I have a picture of my great-grandfather from 1948, standing in front of the Lone Cypress along 17-Mile Drive. He was atop that craggy rock, the Pacific stretching out behind him—I think that's part of where the magic of Carmel started for me, a pull toward this old California town. As a child, I used to walk the streets and gaze at those storybook houses, and I'd imagine a real coziness and sense of welcome inside. I'd try to picture the families who lived behind the front doors. So when my husband, John, and I set out to find a weekend house for our own family, it's like there was a little cottage path—figuratively, at least—leading us right back to Carmel.
The house we found was built in 1914, pre-dating the so-called fairy-tale architecture that arose in the late 1920s, a style that was the brainchild of designer Hugh Comstock (think steep storybook gables, off-center doors, and deep eaves). But our cottage has many of Carmel's earlier hallmarks, such as old wooden ceiling beams, board-and-batten walls, and a roofline that's set in waves, mimicking the ocean. (The real waves, I can hear from the deck.) And there is this wonderful little wine cellar down a steep, narrow staircase, a discovery that has its own brand of kismet. John and I have a little boutique winery called Red Stitch that we own with two other families—call it a passion for wine that turned into a fun side venture. Even beyond the good fortune of this find, I can't help but think of Comstock's sense of whimsy with a mysterious little room like this. Maybe our house was ahead of its time.
3 of 15Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Get the Look: In the kitchen, the ceramic tiles have a linen-like texture beneath the gloss; the glass pendant lighting is from local shop Jan de Luz.
There was, of course, work to be done. This little weekend cottage, particularly in a place with such strong memories for my family, needed to be a spot where we could welcome everyone—family, friends, groups big and small—and we wanted that to start with the Christmas after we bought the house. The idea of updating it was always exciting to me.
4 of 15Photo: Courtesy of homeowners
Breakfast Nook Before
5 of 15Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Inviting Breakfast Nook
Get the Look: Micek hung a sea grass drum chandelier above the breakfast nook's zinc-topped table; the sea urchin art is by Natural Curiosities.
Back in 2008, I traded my career in bond sales for an organization business, which quickly and happily blossomed into a design business, so I did the sketches myself. (Nothing like an invitation to 30-plus family members for the holidays to help hurry along a renovation!) In just three months, we had gutted and redesigned the kitchen, converted the existing family room into another bedroom, added a breakfast nook, installed new hardwood floors in the main house, and turned a separate cottage into updated guest quarters. I also added lots of built-ins throughout—I always loved the idea of someone tucking into a window seat with a good book.
6 of 15Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Get the Look: The family spends most evenings on the deck, which is just off the kitchen and dining room. The furniture is from Restoration Hardware.
At night, John often fills the wagon with firewood, and I pack hot dogs and s'mores fixings for the kids, plus some wine and snacks for us. We hang out on the beach, play, or sometimes just watch the dolphins, then run the kids through the shower outside before bed. Then we'll sit out on the deck and listen to the sounds of the ocean. The weather here is pretty dreamy all the time.
7 of 15Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Getaway for Guests
Get the Look: Micek converted a former family room into a sunny blue-and-coral guest room. The window seat cushion and headboard are a chambray linen. The coral pillow fabric is by Victoria Hagan.
One of the other things I have always loved about Carmel is that I can stand anywhere in town and know exactly where I am. There's a distinct style here, but there's also an enchantment. I felt it when I was 17 and brought my friends here to the old Tradewinds Cottage—a quintessential Carmel guesthouse a block from the beach—to celebrate my birthday. And I feel it now when I open the door to welcome someone new, or when I see one of my kids curled up in a window seat with a book, cozy and warm.
The entry hall has natural light in spades. Painting the sage green paneling a creamy white instantly amplifies that light, helped along by the pastel palette (robin’s egg blue and coral). Another key to creating a stand-out entry is giving clutter plenty of places to hide. Here, Micek chose a four-drawer console and wicker baskets as stylish catch-alls, and flanked them with a pair of slipcovered side chairs for plopping down to lace up shoes on the way out the door.
The dining room had a lot going for it right from the jump: talk wainscoting, cute casement windows, and exposed overhead beams. But what it had in character, it lacked in color and energy (too many naturals can make a room feel anemic). So Noelle re-stained the dining table a pretty honey hue, swapped out wicker chairs for painted upholstered seating, and layered in a bit of soft texture with a light blue rug that syncs with the patterned wallpaper. The unsung hero? A coral runner down the center of the table that delivers just the right shot of lively color.
12 of 15Photo: Courtesy of Homeowners
Master Bedroom Before
13 of 15Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Blue-and-White Master Bedroom
Get the look: The bed and lamps are from Made Goods.
Micek anchored the far end of the master bedroom with a steel blue upholstered linen bed, then contrasted the near-neutral hue with a riot of turquoise. Striped Roman shades, a simple solid rug, and a beveled mirror over the bed are the finishing layers the original room lacked. And to turn an odd alcove by the bed into a functional use of space, Micek created built-in bookshelves for keeping books and family photos bedside.
A guest cottage was converted into a ultra-serene, ocean-inspired guest bedroom. Micek painted the walls a natural, sandy shade, repainted the beams an earthy taupe, then doubled down on the organic influences with a caned bed and coral artwork. Deep-sea blues give the room a distinct nautical character that, together with the natural hues and materials, wins in any beach house guest quarters.
15 of 15Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Liz Strong
Homeowner and designer Noelle Micek on the beach in Carmel with husband John, daughter Charlotte (5), and son Jack (3)