Inside a 1920s Storybook Home’s Major Modern Redesign

A glimpse inside this historic home's modern revamp.

Photography by COLIN PRICE

Kate Davison’s 1920s storybook home is riddled with history. Situated in Oakland Hills, the classic home is rumored to have been featured in an issue of Architectural Digest in the 30s, and boasts an array of charming details including, stained-glass windows, rounded walkways, latched door handles, and moments of exposed brick. At 2,200 sq ft, the two-bedroom home’s historic architecture dictates an inviting aesthetic complemented by its many quirky details. Davison - who shares the home with husband Jesse and their mini dapple Dachshund, Marlowe - was infatuated at first glance. Her goal was to create a comfortable and livable space that was minimal yet modern, and still upheld the existing architectural qualities, which had initially drawn her to the space.  

We caught up with Davison to get the scoop on her redesign, and picked up a few helpful tips along the way. See for yourself!

Photography by COLIN PRICE

The existing white walls of the home made for the ideal, neutral backdrop for Davison to build on. A handful of cosmetic changes were made, to instill and lighter and brighter aesthetic. For the front door, a vibrant shade of cobalt blue transformed the entry, complementing the exposed brick surround of the exterior.

Photography by Colin Price

Photography by COLIN PRICE

What inspired the redesign?
The first night we slept in the house, we woke up feeling like we were in an Airbnb. There was just no way that this was our home! We had moved from a great one bedroom apartment in San Francisco and suddenly found ourselves in a sprawling, historic home in the hills, with a view! I really wanted to hang on to that "home away from home" sentiment, as there was something so charming about feeling like we were on a forever vacation. We would still be surrounded by familiar furnishings and our family heirlooms, we just needed to massage our aesthetic a little to blend in flawlessly with the new space. 

How would you describe your personal style?
I would say vernacular minimalist. Is that even a thing? Living in a small space, I really have to consider the function of anything I bring into my apartment and I adamantly believe in the saying "a place for everything and everything in it's place".

Custom Sofa Funky Furniture | Wool Shag Rug RugsUSA | Tartan Wool Blanket The Tartan Blanket Co | Vintage Grid Blanket Pendleton | Genna Throw Pillow Crate and Barre | Golden Gate Print Western Editions

Photography by COLIN PRICE
Photography by COLIN PRICE

What were some of the challenges you faced throughout the remodel?
We had a house with so much character and had to find a way to make our modern pieces work. I made some cosmetic changes to tone down a few of the more castle-esque features without compromising the historic look and feel. In the living room, we replaced the original caged light fixtures with new Schoolhouse Electric sconces. And elsewhere added new textures and layers, like the wool shag rug, a couple of new throw pillows and a tartan blanket straight from Scotland. A few paint brushes and a screwdriver were all that were needed to usher the home into the 21st century.

“A sweet neighbor recovered an old chair with grey fabric for me, which has really helped make the living room more neutral.”

Photography by COLIN PRICE

What is one thing you scrimped on when it came to the redesign? 
I scrimped on the floating credenza, which is hanging in the dining room. It was my first IKEA hack project and has tripled the amount of storage I have for stemware and barware. It has also become a space for me keep all of my work materials, as I now work from home.

Luckily we weren't really in need of a lot of furniture, but I did splurge on a new side chair from West Elm, as I felt we needed a taller side chair to even out the space in the living room.

Framed Watercolor Annie Clark | Besta Cabinet IKEA

Photography by COLIN PRICE

What was your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part has been knowing that I'm living in and building upon someone else's dreams. The detailed thought and effort that went into this house is incredible. And it's mine to honor while giving it an updated and modern feeling.

How would you describe the overall aesthetic of the home?
I really love having friends and family try and describe our place, "Is it Tudor? Spanish Revival?" The best I've heard so far is "Eclectic European." Whatever other people call it, it's just "home" to us.

Photography by COLIN PRICE
Photography by COLIN PRICE

What is one thing you learned from this project?
Patience. Our home, in all it’s glory, is due for some major structural renovations. And instead of dwelling on the larger, more expensive things, I've focused on smaller things, like the decor, that can make a big difference for now.

Olin Rug Crate and Barrel | Wishbone Chairs Craigslist | Round Pedestal Table Craigslist

Photography by COLIN PRICE

“I didn’t want the decor to really compete with the architecture, so I have kept the decorative elements to a minimum. I have hung a few small picture galleries, one in the living room and one in the master bedroom.”

Jacquard Leaf Duvet in Onyx West Elm | Grid Pillowcases Urban Outfitter | Grid Throw Pillows West Elm

Photography by COLIN PRICE

What inspires you?
Daydreams. My hopes of travel, creative projects, and the future. Actually striving to make those dreams a reality is a daily inspiration to me.

Name three things that make you happy:
Fresh white flowers. Bleached sheets. Music. 

Photography by COLIN PRICE

An understated scheme of timeless grays and blues complete this serene guest bedroom.

Floor Lamp Amazon | Throw Pillows CB2

Photography by COLIN PRICE

“I painted the patio a light grey to help reflect more natural light into the first floor - the patio had previously been painted red, which would cast a pink hue in the living and dining rooms.”

Photography by COLIN PRICE

What is your favorite spot in the home?
My favorite spot by far is the patio, especially at sunset. Our house sits at the top of a little canyon, so we're treated to some incredible views. When it's warm—which really isn't that often in the Bay Area—you'll find us outside in rocking chairs, with a glass of wine, watching the sun go down.

Modern Rockers Lowe's

Published on January 10, 2017 - 5:00am EST

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