{side project} Welcome to My Massive Mid-Century Modern Renovation

Two years ago, we bought a crazy 1960s house in the wine country near Santa Rosa. This only happened because it is literally next door to my parents’ house, and that kind of opportunity just doesn’t come along every day. In fact, the folks we bought the house from has built it themselves–meaning, with their own hands–in 1963 and lived in it until the present day. What an opportunity for an eclectic mid-century remodel project! It’s been habitable and nearly done for the better part of a year, but I finally got around to photographing and compiling the whole mess. Come on in and take a look!


In the master bedroom, there was a weird window behind the bed, some pretty ugly flowery wallpaper, and some odd choices vis a vis the closets and bathroom (no door on the loo, for example.)

We opted to close off the window behind the bed, and replace the faded flowery wallpaper with this retro pink and gold chevron wallpaper by Aphro Chic, that we bought through Graham & Brown. I love the lacy ceiling light fixture – an impulse purchase from an antique store in Petaluma. We got the art deco dresser set for peanuts at an antique show.

I wanted a cheap DIY solution to bring color and interest to the big, boring white wall in the bedroom so I did a little DIY picture frame project with floating shelves from Ikea and a few different hues of gold.

The master bathroom was similarly outdated and similarly flowery, and, for the space available, it was really small.

We took over an unnecessary closet to expand the size to fit double sinks, and get a closing, locking door on there.


This bathroom involved a tile splurge; we had coveted these handmade circular Italian ceramic tiles for a few years and since they were really expensive, decided to use them as a wide accent strip. (The floor and wall tiles were pretty cheap, so they evened out the overall cost a bit.) All the tiles were from Ceramic Tile Design.

My Dad custom-made the walnut sink table and we got some small his-and-hers capsule-shaped vessel sinks on top. Simple wall faucets, a Jonathan Adler sconce, and two mirrors (a lucky find at Ross) to fill out the vanity wall.


Yes, folks, this was the trophy room; when we first saw it there were at least 50 dead animals in this little tiny room. Wood paneling, short curtains, and an old-timey light fixture were not helping the look.

We were inspired to go with a palette of relaxing but inviting blues and browns for this room. The wood paneling came out and the room was painted a soft, steely blue.

Gray tweedy curtains from Ikea on the existing funky copper rod were a great match for the striking ceiling lamp we got in Syria. The pintuck cover from West Elm and retro-futuristic art complete the look.


This was being used as another guest bedroom, but we wanted it to be our son’s room. Non-descript curtains and another of those saloon lights were the defining features of this boxy room.

His room design was 100% inspired by the mid-century modern alphabet prints we commissioned from Etsy artist Jen Renninger. Here are the prints on display:

Taking color cues from the artwork, we painted the walls a neutral pale pistachio color with the window wall as an accent, in a deep brick red.

We turned an unused Danish modern dressing table into a changing table, and hung his scratch-off map (where he can chronicle world travels) above it.

There’s an extra twin bed for guests.

The fisherman’s style light fixture is from Lowe’s.


The guest bathroom was not the worst room in the house, but the flowery wallpaper was there again, and the whole thing was kind of dark and monotone. (I liked the beaded chandelier, but my better half was adamantly against keeping it.)

We tried to keep the bones of this room mostly intact, with some relatively minor changes. We kept the floor tile but cut down the dividing wall, took out the shower door, and put in a new bamboo vanity and countertop (from a remnant granite slab we got cheaply.) A Marimekko shower curtain and yellow art and towels add a pop of color.

Some accent hardware from Rejuvenation helps with the mid-mod feel.


The “before and after” of this is hard to convey, because we ended up taking out a wall… and then another wall… and then another… and then all the walls. Then we put a sparse number of walls back in judicious fashion. In short, the kitchen, living room, dining area, and sun room were pretty hemmed in and closed off from one another. They were covered in a thick cream carpet, conflicting flowered wallpaper, and some choice 1960s linoleum. While reasonably clean and cheery, they didn’t fit in with our open plan dreams. Here is a bevy of “before” pictures:

Also, these windows? Totally not making the most of the view and light there is to be had out there.

Alas, in its current state, the massive stone fireplace and wood paneling were a little overbearing. But we felt with some work we could maintain them as part of the design while not sacrificing style.

And the wood stove. Don’t even get me started on the wood stove! After much discussion, the whole thing came out, along with the brick surround, wood paneled walls, and again, the wallpaper.

This area also offered an oddly placed laundry room. That would also have to be moved.

After taking out all those walls, putting in hardwood floors, and letting some light in, what do you get? Something like this:

We opened the living/dining room wall up (onto the new, enlarged deck) with Nanawalls that push open fully to create indoor/outdoor space. We also had reclaimed red and white oak planks (they spent their former life as fence posts in Virginia) installed throughout for flooring.

At night, our (knock-off) Arc light makes pretty patterns while we relax in our (knock-off) Barcelona chairs. We inherited the comfy dark brown leather couch from generous friends and got the 19th century cart-turned-coffee-table from Stuff, an antique store in San Francisco.

The living and dining rooms are separate spaces that flow well. The dining table has casters and wheels on it, so it can be rolled through the doors and onto the deck in a moment’s notice if the weather and the mosquitoes are cooperative.

We got a huge pile of the bright orange dining chairs from Ikea for free; they are perfect because they stack easily and go indoors or outdoors.

Over the dining table hangs a flattened Sputnik-style fixture with different bulbs.

The kitchen design had an interesting genesis as well. Our friends happened to have these fabulous, mint condition 1957 turquoise GE appliances in their basement – a 42-inch stove and a fridge with pink interior and gold lazy susans inside. How could we resist? They became the centerpiece of the kitchen.


The mosaic mirror backsplash (from Ceramic Tile Design) was the only logical choice when dealing with appliances that bring this much sass into a room.

Of course, we added modern conveniences like these pull-out fruit and vegetable baskets, slightly blingy recycled Caesarstone countertops (to go with the mirror tile) and custom cross-grain oak cabinets from Kitchen Sync.

Again, my dad made the mixed-wood bar, and we got comfy silver stools from Chiasso. Recycled milk bottle lights from Droog, that we had taken out of our old kitchen and saved in the basement, got a new lease on life as cool bar lights.

The sun room area, just off the kitchen, is where we tend to gather for morning coffee or afternoon cocktails. We added French doors to the deck and windows all around. The round shag rug is Ikea, the chairs and lamp are from the Alameda Antiques Faire, and the couch is an old Danish modern deal I’ve had forever.

Again, we maintained just enough wood paneling as works in the space.

But hey, you can’t have a swinging 60s house without a stocked bar, right? This one is from Monument.

We fell in love with the Elitis wallpaper at a shop in Amsterdam but sourced it in the US at Urban Wallcovering. With the dark painting, it brings some weight to an otherwise over-bright space.


This bedroom didn’t actually exist in the previous house, so there are no “before” photos. When we reconfigured the kitchen, we were able to fit another good-sized bedroom in off the kitchen. Magic!

The inspiration here was coral and turquoise – I don’t know where that came from, but it stuck. We painted the walls a light dove gray, with an accent wall in bold coral.

We found these terrific USA travel posters really inexpensively on Fab. We framed 7 of them and hung them around the room.

The vintage typewriter is a big hit with kids! So fun to play with. And the “art” is just some cool postcards we picked up in Shanghai, in plastic frames from Target.

The mixed pattern bedding is a combination of Ikea and Target, and the light fixture is an Ikea one we had retired a few years back and saved.

The extra bathroom we added is without a doubt my favorite room in the house. I found this vintage wallpaper at a tiny thrift shop in Abbot Kinney and I was determined to use it. So the entire bathroom was designed around a 1970s vintage roll of wallpaper that cost me $40.

We found the light fixture, an East German ceramic concoction, in a little shop in Berlin, and had it mounted into the mirror with a silver bulb. I love how well it goes with the wallpaper!

I love the textured tile in the shower. It was discontinued so we got it for a deal.

The entryway was ho-hum and very… well… brown.

I was dead-set on keeping the yellow coke-bottle glass in the doors, but it was looking pretty pukey with the brown paint. A coat of bright white paint brought the glass out in all its glory. A couple of coordinating white light fixtures from Lowe’s and some stylish house numbers helped modernize the entryway so you’re no longer expecting Jan Brady to answer the door.

Now that the house is finished, we can sit on our big deck with friends and enjoy the view and the warm weather.

I have to say, it never gets old.

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13 Responses

  1. LOVE this > thank you for sharing. Your home away from home is so kickass and I love how you’ve combined treasures from travels and small stores with Target and IKEA so smoothly. You’re my design hero.

  2. Awesome. Love that Ross (the store) found its way into the mix. Where did the trophy heads go? I want them for my lodge!

    • Karen says:

      @Garrick yes, Ross (the store) has some good finds if you know how to use them JUDICIOUSLY. 😉 The previous owner let us keep 2 antelope. They are in our SF house, but we’re planning to put them back over the fireplace.

  3. camille says:

    This is GORGEOUS. I covet your entire house and also your view. Man.

  4. ivonne says:

    Wow! talk about an upgrade! Nicely done!

  5. Boomdog02 says:

    OMG, there is not a single thing that I don’t completely envy about your “new” house…but please tell me where oh where and how can I get the light fixture you have in the guest room…it’s amazing. I think you have a decorating talent .

    • Karen says:

      @Boomdog that is so nice of you to say! Sadly I bought that in Syria in 2009… no idea where you could source something similar these days. 🙁

  6. WendyLeigh says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed looking through your photos! I stumbled across your post by accident, and, zowie! The kitchen, the light fixtures, the decor accents, the view! Not sure what my fave is 🙂 Do you remember where you found the map (or possibly the Company who made it) on the wall in the children’s room? It’s so cool! Thanks for the visual treat 😀

  7. WendyLeigh says:

    Oh, super 🙂 thank you!