A Transformed 1955 Cinderblock California Ranch House Is Dreamy Inside and Out

A Transformed 1955 Cinderblock California Ranch House Is Dreamy Inside and Out

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Name: Glenn and Nicole Wright, our two daughters (8 & 10). And the farmly: 1 dog, 3 cats, 1 horse, 3 goats, 2 ducks, 20 chickens, 2 pigs, 3 squirrels, 1 sulcata tortoise, 1 Pineapple conure, and a fish
Location: Penn Valley, California
Size: 2300 square feet
Type of Home: House
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

Four years ago, it took me halfway down a long dirt driveway to realize I was home. My husband and I had been on the hunt for a home we could make our own, raise our girls, and maybe get a few animals. What we found was a 1955 cinderblock ranch house on 5.6 acres that had a year-round creek, bridge entry to the house, and a barn and pastures just calling for some farm animals.

The house itself was original to the 1950s with wood panel walls, linoleum floors, and aluminum windows, but it also had wide open spaces and a ton of potential. The day we got the keys I wasted no time jumping into projects to personalize the house to fit my style and our family’s needs. For the past four years we have tackled one room at a time with custom builds, crazy ideas, and vintage finds. The only projects we hired out for were electrical and plumbing, other than that I have touched every inch of this house with the help of my husband.

What sold us on this house was not the house itself; as you drive up the driveway you cross an old wood bridge over a creek in the front yard! I instantly thought of all the amazing memories we could make with our girls watching them grow up in a home that allows them to get outside and have fun while also learning about the responsibilities of caring for animals.

I have been a creator of things since a very young age and love any opportunity to come up with a wild idea followed by the ability to make it happen. I have dabbled in many areas of design, including jewelry design, retail design, and event design, but my journey led me to be a part of an amazing product design team for HoneyBook. I became a user experience researcher six years ago and love that I have the opportunity to help design a tool that allows creative entrepreneurs to manage their entire business seamlessly.

That being said, my home is my creative outlet that allows me to get my hands dirty, play with tools, learn new skills, and share ideas with others. I love, love, love building things and have always prided myself on the fact that my tool collection is larger than most of the men I know and that I can essentially navigate any Home Depot with my eyes closed.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I have tried pinpointing this for quite some time but if I had to use one word, it would be eclectic. I love what I love and sometimes I don’t have a reason for why that is. I would say that 80 percent of the furniture and decor in my house is either thrifted or I have built them from thrifted items. Thrifted pieces have stories: there are the original stories which I may or may not know, and then the story of how I acquired them. I am drawn to color even when I try to stay neutral. I am a sucker for anything green or rust. Also, there is no such thing as too many plants!

Inspiration: I often find inspiration from the pieces I bring into my house. I typically start a project with a general idea, but from the initial plan to the final reveal there are always changes, depending on the materials I find or a special antique element. Our dining room is a great example of this; it wasn’t until I found a vintage phone booth in the perfect green that I was able to really make a plan for the space. The table is the only piece in the dining room that did not come from a thrift store or estate sale, and that’s because I made it. The best part about allowing the pieces to be the inspiration is you never know how it’s going to end up until you’re done because you find the pieces all at different times to then bring them together in one space.

Favorite Element: The best part of our home is that I really have two different worlds to design in. Not only have I been able to design special spaces inside our home, I have had the opportunity to create some magical spaces outside. Being that I have not traveled in the last year and worked from home a majority of that time, it was important to me to have places outside to entertain the girls and spend time with family and friends. I designed and built two areas along our creek to achieve this. We started with a beach area to hang out, watch the girls swim, and catch crawdads in the creek. We also just finished a campground area that includes a 16’ tent for family campouts and that doubles as a place for family and friends to come stay when they visit us.

My favorite element inside our house is the kitchen, which I am nearing the finish line for what has been a two year remodel project. The kitchen is HUGE as it was essentially a wide open space when we started. I built an 11’ island before removing all of the original cabinets and putting in new ones with custom fronts I painted myself. The kitchen is really the heart of the house and I am thrilled with how it has all come together even though it has been a very long process.

Biggest Challenge: Our entire house is made of cinder block. Mind you we live in California so this is not at all common and definitely adds an element of challenge. Anytime we go to do electrical work it is always a question of where they ran the electrical originally. We are also in the process of doing all new windows and doors and because the house is cinderblock we have to work within the openings we have and are not able to trim out anything on the outside. The good side of cinder block though is that it is a more fire-safe material, which is very top of mind for us since we are in a high fire zone in Northern California.

Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY is really my entire living room. I spent several weeks last fall redoing our entire living room, which included building custom desks for my girls, built-ins to hide our litter box and dog food, retiling our fireplace, and installing new flooring throughout. I learned so much through the various projects in that space and gained so much confidence.

Biggest Indulgence: I am a huge thrifter and I love a good deal, but I did just recently splurge on one thing that I have been waiting two years for. Our countertops! Our kitchen island is massive slabs of pine, which I love for the natural element it brings to the room. When I did the original design for the space I planned for quartz countertops, but when I walked into the showroom I was surrounded by stunning natural stones and made the decision to get Mount Blanc Quartzite counters for the coffee bar and cabinets along the main wall. They definitely cost a bit more but I could not be happier with them. They have these natural veins and colors that lend so well to the rest of the house and I love that they are truly unique to my house.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Everything I build or design for our home must be animal- and kid-friendly. Our bathroom often doubles as a vet clinic and there are times I have left a door open only to find chickens eating out of the dog food bowl. I keep these things in mind when choosing elements for the house, such as flooring. We recently redid all of our floors and chose to go with a luxury vinyl floor that is not only durable but waterproof. I want a home that is both well designed and comfortable for our lifestyle.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I don’t often buy new furniture but I recently discovered CleverMade and they have the best folding tamarack chairs. I love the design of them and not only are they comfortable but they fold up making it easy for me to move around to different outdoor spaces and to store in the winter months.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? My advice is to go into your design with an open mind; you may find an element during the process that changes the whole plan, go with it! If you have a ReStore near you visit it often. They are a treasure trove of secondhand building materials and supplies, so I often find things there I would never get from a thrift store or estate sale. You can find amazing deals on tile, furniture, and building supplies. Recently I picked up three boxes full of old parquet flooring for $30. I brought them home and took them apart to add to the back of our kitchen cabinets and the ends of our island. They are now a very special moment in our kitchen and it only cost me $30!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

The Dining Room is an Office and a Closet is a Woodshop in This Apartment

The Dining Room is an Office and a Closet is a Woodshop in This Apartment

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Name: Katie R. T. Giaimo (@kaytuc on TikTok), her partner, with Simon (an orange cat who makes many hilarious appearances on her TikTok) and Dolores (blind tortoiseshell cat)
Location: Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Size: 1200 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

Katie is a law student, research assistant, and an affable and gregarious TikToker, and she’s created a home that is as colorful, bold, and welcoming as her personality. By mixing modern furniture designs with classic wallpaper, unique art, and vintage artifacts, she designed a malleable space that feels lived-in, yet where she can experiment with decor. She also owns a small antique business, Heikkinen Rose, named after her grandmother Helvi Heikkinen, and never (or rarely) buys anything retail. She’s either DIY-ing or buying secondhand from local thrift shops, garage sales, and estate sales, always adding to her collection of fun, eccentric finds.

“I actually found the apartment completely virtually — it was the height of early COVID caution and not a single apartment building allowed touring,” she explains. “I signed the lease before I was even allowed in the space and got very lucky that it was even better than I could have imagined. It’s set up to have enough space for the myriad of hobbies my partner and I have — I also run a small business and store a lot of antiques here.”

Whether you’re interested in more Simon content, antique store trips, or fashion advice, Katie’s TikTok is full of great vids that also feature her beautiful home as a backdrop.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Grandmillennial maximalism with a touch of Scandinavian minimalism, Dorothy Draper meets Eero Saarinen

Inspiration: Anything and everything. I don’t really go to interior design images to inspire me; I’ll look up ornate china patterns, browse the Met’s online collection, and look at lots of British country gardens. I like a malleable space that I can live in and experiment with — it’s taken over a year to decorate this apartment because I needed to see how I lived here, where I threw my clothes, the best way to organize the closet, if I ever really sat down for breakfast. I want my space to fit my life, not the other way around.

Favorite Element: The sunlight. It’s bright all the time, the windows are huge, and I love waking up to the glow.

Biggest Challenge: We had a small budget for decor, anything that could be got on the cheap needed to be. The only investments we made were in the couch, the bed frame, and a comfortable chair in the office. That’s basically the only stuff we paid over $250 for.

I also struggled so hard with the bathrooms; they’re both windowless and have no where to put towels, they drove me crazy, all dark and cold, like who would use all black and gray in windowless rooms?

Proudest DIY: I think the curtains and pillows in the bedroom (or just the bedroom in general). The dresser is customized IKEA, and I sewed the euro size pillows and curtains out of a print I fell in love with.

Biggest Indulgence: The couch, it was from Article, and I think it was worth it. It’s held up really well, comfortable, and a classic design.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Oh we have so many of these — we use the second bedroom as a main because I think it’s dumb to have the biggest room be one you just use to sleep instead of enjoy. We use the main bedroom closet as a woodshop, the main bath is storage and the cat’s own bathroom for their litter box. We don’t have a dining room, instead I have an open office space in the living room because I work from home so much. Everywhere antiques are tucked away, under the couch, in the kitchen cabinets, at the top of my closet, had to get creative!

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Wallpaper and art. I am a highly visual person and keeping a space bright and engaging makes me feel happier, more in control, and more creative.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I have severe ADHD, so I tend to let things accumulate in piles. Once every week or so I purge and move the pile a little futher from my living room, so I have to go dig for something if I need it. I figure out what stuff I do use as I bring it back, and the rest of the pile is either sorted and saved (if it’s like art supplies or electronic cords) or brought with me to donate on my next Goodwill run.

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Never (or rarely) buy retail. In limiting myself to either DIY-ing or buying secondhand from thrift shops, garage sales, and estate sales, I find my ideas about a space are much more focused. Am I buying this object because it’s cute, or am I buying it because I want that specific thing and I think it will work in my space? When I come back with random stuff after going to Target, it rarely works out as well as I thought it would in the store.

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

This Incredibly Cool and Colorful Chicago Condo is an Attack on Neutrals

This Incredibly Cool and Colorful Chicago Condo is an Attack on Neutrals

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Name: Anna and Richard, and two cats, Bob and Barbara
Location: Lincoln Square — Chicago, Illinois
Size: Unsure
Years lived in: 3 years, owned

“I couldn’t do minimalism if I tried,” confesses Anna, the incredibly cool purveyor of vintage fashion and home decor under the Instagram moniker Barbie Roadkill. “White and gray bore me to tears.” I first got a taste of Anna’s bold approach to interior design in her last house tour, an Irving Park apartment with a no-painting rule. “We were coming from an apartment where we weren’t allowed to paint the drab beige walls, so my initial approach to decorating our new condo was largely reactionary to that; an attack on neutrals,” she explains.

“When we moved in, all the walls were gray so the first thing we did was paint every single room a different pastel color (assigned somewhat at random),” Anna says. Thankfully, her husband Richard, who is an elementary school art teacher, is a fan of rainbow hues. “My goal was to pack as much color into each room as possible, while still allowing for some distinguishing characteristics from one room to the next. Like in the living room, where nearly all the decor is from the ’80s and abstract shapes and patterns are repeating elements.”

Built in 1922, Anna says their condo is the “perfect combination of new and old, with well-preserved vintage features and practical modern updates. I love the built-in hutch in the dining room, the fireplace, and the sunroom with windows on all sides. It has a lot of character but doesn’t feel too antique.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: “Golden Girls” meets Lydia’s house in “Beetlejuice” meets a box of crayons. Is that too much?

Inspiration: 1980s Miami during the peak of Art Deco revival. Blanche Devereaux’s bedroom is the ultimate inspiration! (Google it, you won’t be disappointed!)

Favorite Home Element: I love our sunroom, which is where all the plants live. It’s not the most practical use of space but it always cheers me up.

Biggest Challenge: Currently I’m struggling with the identity of the second bedroom (the pink room, which is also the TV room… and my closet.) It’s filled with all the rainbow, kitsch, and neon things we own. It’s garish (definition: obtrusively bright and showy—I just looked it up).  And yet I’m really happy in that space. Wherever I live, there’s always going to be at least one room that’s a little over the top with color.  I couldn’t do minimalism if I tried.  White and gray bore me to tears.

Proudest DIY: When I started sourcing vintage home decor, I would often find amazing lamps that were structurally sound but broken due to faulty wiring or missing pieces. At the beginning of the pandemic when we were in lockdown, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about how to rewire old lamps, and I started fixing my own. It’s become my favorite hobby! I haven’t electrocuted myself (yet?) and it’s very satisfying work. (I included a photo of a pair of iridescent salmon cascading wave lamps that I rewired.)

Biggest Indulgence: I recently drove to Michigan and back in a day for a vintage Charles Hollis Jones Lucite rocking chair I found on eBay (it’s in the living room). It was worth it.

What’s your best home secret or advice? If I’m looking for something in particular, say a gold floor lamp, I always search Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist before looking at a new furniture store. Vintage furniture has stood the test of time and won’t fall apart after a year like some of the mass-produced furniture I see today. I’m the same with clothes; I have T-shirts from the ’60s that are in better shape than those I purchased just a few years ago. The craftsmanship from decades past can’t be beat, and I feel good about supporting sustainable fashion and home decor from local thrift stores or unique designs from artists and creators, instead of spending much more money on items that are cheaply made.

What to people most get wrong about using color in their home? I think it’s a mistake to focus too much on color theory rather than on color combinations that bring us joy.  Granted, my approach to color can be haphazard and juvenile sometimes. (I was once told that I have the aesthetic of a kindergartner.) But I think a bold and fearless approach to color can be just as rewarding as achieving that perfect balance of muted tones.

What are the biggest tricks/secrets to using color in decor? I like to take a whole bunch of paint swatches from a paint shop, cut out my favorite ones, and mix and match them until I find combinations I like. I also include swatches for the colors of my furniture, so I can get an idea of how it will look all together.

Favorite wall paint color of all time: I love the light purple walls in our bedroom (Confetti by Behr). The hue changes color throughout the day depending on the amount of sunlight.  Sometimes I choose paint colors for their names. I mean, confetti?? Sold.

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

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A 100-Year-Old Spanish Revival NOLA Home Has the Dreamiest Tropical Backyard

A 100-Year-Old Spanish Revival NOLA Home Has the Dreamiest Tropical Backyard

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Name: Diogo DeLima, Michael Hahn, and their dog Trigger
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 2400 sf
Years lived in: 7 years; rented

Mellow Brazilian music is playing throughout Diogo and Michael’s New Orleans home on a sunny summer day. Open windows offer a view of live oaks, banana trees, and palms everywhere you turn. The verdant surroundings, along with house plants in every room, blur the lines between inside and out.

In a city where most people seek refuge from the heat inside of sealed, air-conditioned spaces, feeling a breeze inside a home—however slight—is a welcome change. Diogo, who was born in Brazil, explains that the windows were painted shut when he moved in seven years ago. Along with stripping the paint from the wood walls with a scraper and heat gun, he made all of the windows operable. “It would be a tragedy to have these beautiful windows without function,” he says. “To feel the heat brings you closer to nature; you’re accepting it.”

Before Diogo moved in, the 100-year-old Spanish Revival home looked like a frat house. There were couches everywhere, different colors on the walls in every room, and the yard was a wreck. “The owner didn’t love the house,” he says. “Nothing was taken care of. I saw potential, but the vibe just wasn’t right. There was contradictory energy between the things in the house and architecture.”

Diogo set out to give the neglected home the love and attention it deserves and seven years later, there’s an enchanting quality to the place. Friends come and go freely and have nicknamed the house “tropical seclusion”. “People here feel very at home and free,” Diogo says, “it reminds them of vacation places.” The lush, beautifully landscaped backyard is the perfect setting for parties. In fact, it was were Diogo and Michael first met in 2017. Michael attended a party with a mutual friend, then romance eventually led to marriage. “At least three other couples we are friends with have met right here in this yard,” Michael says with a smile. “The walls come down and people lose track of time when they are here,” he adds.

Michael, an engineer, is the perfect creative collaborator for Diogo, a choreographer and contemporary dancer. When they started living together, they decided that instead of buying furniture, they would invest in tools and build the things they needed. Together they have designed and built a platform bed, the frame for their sofa, and all of their outdoor furniture. They describe their method as focused, efficient, and fast. “Constantly working on a project is part of making a home. Once you’ve put a lot of hours into it,” Michael says, “it makes it feel like home. We’ve really enjoyed the process.”

The men describe their style as organic, eclectic, and masculine. The decor, they say, is a cohesive mix of their values. “To us, home is a sacred place. We pour good energy into it, design spaces intentionally, maintain it constantly, and fill it with friends, family and love—and, it works! The result is a space that gives back! It has a warm feeling that at once inspires and makes you feel welcome.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Inspiration: Places around the world that we have visited that have a feeling of home

Favorite Element: Natural light and plants. The Spanish Revival architecture features open spaces with lots of light. When plants are added, it creates a feeling of relaxation and of being outside while indoors.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for us was to honor the architecture of the home while making it unique and ours—we wanted our style to be elegant, yet relaxed—to create a place which is beautiful, but still feels like home and which feels immediately welcoming to everyone.

Proudest DIY: Hand-crafted furniture in our house: the platform couch, bed frame in master suite, and outdoor furniture.

Biggest Indulgence: PLANTS

Best Advice: Make your home your own—truly find the things that reflect who you are and which make you feel good—try new things and see how they fit! Let your home grow and change as you do.

What’s your best home secret? Brazilian hospitality goes a long way. Simple gestures like making coffee or offering fresh fruit help people feel welcome and at home.

Jacqueline Marque

Contributor

Jacqueline is a commercial and editorial photographer based in her beloved hometown of New Orleans. She spent 16 years working as a newspaper photojournalist in Newport, RI, before returning home. When she isn’t taking photos of her spirited 9-year-old, she’s busy beading her costume for next Mardi Gras.

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This Raleigh Ranch House Has a Hip Home Gym, Bold Backyard, and More

This Raleigh Ranch House Has a Hip Home Gym, Bold Backyard, and More

Name: Marie, daughter Zavia, son, Tayvonne, and youngest, Jakai. And two awesome dogs, Raleigh and Rocky.
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Size: 1750 square feet
Type of Home: Ranch house
Years lived in: 5 years, owned

When Marie, who works in finance, bought her home five years ago, it was in rough shape. [B]ut I fell in love with the bones, the backyard has this lovely creek in it, and I knew I could make it my oasis,” she explains. “I have redone almost every single room, the bathroom, and the kitchen, as well as finished the basement and added a cute patio with a cedar hot tub. I’ve done many of the home improvements myself to save money and I just love how perfect my home is for me and my family.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic, modern and layered with a global feel

Inspiration: I get inspiration from so many places, but mostly from when I travel. I see things differently and love to incorporate found objects from places I visit.

Favorite Element: My most favorite element is my African masks. I have an entire wall dedicated to them, and I call it my diaspora wall. When I see that wall in my home it just makes me happy and it gives me a connection to a land my ancestors were stolen from. It keeps me grounded.

Biggest Challenge: My budget. I swear I have expensive taste so I have needed to be more creative in what finishes I selected because I have had to basically renovate the entire home with my savings. So instead of marble — which I adore — in my kitchen, I went with quartz. Small changes like that really extended my ability to renovate the entire home.

Proudest DIY: My gym is my proudest DIY. I did everything myself. The hardest part was installing the wallpaper because it was the sticky kind, which is not as forgiving as traditional paper so that was a trial.

Biggest Indulgence: My cedar hot tub was my most expensive one-time purchase and it was totally worth it. It really gives me the natural tropical vibe I was looking for.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? My most favorite product is my Breville espresso machine because I am an avid coffee drinker and this just makes such amazing lattes that I have actually saved money.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I will say that because my home is small I have to be more intentional about what I bring into my home. I have started to do this thing where I have to take something out of my home if I bring something new in. It really makes a new purchase intentional.

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Art!! Buy the art. I truly believe that filling your home with art gives it its own personality and separates great homes from good.

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

Follow Adrienne