Arched doorways, exposed beams and iron lanterns may be hallmarks of traditional Tuscan and Spanish Colonial-style homes, but the renovation of this Irvine, California, abode made way for a much more contemporary iteration of the classics. Designer Rachel Morrison reimagined the ornate 2000s-era residence with a brighter, more current feel thanks to such elements as cherry wood floors lightened to a medium tone, edgy artwork in smooth wall niches, and custom lanterns with updated lines to name just a few. The overall effect pays tribute to architectural tradition while providing a stunning backdrop for sculptural furnishings, bold lighting and modern, graphic wallcoverings.
“We wanted to give it a fresher, cheerier look that better matched the personality of our clients,” says Rachel, who served as the project’s senior designer under principal Denise Morrison. The residents, who were relatives of earlier clients of the firm, acknowledged—and appreciated—that the house was in excellent condition when they took ownership. “The shell of this home was fantastic to work with,” Rachel recalls.
To tackle some architectural updates, general contractors Tom Moore and Jake Lara came aboard. The refinished floors, simplified fire surrounds and coats of white paint brought the house a long way, notes Moore. And so did tearing out heavy built-ins and a wall that used to connect the kitchen with a family room. For improved visual appeal and function, the team reoriented and rearranged the kitchen. “We moved all of the appliances and the sink to another location, added more windows and created a new pantry space,” says Moore. “It was the biggest change and the most impactful one,” adds Rachel. Rift-cut white oak cabinetry with glass panels features arches that echo an existing motif throughout the house, while clean lines keep the aesthetic current.
The residence is organized around a central courtyard and includes both a front and rear loggia, as well as patios. So when it came to planning how rooms would be used within such an expansive space, Rachel gave especially careful consideration to function. To wit, the living room is designed around a baby grand piano, while the lower level’s lounge-like theater, with its playful fuchsia sofa, is the designated space for gathering to watch a movie.
The home’s newly streamlined interior architecture showcases the contemporary furnishings that its owners gravitated toward. “They had a fun style that leaned a little more unexpected, and we were all on board with that,” says Rachel. One case in point is the living room, where a deep, low-slung angular sectional in a beige hue—one of many custom, fine-tuned pieces by House of Morrison throughout the home—offsets the organic shapes of nesting leather-and-wood coffee tables that fit together like puzzle pieces. Meanwhile, the curvy piano echoes the room’s arches and other soft shapes. And, behind the sofa, an accent wall covered in a rust-colored cork wallpaper faces the fireplace and brings a touch of metallic glamour with its large-scale gold motif.
This subtle balance of curves and angles continues throughout the home. A stacked-wood coffee table in an undulating shape sits at the center of the family room, for instance, while a concrete freestanding tub in the primary bedroom’s bath contrasts with a rectilinear shower. And in the dining area, an airy, mobile-like chandelier hangs in delicate suspense over the straight lines of a wood-and-metal table.
“Lighting makes such an impact,” comments Rachel, whose fixture selections fold in another layer of artistry, be it through sleek lanterns or the eye-catching orbs of Apparatus’ Cloud pendant in the living room. Specific color choices within a jewel-inspired palette proved key as well. The homeowners love color, especially reds, yellows and greens. The designers decided to tone down the hues’ vibrance by choosing shades that were a bit greyed out or “muddied”—the kind you’d find in nature, explains Rachel. The result is a sophisticated mix of rust, ochre and moss green with “a nice grounding quality,” she says.
The residence now captures the taste of its residents, Rachel believes. “We always push our clients to make their home more individualized,” she explains—and these owners embraced that, and even took some risks. A perfect example is the dining room, whose lighting fixtures “landed a little more design-forward,” she notes. That’s what the family wanted. “ ‘We’ll smile every time we walk into that room!’ ” Rachel remembers them enthusiastically telling her. “And as a designer, that’s exactly what you want to hear.”