Summer is just around the corner and for many of us, that means planning a trip for a much-needed midyear work detox—these towns are French-girl approved—to feel the sun on our skin again and breathe in that healing salty air. But why wait for a vacation? Ashley Ausland, principal designer of Ausland Interior, helped her clients embrace the coastal life with her latest project in Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, California. When Ausland first walked through the 1900-square-foot home, it "had wonderful bones" with a smaller ranch-style appeal, but she quickly set to work on swapping that look for a modern traditional appeal with a Cali-cool vibe, and we're so glad she did.
"A few previous renovations had been done in the '80s," she said. "All the rooms were dated (not in a cute way) and segregated from each other. So we took the walls down, relocated the kitchen near the backyard, and created a large open living area for the young family of five to hang out." The house style is now coastal, timeless, bright, and family-friendly. To hear more about the home's major transformation (including the story behind that incredible white kitchen), the challenges, and best furniture buys along the way, scroll down and prepare for your jaw to hit the floor.
Marveling at this striking kitchen now, it's hard to believe it was anything but this glorious, but as Ausland explained, there were some major renovations before this perfection you see now was achieved.
"When I initially consulted with my clients, it was with the intention to remodel the two bathrooms. But before I left, I mentioned that I thought they should be spending the money in the kitchen," she explained. Well, this definitely got their wheels spinning, because several months later, demolition started and the home's living, kitchen, and dining areas were reconfigured.
"We added a pass-through window in the kitchen and a bifold door system to maximize California's indoor/ outdoor living too," she said. "We went through several rounds of kitchen layouts before we settled on the perfect one that created a balanced focal point for the now open space."
Given the cost of a major remodel like this, Ausland was cognisant of such a huge investment and wanted to make sure the interior design elements stand the test of time too. "Not only from a design sense but also from a wear-and-tear sense," she outlined. "We kept the major architectural elements very clean and classic. We layered in warmer elements through the wide plank wood floor. We applied wood wainscoting and ceiling details to create texture, and we layered in affordable, durable, and unique furnishings and accessories."
The budget was always the ultimate decision maker, but since Ausland's clients were "willing to roll with my unorthodox design approach" (that meant buying and sourcing items from estate sales, Craigslist, and Target), they were able to accomplish everything they wanted. "They were very trusting of me with my recommendations, and they listened to all of my advice," she said.
Ensuring budgets are met and kept is one of the key challenges an interior designer experiences on any project. For Ausland, it was one of the biggest. "I suppose it wasn't too big a deal, but working within a super-tight budget was a challenge," she said. "We would find a furniture piece we liked and then I would have to spend time sourcing something similar for a lower price." But perhaps the biggest personal challenge of all was starting this project with a newborn in tow. "I showed up to the initial walk through after demo with a two-week-old, but my clients are such good people they were cool with it," she tells us.
The practicality of the space was also a key theme when approaching the design, and in the end, it turned out to be Ausland's favorite thing about the space. "Each corner feels useful and inviting," she notes. "It feels comfortable and cool. They have three little kids, and the house is always full of neighborhood kids. We wanted to really make it look good but, more important, function well too!"
The overall theme of the interior was very similar to Ausland's style; a blend of coastal, classic, eclectic, and modern. "I love the timelessness of traditional elements, paired with the brightness of coastal design," she said. "Then mixing in one-of-a-kind pieces with textiles to create warmth and uniqueness. Combine this with the simplicity of beautiful architecture, and you create the perfect foundation to build on."
While the renovations made everything old look new again, Ausland said there was one existing piece the couple kept; the perfectly distressed leather chair in the family room. It adds a distinguished flair and textural touch to the Cali-cool look.
But when it comes to greatest finds, Ausland said it was hands down the kitchen nook table and four chairs. "I purchased them all at an amazing estate sale down the road for a total of $75," she said. "It is a Claud Bunyard Design for Nichols and Stone Co. It was in near perfect condition, came with two leaves, and the base was ideal for moving around a built-in bench seat. I knew it was exactly what they needed, and they trusted me. We had it freshly painted and it was, and still is, one of my favorite purchases. My client also sourced the leather sofa for free from her local neighborhood app, and I was totally impressed with her skills."
Decorating and renovating a house is a huge undertaking on its own, but combine that with a birth and you a recipe for busy town. "I was literally in labor with my third baby when I got the email from my client informing me that they were moving forward with the total remodel, and it was the best news," she explained. "For a moment it took my contraction pain away—maybe TMI, but very true story. My clients were a dream to work with, and they have since become my friends."