their rooms were special,” she says. The son’s room has a climbing net that spans the entire ceiling, one daughter has an interior swing and the other has a secret room. “Making sure the kids had exciting things was a priority,” says Canty. But she and her team, which included senior designer Marina Berko and junior designer Vicky Pangilinan, also indulged the couple, creating a plush new bedroom suite and a library with velvet-upholstered pieces for a cozy fireside retreat.
Outside, Canty continued the surprises with a backyard that includes a barbecue, multiple dining and sitting areas, and an outdoor television. There are heaters and a fire pit for warmth, and wisteria-covered pergolas for shade. A playhouse, a teepee and an extra-long bench for group photos dot the setting, but there is still plenty of lawn for soccer games. “We really maxed it out,” the designer says, recalling the evening her clients made her smile by calling to happily relate that they had fit 16 steaks on the grill.
Along with the renewed family ties, the new home has made the 2,127-mile move an easy one. As Canty says, “This house is a happy one that emanates timeless California style.”