Calm, Cool & Collected

Photography by Stephanie Russo
living room design

When the homeowners of a 1932 classic brick home in Sacramento’s Land Park neighborhood reached out to interior designers Kristine Renee and Deborah Costa of Design Alchemy, they had two goals in mind: to revitalize a residence that had great underpinnings but outmoded interiors, and to incorporate their existing collection of art and furnishings into the design.

As remodels go, this one wasn’t a terribly heavy lift. There were no walls to knock down nor rooms to add on. The sizable kitchen and bathrooms (three, plus a powder room) all had good things going for them, including solid cabinetry. And the guts of the four-bedroom home were sound: There were none of the plumbing or electrical horror stories that often arise when remodeling an older building. Even so, the house was shouting out for an update.

office
The office has its drawbacks (it’s a narrow space with little room for furnishings) and its strengths (abundant natural light). The designers added more built-in cabinets, changed out the hardware and painted everything white, creating a cozy nook for reading or paying bills.

“We did what I would call a deep refresh,” says Renee. “We refinished the floors, added new window coverings everywhere, painted every surface and put in all new lighting everywhere. Changing out the lighting was huge because it added a lot of character to the space.”

Drab rooms came alive again with a new coat of paint, Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White. “The house originally was really dark, and the family wanted a really fresh, crisp, clean look,” explains Renee. “By whitening the space, it helped give the feeling of bringing the outside in because it emphasized the view from the windows.”

slip cover
The linen slip-covered chairs are larger than you’d expect in a dining nook, but they make for a comfortable place to enjoy a cup of coffee. The fanciful pendant is by Aerin Lauder.

Once they had a clean slate to work with, Renee and Costa went to work on incorporating the homeowners’ favorite possessions into the design, including rugs from a honeymoon trip to India and dining chairs that came from a San Francisco restaurant owned by the husband’s grandfather.

Renee and Costa avoid turning to Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration. “Instead, we try to understand our clients by seeing where they like to shop for their clothes, where they like to travel, what their family history is about,” Renee says.

kitchen
In the kitchen, the
designers painted existing cabinetry,
installed new window coverings and replaced light fixtures and faucet hardware to refresh the space.

In this case, it was about creatively marrying the old with the new. “They love antiques and are very traditional in that they collect family heirlooms,” says Renee. “We combined the elements from their collection with nearly all new furnishings to give it a curated and eclectic look.”

cabinet
An ornate Chinese cabinet makes a statement in the entryway. A new mirror and tile floors give a fresh look to the powder room.

The beauty of using a personal collection as a foundation for the decor is that the personality of the homeowners—not the designer—is what shines through. “When we leave a project, the home should reflect our client and their family,” explains Renee. “Our goal is to create a space that’s really cozy and for the home to feel like them.”

bench
Renee and Costa discovered this distinctive leather-and-wood bench at the High Point Market in North Carolina.

Interior Design: Design Alchemy