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By Amanda Eberstein | Photo: Interior photography by Tessa Neustadt | Portrait by Kimberly Genevieve | April 13, 2017
Newport-based Blackband Design transforms a traditional-style San Clemente home into a modern family-friendly space for entertaining.
Since launching their furniture showroom and interiors firm, Blackband Design, in 2003, husband-and-wife team Greg and Wendy Blackband have become known throughout Orange County for their unique combination of coastal elegance mixed with a vibrant worldly style. This makes sense, as Greg—who serves as the business manager—grew up in England, while Wendy—the creative vision—was raised on Newport Beach’s Balboa Island, where the couple resides with their children today. “We met when we were in Mexico, but he was living in London at the time,” Wendy recalls. “And then I lured him to California.” And although SoCal styles and trends have changed throughout the years—from the popular traditional Tuscan architecture of yore, for example, to today’s more sleek contemporary lines—the Blackbands have been able to evolve with the times, delivering their modern interpretation of seaside chic to a wide variety of clients.
It was this particular aesthetic that drew a stylish young family to call on Blackband Design for the renovation of their new home in San Clemente. Although the house itself was ideal for the couple and their three teenage daughters—a five-bedroom, 3,644-square-foot Spanish-style residence set within a gated surfing community with picturesque ocean views—the interiors needed some help. This was especially true for the ground floor, which featured an expansive open space consisting of the kitchen, dining room, living area and bar—all designed in a heavy-handed, Balinese-inspired style, with travertine tile floors, cherry cabinets, wood-paneled ceilings, stained glass windows and dark-green granite throughout. “It was quite a different vibe before we got our hands on it,” says Ashley Porter, who worked under Wendy as the project’s lead designer and manager. “It was a lot darker. We wanted to brighten and freshen it up and give it a modern Spanish feel.”
Porter and Wendy mapped out their plans—a full-service project that would include everything from the renovation construction to the interior design to sourcing new accessories and tableware—and immediately got to work. Although the downstairs bedroom area remained nearly the same, aside from a fresh white paint job and new wide-plank wood floors, the ground floor underwent a dramatic head-to-toe transformation. “They entertain a lot and have a lot of family over, and the house has this great open layout on the main level,” Porter says. “They really wanted to make this spectacular.” Blackband Design set out to create a home that reflected the laid-back style of the couple, with fabrics and furnishings done in a warm, colorful palette, contrasting the cool white walls, and a careful mix of antiques and new pieces, giving the space a collected, well-traveled vibe.
The wow-factor is immediately felt upon entering the house. Beyond the front door, a welcoming foyer leads to a sleek short staircase, highlighted with risers inlayed in blue-and-white Moroccan handstamped Carrera tile by Stone Impressions. “We loved the touch of bringing in the accent tile on the risers, which really gave it some personality and interest,” Porter says of the entryway, which also features a unique Palecek mirror made out of coconut shells, atop an antique console. “You can actually see upstairs when you walk in, and you have this immediate sense of: ‘Wow, this is a really interesting space.’”
Once inside, the eye is naturally drawn to a massive 14-foot-long bar inlaid with the same Moroccan-style tiles and topped with a deep, smoky azurite blue glass from Glass2 that served as the inspiration for the space’s entire design. “When we had originally started pulling together ideas, the glass was one of the first things we saw,” says Porter. “We fell in love and really built upon this color for the rest of the space.” Yet another tile was used for the backsplash in the wall—this time a split-faced Tundra Blue—giving the whole area a textural, layered feel. Finishing off the space are six custom-made wooden bar stools, finished with a light gray faux-suede material that is not only stylish, but also durable and stain-resistant.
Around the corner, the kitchen has also been masterfully reworked, with everything from the cabinets to the ceiling to the sizable island done in a crisp, clean white. “The whole idea here was to create a light, bright kitchen,” says Porter. “So we created a new custom island that was much larger and allowed for more seating and storage, and squared things off, giving it a modern edge.” The counters have been topped in chic white quartz, ideal for the family’s frequent entertaining. “We use a lot of quartz,” Wendy explains. “It’s kind of damage-proof, and it looks good, so, to me, it’s pretty timeless.” Rounding out the space are six minimalist kitchen stools by Classic Home.
Meanwhile, the living room has been reimagined as a cozy corner for relaxing, with white sofas from Restoration Hardware facing a working fireplace, done in Venetian plaster with a mantel made of reclaimed oak. It is here that one finds one of the home’s most striking new design elements—a vertical floor-to-ceiling slot filled with hundreds of handplaced logs. “This was a bit of an art thing, stacking them ever so perfectly,” Porter recalls. “It took hours!” The effect is unexpected yet sophisticated and serene. Pops of color add to the space in the form of custom pillows in bold fabrics and a massive indigo-and-white artwork from Natural Curiosities. There is also an impressive ladder bookshelf designed by Porter and Wendy specifically for this project, as well as a sumptuous green velvet chaise by Lee Industries. Upstairs, a tiny loft overlooks the whole lower level, decorated with stylish Palecek roped lounge chairs. “We wanted to create a space where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or take in the ocean views,” Porter explains.
These views can also be enjoyed from the dining area, which features dramatic custom zinc-backed host and hostess chairs flanking a table and chairs repurposed from the owners. “It’s a nice blend of colors, where not everything looks the same,” says Wendy. On the day of the installation, the team set the table with a lavish display featuring runners covered in greenery and candles and oceanic blue dinner plates from West Elm. “From a furnishings and accessories standpoint, this project took two to three days to install,” Wendy explains. And as for that moment when the owners walked in? “They cried. There were tears,” she says. “I’d say about 90 percent of our clients cry on the day they come in and see their homes for the first time.” It’s safe to say that these are all tears of joy.
RENOVATION AND INTERIOR DESIGN
Gold hand vase
Wall paint in Cool December
Azurite blue glass
Custom green velvet chaise
Set of six indigo prints and blue painting
Coco Ruffle mirror and Strings Attached lounge chairs
Moroccan hand-stamped Carrera tile
Dinner plates, brass silverware and napkin rings