Once again, I have the distinct pleasure of walking you through a home that may as well have flown straight off my mood board and into my lap. It’s not every day you get to write about a dream home and for anyone who knows me and my style, it should come as no surprise that this is home of Kirsten Blazek, founder and creative director of A1000XBETTER. If you remember this home tour staged by AXB that I was head over heels for, you can probably guess I am a huge fan of them and everything they do. To say I am fangirling over featuring this home would be absolutely right, but what’s even more exciting is I got to pick Kirsten’s brain about her home, her inspiration, and her design processes. Of course I would never keep all that juicy knowledge to myself, so let’s get into it what makes this home so special:
Starting with the family room which underwent the biggest transformation (make sure to read until the end to see the very shocking before and after), you can see how every shape, color, and texture speaks to Kirsten’s impeccable eye for curating vintage and soulful homes so I had to ask how she does it:
Clearly, you have an eye for mixing patterns and textures. What’s your advice or mantra on mixing the two?
I think it is all about the balance of blending something bold with something quiet and finding that happy spot where there isn’t too much of anything and just enough to add that extra layer of interesting. If you have a bold pattern like a wallpaper then think about what will go with that, maybe it is just a solid or something with less pattern that matches the color story in the room. If the room is more quiet then bring in some pattern in the layering items like throw pillows and other textiles.
Can you tell us a little about the background of this home? When did you buy it? How long was the renovation process? What made you fall for it in the first place?
I bought the house with my ex partner. We bought the house right before Thanksgiving in 2017 but didn’t get access to the house until early Jan 2018. We had moved our family into temporary accommodation which was small and were in a big hurry to get out of it and into the house. We hired an experienced construction team, Bayside Builders, who had a large team and we were able to do a very large renovation in 5 months- including moving walls, re-working the floor plan, raising the ceiling in the family room, complete kitchen and all bathroom renovations, new plumbing, electric, etc. The reason I fell for the house was the untapped potential and the fact that it was in an amazing neighborhood (Linda Vista) with less than a block’s walk to the edge of the Arroyo overlooking the Rosebowl.
The open concept living/dining area looks like it might have been tough to layout with that corner fireplace! What was that process for you?
This room went under the largest transformation, the ceiling was flat, there was only a small opening into the kitchen adjacent to the fireplace and there was a 60s style corner bar . There was also an opening from the front bedroom (which was previously the dining room) into the kitchen. After looking in the attic we realized we could pitch the ceiling in there and that was a total game changer- we took the ceiling up to a height of 13ft and opened up the area completely between the fireplace and kitchen. Once the room was opened up then it became obvious that the fireplace area could be it’s own seating and that we would also have plenty room for a good sized dining table!
Amongst many other things in this space, the fireplace is simply stunning. I love how she went with a black finish instead of going for a neutral color that would have blended into the background so I wanted to know what sparked this decision.
What inspired your decision to paint the fireplace black?
I painted the brick the same color as the window trim so that it would tie in with them and then capped the mantle with a lovely white oak so it would offset the dark paint.
You have some really wonderful unexpected art moments (like the ship painting over the side table in the living room). But you also hung a few pieces of art over tile like in your kitchen and bathroom. How did you secure those? Was it an adhesive or a good ole screw?
I love to hang art at unexpected heights and in what would typically be seen as odd locations. I use art to fill gaps in the wall or in the lines between furniture! When it comes to art hanging I don’t like to follow too many rules, just what feels right to me. With the art on top of the tile we used 3M hanging strips and they hold really well.
HOT TIP: If you are renting or don’t want to drill a ton of holes into your walls (especially if you are planning a gallery wall) adhesive hanging strips are a great alternative and some can hold up to 16 pounds!
What were the challenges while designing the home?
Time!! We did the whole remodel in less than 5 months so time was my biggest challenge. At the time my business was focused on staging so I would work all day then spend the evenings catching up on what product the contractors needed to keep moving. I had to make very quick decisions and not second guess anything!
How would you describe the style of your home? Have your years of staging houses influenced your own style or are you similar to Emily where you of course have style preferences but like to stick to the style of the home’s architecture?
The style of the house when we bought it was a traditional California Mid Century Ranch with board and batten, brick and stucco exterior. I have always loved Ojai and my vision for the house was to bring the house up to date but to enhance it’s California ranch style. The architecture of a home always influences the choices I make because I do believe that if you fight too much with what the house innately is then it can be an odd pairing, I believe has a soul and essence and it is best to pay attention to that.
All of the vintage pieces you have are so so special and likely you spent many years sourcing them. If you could give people one tip for vintage shopping what would that be?
My big tip for collecting vintage is travel when you can and when you do, never pass a thrift shop, It is amazing what you can find in every little town in California!! Also don’t forget the Rosebowl and the PCC flea market, it is impossible to leave either venue without vintage treasure.
Rug via Mehraban
Don’t ask why, but I think this is my favorite room in the home. Maybe it’s the green bed frame that is totally unexpected yet works so well or the fact that this room is like the effortlessly cool person I want to be. Whatever it may be, this bedroom will remain on my mood board for life. Ah, but I digress…
I am dying over all of the amazing wallpaper moments. How did you decide which rooms to wallpaper?
I have a love affair with wallpaper, I love the added depth and character to a room. I started with the formal living room which was a large but awkward room with an off center fireplace and all the windows at the end of the room. I choose the Cole and Son Fornasetti cloud paper for in there because I wanted a black and white paper that had pattern and movement and was a statement but isn’t overwhelming. In my daughter’s room I decided on the cactus wallpaper (from Milton and King). In the front bedroom, I wanted to add some character but scaled it back by just doing one wall! (Lulu and Georgia, Sarah Sherman Samuel) and in the powder room I was lucky enough to have remnants of a House of Hackney paper that we had used on a job so I decided to use it in the smallest room which was the powder. It was kind of an organic process on deciding and I just added it over the 3 years we were in the house when I wanted to add a little extra moment to the room!
She’s so right. The wallpaper (especially large-scale wallpaper) adds so much depth and character to a room that it allows the rest of the decor to remain minimal.
See, the decor is simple but impactful which compliments the busyness of the wallpaper.
The principal bedroom is so dreamy and calming! Did the natural light come into play when you were choosing the paint color?
Yes for sure, the principal bedroom gets really beautiful light especially towards the end of the day and I wanted the bedroom to feel encompassing and warm, like a kiss from the sun. When I saw the new Kelly Wearstler collaboration with Farrow and Ball I decided that the Faded Terracota was perfect for the room. I also had warm toned art in there and knew it would highlight the tones in the art.
Do you have a philosophy of how to balance vintage and new pieces in a home? In your opinion how much vintage is too much before it actually feels dated instead of soulful?
I believe that vintage always should have a place in your home and brings a grounded element to the newer furniture. Like anything you don’t want to overdo anything so I like to use mainly new pieces for the big furniture items and then pop in key vintage items from different eras- I think blending vintage from different decades is the key to not making it too themed.
It’s also clear you love large scale wallpaper patterns (because they are awesome). Do you have a method of how to go bold with the pattern yet have it not feel overwhelming? i.e. how to pick colors, furniture pairings, etc.
I love black and white as a grounding color in all spaces and in the wallpaper I used this same theory, even if the pattern is large and potentially busy the black and white/ ivory provides a neutral backdrop for art and furniture in any color way. My daughter’s room was the most specific in color but I had selected Black Fox as the trim color for all the windows and new that even though it was bold it would make sense together.
Can you tell us about this fireplace? What made you go with a black finish here?
Black was one of my through colors throughout the house. I wanted black tile to compliment the wallpaper and as grounding moment in the room. Not to mention black is such a great color to anchor a space.
I love how you mixed up the light fixtures throughout the home. What was your strategy for making them cohesive yet different and special?
Thank you! I love to mix up lighting in all my designs, for me it is the jewelry on a room and it is a place that you can afford to take a little bit more a risk. I like to select modern and 70s inspired fixtures as a juxtaposition to my more electic southwestern and bohemian leanings.
Each room is so different but still maintains a similar style/feel. How did you plan out the designs for each room? Was it more one at a time or did you have an idea of what you wanted from each space?
Honestly I work very organically when designing a space, I listen to my gut of what feels right but something that is very important to me is a consistency in colors. I do think a lot about how colors make sense flowing from room to room and ultimately I use this as my guide. I will start in the most important spaces and let the colors and feel of the rooms flow from there. I love earth tones but my ex partner also had a very important piece of art that he inherited from his mother that was green based so I made sure to incorporate green into the formal living room because I knew it would hang there and then tie that in with pops of green in the family room since they were visible to each other.
Dali Poster (similar)
Those bulb sconces are the coolest! What kind of light do they give off or are they meant for a moody bathroom ambiance?
I bought them from a seller on Etsy and wasn’t sure how much light they would cast but I wanted the option to take a bath (a favorite pastime of mine) without bright overhead light. They ended up being kind of perfect and gave off a really nice soft light that wasn’t too dim.
Your studio is so impressive! Any little pieces of advice for anyone wanting to create a studio of their own (electrical needs, soundproofing, etc.)
My ex partner is a musician and Cinematographer and needed a place to play drums and also have his edit bay. So we took the California basement (that was previously open to the underside of the house) and moved the water heater to the exterior and transformed this space with cedar cladding into a full finished studio. We didn’t sound proof but I would advise when possible if you are creating a space for music in your home. The wood cladding did however help to absorb sound and softened the whole room!
What was the process of choosing your exterior color like? It’s such a big and expensive decision that our readers would definitely love to hear about.
I am a long time fan of Black Fox by Sherwin-Williams, it is a perfect dark but not black paint with a brown base that reads differently in different lights. Even though it is dark, it is not harsh and I love that about it. It is always hard making a decision on exterior paint because it is such a big expense but I knew I wanted the house to be dark. It was previously and off white color. We also had all the paint stripped off the board and batten on the front porch which revealed a beautiful and original redwood which we had sealed with a colorless sealer to not alter the color at all- it is one of my favorite things about the house.
Lastly, Do you have a favorite room?
My favorite room is the family room, it is the room where we spent the most amount of time and I loved the pitched ceiling in there and the tongue and groove we had installed which added a lot of depth and character. I am also very glad we opened up the space but the fireplace created a natural division between the kitchen and family room so that it wasn’t too open, I am really not a fan of spaces that are too open- you need the dividing elements to make furniture easier to place!
Now for our favorite part. The almost unbelievable before and afters:
Huge thanks to Kirsten for allowing us to feature her home and for allowing me to bug her with a million questions:). Now, meet me in the comments if you want to fangirl over her home with me.