When Carey Crosby bought a house in Stinson Beach, about an hour from San Francisco, she knew she was in for it. “There had been deferred maintenance all around,” she says. It had two kitchens, one in the main property and one in the adjoining apartment, and both clearly hadn’t been touched in decades.
A lower-level bedroom was illuminated by a pair of fluorescent lights best suited for a garage, making it seem like it was “clearly haunted,” Carey says. Burnt red siding was peeling from years of sun exposure, and plants were overgrown in dusty pockets of forgotten land. But Carey bought the place for its setting. There are only so many spots on the coast of California where you can still feel removed from it all. “It’s only 30 minutes from civilization, but the area still retains its friendly, rural personality,” she says.
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Besides, even if the home required a lot of work, Carey knew she could handle it with help from friends Andrew and Kerstin Fischer. They own Fischer Architecture, a firm that specializes in modernizing old homes for the present. What was more, Carey had partnered with them on four previous renovations. This particular home had been built sometime in the 1920s, and fixed up a couple of decades later. That midcentury influence was everywhere, from the all-over paneling to the choppy layout, and Carey wanted to find a way to keep the best parts while removing the rough ones. In other words, she and the Fischers were already on the same page.
“I loved how quirky and warm the house was,” Carey says. “It had a redwood interior, built-in seating around the fireplace, and a hole in the wall between the kitchen and living room. It was small, but had everything a person could want to be happy—not to mention, the 180-degree view of the town and ocean.”
She grew up going to a lake where distinctive, wood-laden cabins were the norm, and sought to evoke the same “lovely hospitality” her grandmother bestowed on her and other guests. The maze layout had to be adjusted, and the DIY electrical had to go, but Carey and Andrew agreed that much of the original footprint and its personality could stay. “This project was more about addition by subtraction, and finding the bones beneath the years of ad hoc alterations,” Andrew says.
They built one large primary suite on the lower level, and installed up-to-code stairs that connected it to the living area. A second bathroom was added in the hallway between the garage and the house, and its entire front was reimagined with new picture windows that peek at the Pacific. The kitchen got new cabinets and appliances, while the sunburnt siding was replaced with a navy shade. And as for the refreshed apartment, exterior stairs were made so that it could have its own private entrance.
“The mass of the buildings remained intact, and we didn’t make any outside additions other than the exterior stairs to the apartment,” Andrew continues. “We did alter the window and door openings to capture the views, and increase the connection with the gardens.”
As Andrew removed sheetrock from the ceiling in the living room, he discovered wood beams that matched the walls, and decided to keep them. He complemented the paneling—which was also saved in the kitchen and one of the bedrooms—with oversized barn doors that let light in. “They really open up the space,” Carey says. “Keeping the wood just seemed like the right thing to do. It spoke to the history of the house.”
When it was time to decorate, Carey mixed her collection of found objects from flea markets and Craigslist with family heirlooms, relying on blues and whites to complement her proximity to the ocean. And it goes to show that her eye for potential and Andrew’s knack for selective preservation paid off: The project started in 2015 and took about a year to finish, but it still has plenty of details that appeal to current trends. Mostly, though, the home is timeless. Who knows how long it’ll be before someone like Carey has to take another chance on it.
“I tend to select properties because I feel an emotional attachment to them,” Carey says. “I appreciate that Andrew brings a modern eye, and a great way of sorting out spaces to make them functional, comfortable, and attractive. He has never failed to turn my lumps of coal into diamonds.”
Shop it out:
Taj White Woven Leather Dining Chair with Arms
$549.00, Crate & Barrel
Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair
$725.00, Design Within Reach
Cross Leg Teak Round Dining Table
Wooden Sailship Model
HAY Blue & Off-White Frotte Stripe Hand Towel
Long Cushion in Kapok with Removable Cover
mr. Blow Wallpaper
$7.00, Abnormals Anonymous
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest