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This Colorful Cottage Will Put a Smile on Your Face

This Colorful Cottage Will Put a Smile on Your Face

Written by Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Bret Gum
Styling by Alison Kandler
and by Jickie Torres
and by Staci Dumoski

You already know that to turn a house into a comfortable home you need to make it fit your style and lifestyle, but you are probably less certain of how to make all the elements come together in the most effective personal and functional ways. That’s when an interior designer can be your friend—and in homeowner Joan Swartz’s case, the designer actually was one.

solid pink chair and floral decor
The double-wide armchair for two was found at a garage sale in lime green. Joan had it upholstered in her favorite cranberry color.

“We chose Santa Monica for the neighborhood and good public schools, and this house had enough bedrooms that even with a live‐in nanny and home office, I imagined we would never have to move again,” Joan explains. Although the house was two stories with six bedrooms, there was no real master suite, and it was in poor condition. It had also been remodeled with cheap finishes, such as aluminum sliding windows.

colorful floral rug with a coffee table and a white couch with colorful pillows
A centerpiece in the family room showcases Joan’s pitcher collection. She enjoys using pitchers to hold flowers and likes to give them away as gifts. Amateur art found at flea markets lines the wall.

“So we tore it down to the studs and reorganized the entire floor plan and front elevation to restore it to look and live like an original, traditional Cape Cod‐style house,” Joan says. “I was determined to use every inch of this house—and I did.”

Green sofa with paintings hung above it
The décor in the upstairs family Room illustrates how prints, patterns and art in the same space can be very different, but if they are in the same color value, they look good together. A king-size ottoman was added for comfort so people can put their feet up. A basket filled with yarn is a nod to Joan’s mother-in-law, who was a quilter, and it reminds her of a family history that continues.

About 12 years later, Joan met interior designer Alison Kandler, who helped her remodel a second time, to redesign the kitchen/family room, entry and powder room on the first floor.

“Another decade went by before we tackled the second story,” Joan says. “My sons were all out of the house by then, so we remodeled the master suit and kids’ bathroom, and cannibalized a couple of bedrooms to become my home office and an upstairs family room.”

floral bed sheets lay on top of a bed
The former aluminum windows were replaced with Craftsman-style wood casement windows that accurately reflect the time period in which the home was built.

A third remodel of the home included the attic area. Although the three remodels were done many years apart, Joan wanted them to look seamless. “I wanted to make it feel cohesive, like it was all done at the same time, even though it was a work in progress for 25 years,” she says.

colorful quilts lay on guest bed
In the guest bedroom, quilts add color and softness to the white walls and floor.The small quilt draped over the purchased checkered one was Joan’s mother-in-law’s from the 1950s, and is called Flower Garden. Joan’s son painted the framed pitcher in high school. A Sandy Kreyer lamp and a paint-by-number painting are also part of the décor.

Some of her favorite architectural details include sloped ceilings, dormers in the bedrooms, and niches that are very romantic and charming. “And a lot of windows—about 65 windows,” Joan says. “Windows on at least two sides of a room help to let light into a room at different times of the day. I love living so near the ocean for the constant ocean breeze and beautiful sunsets.”

Redecorating the Rooms

Through the years, Joan and Alison became business partners as well as close friends. Joan trusted Alison’s intuition and skills as an interior designer to achieve her desired décor. “You can’t collaborate well unless you feel comfortable with someone else having a better idea,” Joan says. “There’s an absence of competitive ego between us, so we work really well as a team.

wood floors and a white walled kitchen with splashes of color
Beadboard on the wall adds a charming architectural detail that makes the kitchen feel like it is in an old home, Joan says. On the counter is an old shaved-ice machine from Hawaii. A vignette of Joan’s Sandy Kreyer floral-pottery collection is also displayed. Small purple pendant lights were hung so as not to obscure the windows.

Alison is the keeper of the concept and helps me to balance all these beautiful colors without getting carried away.” Alison’s familiarity with Joan was a great asset in making decorating decisions. “Joan has a lot of personality; she’s very outgoing. She loves life and wanted her home to feel happy, warm and colorful,” she says.

purple colored kitchen bar with two white chairs
For informal Dining, a “c” shaped island was painted an eggplant color. Wicker chairs don’t block out the color of the island and provide a light, open feel to the space. The cabinet doors have a frosted glass finish for housing mismatched dishes. A window passthrough to the dining room was added for convenient serving.

On Joan’s request list was opening up the kitchen for entertaining, so Alison made some creative changes in design and functionality. “I opened it up by getting rid of the upper cabinets and rearranging the overall space,” Alison says. “We wanted to include an island with a stove on it, but the kitchen wasn’t quite big enough, so we created a C‐shaped island so Joan can stand on an angle to cook while seeing through to the family room and socializing with guests.”

plants held in colorful ceramic molds
The colorful ceramic molds on the wall were gifts from the Franklin Mint company. Wall niches display a house-shaped cookie jar, cookbooks and one of Joan’s favorite pitchers.

Alison had to find another creative solution for a column next to the refrigerator that couldn’t be moved, so she hid it behind laminated glass. She chose American cherry wood for the countertops, since Joan loves the warmth of wood. “The wood counter is a bit of maintenance, so we put a fresh coat of polyurethane on it every year,” Joan says. Since Alison knew Joan loves color, she painted the island in eggplant (plum) and the chairs in different colors.

Making a Splash in the Bath

colorful floral tiles in bathroom shower
Joan says she feels like she is showering in a flower garden, thanks to this colorful floral shower floor designed by an artist who was given her color and design requests. “he went the extra mile by adding details like butterflies,” she says.

“My favorite aspect of the project is the tiled shower floor in the master bathroom. It’s covered in a floral design,” Alison says. “An artist in Phoenix creates unusual tiles, so I gave him a color palette of purple and pink flowers, and I told him the kind of flowers I wanted to use.” Joan adores the floral shower floor. “I really like to bring the outdoors in. I feel like I’m showering in a flower garden,” she says.

purple and white colored gingham pattern floor in bathroom
The gingham pattern might look like it was painted, but the effect was actually produced with tiles. Mauve grout, rather than the traditional white, is responsible for making the transition appear seamless.

Another favorite is a guest bathroom that boasts a charming gingham purple floor. “Alison said to me, ‘When are we ever going to get to do a purple floor?’ So I trusted her and went with purple instead of green. It’s fabulous!” Joan says.

Adding a Personal Touch

An unexpected but enduring effect Alison has had on Joan was introducing her to the world of being a collector. “She didn’t have collections at the time, so we started going to flea markets, and she caught the bug.”

colorful dining room table and chairs with artwork
The chandelier is from Richard Mulligan’s store in Los Angeles. Joan asked him to customize it with the farm animals and number of lights she wanted.

Joan has amassed several collections that she enjoys displaying. “I love to buy amateur art and paint‐by‐number paintings at flea markets. I’m a quilter, so I display them as well as my needlepoints, Sandy Kreyer floral ceramics, pitchers, miniature teapots and antique Barbola mirrors from the early 20th century.”

purple bench with colorful vintage pillows
This bold purple bench, with its quilted cushion and vintage pillows, is a cheerful sight.

The architect and designer are both thrilled with the outcome. “We live in each other’s art,” Alison says. “You want the family to feel like they could never live anywhere else.” Joan says she is finally living in her dream home. “I feel like Cinderella. Every morning I wake up thinking how lucky I am to live here,” Joan says. “We have plenty of room to have friends stay with us and share our comfortable home. We are really blessed and grateful. It fits us like a glove!”

You can learn more about architect/homeowner Joan Swartz at Joan Swartz Design. To learn more about interior design Alison Kandler, visit Alison Kandler Interior Design.

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