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Design Ideas
California Cottage Renovation
Two worlds come together in this California cottage with a renewed color palette and personalized touches.
How do you combine traditional features with modern flair and bold color? This was the challenge presented to designer Jennifer Wallenstein of September Workshop. The homeowners of a Tarzana, California cottage were ready to freshen things up without starting from scratch. “The homeowner wanted the house to feel more approachable and of-the-moment, but she didn’t want... Keep Scrolling
Written by JESSIE YOUNT
Photography by BRET GUM
Styling by JICKIE TORRES


How do you combine traditional features with modern flair and bold color? This was the challenge presented to designer Jennifer Wallenstein of September Workshop. The homeowners of a Tarzana, California cottage were ready to freshen things up without starting from scratch.

Brick paved front walkway up to a green home with an open rounded black front door.
LOVE, TARZANA. The family of five lives on a beautiful property set back from the road. It’s a peaceful, enclosed space, perfect for entertaining and hosting—both indoors and outside.

“The homeowner wanted the house to feel more approachable and of-the-moment, but she didn’t want to tear it all down,” Jennifer explains. “It was a question of being strategic, while honoring the bones and preserving the character of the house.”

Brick walkway up to a California cottage through lush green garden and mature trees.
OUTDOOR PARADISE. Family and friends can follow the red brick road, which is surrounded by abundant flowers, shrubs and trees, to the entrance of the house.

The remodel was a balancing act that required an eye for detail and a willingness to embrace the unexpected. Every room demonstrates a thoughtful compromise, whether it is a traditional profile with updated fixtures, or modern furniture with classic materials and fabrics.

BLENDED PERFECTION

Creativity abounds in the home’s carefully recrafted kitchen. The design of the original cabinetry was preserved and refinished in a soft, warm shade of white. The cabinet outlines were painted in a taupe hue to pick up on the darker tones in the hardwood floor.

The remodel was a balancing act that required an eye for detail and a willingness to embrace the unexpected.

Wide shot of a living room in a California cottage with a floral barrel-back chair, sectional gray couch and a coffee table covered in Shibori fabric.
BALANCE IS KEY. To tone down the brightness of the kitchen, the homeowner opted for a darker aesthetic in the living room. But it’s not without its own flair. The modern-style, barrel-back chair was covered in a classic floral pattern, while the coffee table adopted a bold blue Shibori fabric.

Color was a huge consideration with the homeowner. Ultimately “we opted for a creamy white backsplash, as opposed to an icy white backsplash that you see a lot these days,” Jennifer says. “It created a seamless transition between the old and new elements.”

Shibori fabric covered coffee table topped with a gold tray and terra cotta pot filled with bright pink peonies.
PLAY WITH COLOR. Adding fresh florals and pops of color bring life to every room of this cottage.

BUILDING A BRIDGE

Every boundary was pushed in doing this modern rendition of the California cottage—that included the use of dramatic colors and wild patterns, especially in the living room. “The living room felt too neutral, and we wanted to balance the brightness of the kitchen with something a little moodier,” Jennifer says.

Custom made cabinet with muted glass panels topped with an ornate mirror mounted to the wall.
CUSTOMIZED COOL. “This custom-made cabinet has a French-antique vibe, but we added a modern touch with muted glass,” Jennifer says. The choice was functional too. The cabinet contains napkins and tablecloths for entertaining, so it’s easy for the homeowner to find what she’s looking for, and it doesn’t look too cluttered.

Every room demonstrates a thoughtful compromise, whether it is a traditional profile with updated fixtures, or modern furniture with classic materials and fabrics.

Modern side table made of walnut topped with a lamp and fresh greenery, next to a barrel-rolled floral chair and a gray couch.
NATURAL WARMTH. “This side table is modern, but the material is a beautiful walnut that can be used in more traditional settings,” Jennifer says. “It’s all about balance, so if we used a modern shape, we tried to make a compromise with the materials.”

The desk— painted a dark aqua—is the perfect example of a risk that makes its mark. Meanwhile, the rest of the California cottage living room pairs softer hues with pops of color in décor pillows and furnishings.

Custom made built-in desk and wrapping station in a bold shade of aqua.
DOUBLE THE FUN. This desk, which sits on the opposite side of the living room, was converted from a mossygreen color to a bright and bold shade of aqua. “The desk actually doubles as a gift-wrapping station, and it holds wrapping paper and supplies. It’s pretty wild,” Jennifer laughs.

LASTING IMPRESSIONS

Color played a pivotal role in the renovation, breathing new life into beloved spaces, such as the daughter’s bathroom and the new en suite bathroom, created especially for the homeowner’s mother-in-law, who visits often.

California cottage with bold exposed beams with a circular chandelier placed above green checkered armchairs.
GARDEN PARTY. While shopping with Jennifer, the homeowner fell in love with these green-checkered chairs. They function as the focal point of the garden-themed guestroom, and in fact, the color scheme was adjusted to accommodate the statement-piece chairs. The artwork—depicting a box of tulips—adds to the overall feeling of grace and elegance.

“We started with yellow and beige undertones and transitioned to a cooler palette of blues and greens. It was almost like a revolt in the other direction,” Jennifer laughs. “The homeowner took bold risks, and they paid off.”

Guest room with an iron daybed next to an ornate bedside table topped with a lamp.
AIRY & BRIGHT. The office was converted into a guestroom with a green-and-white color palette for the mother-in-law. “The space receives amazing natural light, so we really wanted to play up that angle,” Jennifer says.

“The homeowner was big on details and always looking for ways to infuse personality and life into the different spaces.”

Floral bedspread with a wooden bedside table beneath a round topped storage cabinet in a California cottage master bedroom.
PATTERN PLAY. Though few changes were made in the master bedroom, this cabinet next to the bed was wallpapered for extra flair. “The cabinet is quite incredible,” Jennifer says. “It goes back pretty deep, and the homeowner is an artist, so she uses it to store canvases.”
Powder bath with a bold blue vanity, surrounded by gold accents and floral wallpaper.
POWDER ROOM PERFECTION. The powder room was reimagined with a splash of color and a few key pieces of décor. The floral wallpaper, golden hardware and fixtures add a sense of both femininity and elegance.

Special Touches in a California Cottage

The homeowner surprised her daughter with the bathroom makeover. The glamorous touches, such as the velvet chair and rug—which resembles the facets of a diamond—were received well. “The California cottage homeowner was big on details and always looking for ways to infuse personality into the different spaces,” Jennifer adds.

Bathroom vanity area with a gold accented mirror, hanging chandelier and a bright blue velvet chair.
GLITZ & GLAM. This bathroom is unlike any other room in the house. Designed for the homeowner’s daughter, it’s opulent and divine. Touches of gold, a dangling chandelier reflect her individual style to a tee.
California cottage with a brightly lit large shower fully tiled in teal rectangle tiles with ornate flooring.
TEMPTING TILE. “We looked at a number of tile samples, and the dark teal was so obviously the front runner,” explains Jennifer. The color might have been hard to pull off in a small, dark bathroom, but with the amount of natural light that streams in on a daily basis, there was no question—teal it was.

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on A Seaside Renovation with an Antique Touch. 

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