How One Designer Transformed a Tired Surf Shack Into a Boho-Chic Beauty (In Less Than a Month!)
Tania Cassill of Huit interior design and boutique in Laguna Beach, California, loves a good challenge. So when James and Julia Hanna, the owners of this 100-plus-year-old oceanfront cottage, approached her in mid-June with the far-fetched request for a complete makeover in time for a Fourth of July party, she was quick to respond: "Game on."
While Cassill admits her canvas initially “seemed a little scary,” she saw loads of potential in the two-bedroom house on the famed Pacific Coast Highway. Aside from its stellar location on the bluffs overlooking the ocean, the 1,000-square-foot gem came with a large lot and charming shingled façade. The insides, too, were in decent—albeit aesthetically outdated—shape. So, armed with a “coastal casual” vision, plenty of white paint, and a whole lot of potted plants, Cassill swiftly transformed the historic hideaway into a light, bright California escape. Here’s how she pulled it off:
In Laguna Beach, where historical memory tends to be short, a century-plus-old house is rare. This one is included on the city's historic register and is therefore subject to the watchful eye of the California Coastal Commission, making sweeping renovations complicated—especially with such a quick turnaround. Cassill did, however, manage to replace the front door with a new Dutch door, adding another level of charm to the classic shingled exterior (a house original protected by preservation requirements).
The kitchen and its seating nook, which was part of a 1980s renovation that enclosed a former deck, is Cassill's favorite corner of the house. "We put a cushion in, and it's the coolest place to sit," the designer explains. "You're literally almost cantilevered over the ocean." Natural fibers and boho accessories in the space complement the rustic shingles. The Ilse Crawford-designed bamboo pendant light fixture and round Saarinen-inspired pedestal table are from Ikea.
The team made the modest kitchen itself "look overgrown with plants. We were channeling our inner Justina Blakeney," Cassill jokes.
With the original redwood board-and-batten wall and ceiling treatments, built-in shelving, and oak floors almost entirely intact, Cassill had some fantastic original historic materials to polish up. "It was all dark, but the wood looked good," she says. Woodwork was painted white throughout to brighten up the interior. The dining room plug-in pendant fixture from Cost Plus World Market brings a touch of boho inside.
In the living area opposite the dining table, Cassill chose a West Elm New Curvilinear Mid-Century plug-in sconce to illuminate a cozy casual mix of furnishings, including an Ikea sofa and eclectic textile pillows from Cassill's Huit boutique. Vintage oil paintings were sourced from local consignment shops. This home is all about "the coastal, casual, beach-y, surf-y vibes — and about [balancing] the high and low," Cassill says.
The corner work area in the small office, located near the entrance to the house, is compact but cozy thanks to a welcoming mix of art, accessories, and potted plants. Two images above the desk show the Amalfi Coast, a significant place to the homeowners, while other pieces are heirlooms from the owners’ family. The sleek, contemporary lines of the West Elm Slope leather dining chair make it well suited here to its purpose as a desk chair.
For the master bedroom, Cassill chose an upholstered linen bed frame from Restoration Hardware coupled with a reclaimed wood bench from her Huit boutique. The machine washable fringed rug by Lorena Canals adds additional texture to the space. Because of limited storage, a very small neighboring bedroom was turned into the master closet.
The master bedroom’s original built-in storage needed some cleaning up, as well as new drawer pulls. Thankfully, CB2 offered an affordable solution with the right look and perfect fit for this unit's specifications. In the opposite corner, Cassill nestled a wicker chair with a Franco Albini ottoman to create the perfect cozy reading nook. "I think every house should have something iconic," she says.