This vibrant, functional, and elevated family home was recently featured in print with CA Home+Design and online with House Beautiful! I’m still reeling a bit, but in classic Joy Street style, I can’t resist taking you even deeper behind the scenes to how this project all began. And it’s a start that may surprise you...
When we got the call, the family behind this 1920s Craftsman in the Trestle Glen neighborhood of Oakland was bursting at the seams. As an older home, the rooms were small and not at all functional for the demands of modern-day life. They were desperate to add more space, but they weren’t sure how to do it.
The Big Question
The big question that this entire project revolved around was this: Do we build an upstairs addition or do we DIG? Yes, I do mean dig! Option A was pretty straightforward. Take down a wall or two. Add another level with a few new rooms and open up the space. Option B required some creative problem-solving, digging out the entire basement — which was literally all dirt — to create taller and wider rooms.
If you’re thinking that an addition would be easier, you would be right. But we’re not called Easy Street, are we? Our job is to offer the best solutions and help our clients make the right decision for their goals and lifestyle. Then, easy or not, we make it happen.
In this family’s case, we drafted floor plan after floor plan to give our clients an idea of what we could do in each scenario. Before I tell you which option they picked, let’s look at some Before photos…
Downstairs, the home had an office, a “bedroom,” and a bathroom with a tiny laundry closet. These all felt cramped, dark, unfinished and not very usable. Our clients knew they could be getting so much more from their home. Plus, even though we were calling this downstairs, this space was actually above grade and could get tons of natural light with the right windows.
Based on the “bold” claims in the title of this project, I think you can guess which option they chose. Operation Dig-Out was a go! Time to burst through those walls...
Process: Digging Out an Entire Basement
Like most of our design projects, the biggest challenges almost always present the greatest opportunities. Yes, digging out the basement was a massive undertaking. The space was entirely dirt, and the construction team removed most of it by hand. You’re imagining that right. The hardworking team filled buckets and wheelbarrows with dirt and carted them off one by one.
On the flip side, the benefit of taking the hard route meant that we had total creative control. In most of our projects, we can only get creative within the confines of the space; the home is the dictator, and we work with it. With the basement dig out, we were in charge of creating the size and shape of the space! Hello, creative freedom.
It took 4 months and some pandemic delays (why not?), but we did it. We excavated almost 1,000 square feet of dirt, dug far enough to create rooms with 8ft. ceilings, and then laid the foundation and put up the walls. Whoever said interior design was just a pretty face?
Design Concept: Inspired by Family Memories
Alright, before I share the final designs, let’s talk about the design concept. As you know, we like to start every design with an inspiration piece. We don’t usually know what it will be in advance – a piece of art, a family keepsake, or something we find for you — but for this family it was a no-brainer. In fact, the client came in knowing what she wanted to use: a handmade quilt passed down from family.
Truthfully, I was a little dubious when she first said it, but once I saw it in person, I was ecstatic! It was a little faded with age (it has been in their family for years), but it was full of unique patterns, geometric shapes, and rich shades of plum, gold, and sky blue. Plus, I could see that it had deep meaning to the family. And we believe that a design inspired by love and meaning is the best one.
I think it’ll be clear how this quilt inspired the home when you see it. I’m going to fast-forward through all the time and energy spent ordering, managing deliveries (and more Covid delays), and bring us right to the final reveal...
After: Teal & Gold Family Room with a Built-in Aquarium
Welcome to the new family room. The home is full of color now, and this is especially true in this cozy space, where they can gather to watch TV, play games, and spend time together. It was inspired by the beautiful teal color pulled from the quilt, which we added to the walls, decor, and this great area rug. We balanced it out with the yellow sofa, brass accents in the decor, and a few pops of earthy red in the pillows and in the clients’ great artwork. Instead of dark and cramped, it now feels lively and joyful.
Speaking of lively, our clients have some aquatic life in the house and love taking care of the fish and feeling some movement and life in the room. We custom designed this built-in for housing their aquarium (with the actual guts of the aquarium hidden in the laundry room), in addition to adding the ever-elusive storage every family needs.
After: Fuchsia Laundry Room Designed for Fun Times
You got me — I can’t promise that laundry day will actually be enjoyable in here, but I’m willing to bet that it will be more exciting than it was before! These custom fuchsia cabinets make this space feel fresh and inviting, while the wallpaper, cabinet handles, and flooring have a cool conversation going on. (Tip: Small rooms like laundry rooms are great places for trying out a bold color or exciting wallpaper.)
After: Soothing & Bright Principal Bedroom
Our clients told us they wanted their dream bedroom and bathroom, and I think we delivered. The principal suite is so much larger than it was before, and it has fantastic natural light for what was formerly a basement. I know we designed it to be this way, but I’m still impressed with it!
You can see that we repeated the teal and gold palette here, but in a softer, more soothing way, with velvet pillows, a muted grey duvet, and light-toned shades and drapery. Same show-stopping palette, totally different effect.
After: Dream Bathroom with Steam Shower & River Rock
For our clients’ dream bathroom, we pulled out all the stops: river rock flooring, dual vanity, freestanding tub, more great lighting, and a steam shower...
The steam shower includes more river rock with a seamless entry, along with subway tiles, a shower nook, and a cozy bench for sweating out the day’s toxins in peace.
After: Boy’s Sunset-Inspired Bedroom
Their son’s bedroom was still a fairly small space, so the design solutions needed to be extra creative. We worked with our cabinet maker to craft this built-in bed with “upstairs” storage (and an amazing ladder), along with built-in shelving, a built-in nook with custom pillows, and a desk.
Pro Tip: The more saturated shade of orange used in the top storage section helps make the room feel taller. Gotta love design tricks.
Last but not least, toward the end of this project, our clients asked us if we could renovate the kitchen, too. I love it when our clients add on additional rooms to a project, because it means we have been doing a great job and we get to make more of the home feel cohesive. We said a resounding yes, and got to work...
Before: Decent Kitchen But Lacking Major Functionality
The mother of this family is an avid baker and canner. When we first started working together, she sent me a picture of her process, and there were cans everywhere! She’s a large batch kind of baker — her sourdough is AMAZE-balls! The kitchen itself… frustrating. The layout was difficult. The style wasn’t inspiring. And with the new spaces downstairs, the couple agreed that a vibrant kitchen could be life-changing.
We took the whole thing apart, reorganized it, and then redesigned it...
After: Vibrant Kitchen Designed for an At-Home Baker
Wow. Now, that’s a kitchen. The showstopper is easily the color and tile in this space. We used this large format tile (inspired by our clients’ quilt) and ran it all the way around the kitchen, including around the pantry. We added a waterfall countertop, this stunning magenta color, and dark yet intriguing bar-style seating.
Inside the cabinets, we added a ton of our clients’ essentials, such as a stand mixer that pops up, organized storage for utensils, and more goodies that make her days a breeze.
A mix of metals keeps this space interesting and balanced, from stainless steel appliances to a matte black faucet, to warm brass fixtures and hardware. A touch of oak on the range helps the new design blend in with the old flooring, which was in good enough shape to save.
P.S. If the space between the island and the range looks narrow, that’s because it is. In this kitchen, our biggest issue was maximizing every square inch of the space. By code, we have to have 3 ft. between an island and cabinets, but we typically do 3’6” or more to keep the space feeling open. However, this client was more concerned with storage and functionality, so they elected to keep it at the bare minimum. Plus, our at-home baker doesn’t want people walking around the island while she is in there anyway!
Understanding our clients and how they use the space is key to personalizing it for them, not for “the usual.”
Inside the pantry, we used our magenta color again for a splash of vibrancy whenever someone enters or walks by. It also keeps the design feeling beautifully cohesive and makes those stunning tiles really stand out. I’m pretty sure our client will be churning out a few extra batches… just to stay in her new, lively domain as long as possible.
Last but not least, we created this small but restful little nook for morning coffee or homework time well within Mama’s watchful eye… ;) We used a smaller scale version of the same triangular tile and added plenty of useful storage. This kitchen is a workhorse now!
That’s the end of today’s reveal, but I think you can agree that this was a HUGE project that turned out so above and beyond where it started. These clients were an absolute joy to work with, and we’re so happy that they get to enjoy this space for many years to come.
The icing on the cake is that this design was spearheaded by one of our Senior Designers, Ashley, and I couldn't be prouder… especially when the kitchen was featured in the press!
Until next time, if you need a design team who has your back, gets it done right, and will create a space inspired by you, you know what to do…