Mashup Our Home: Episode 3

New Old World: Stately Flair meets the Breezy Mediterranean Sea

Marcus Meisler

Sacramento, Calif.

About the project

Working with the Debernardo Family was a blast! Not only because Mario and Jenny are both hilarious in their own right and the kind of people you want to have regular happy hours with, but because their design styles were so wildly different that when we first met them, even I was perplexed at how we could meld their tastes into a cohesive vision…but you know what they say, the harder the challenge, the greater the reward!

Mario is a first generation Italian American, who wanted to stay true to his roots and lean into a rich palette, with dark woods, lots of marble, and gold accents. He is a self-described lover of all things “fancy” and may or may not have referenced The Sopranos several times during our first meeting. Jenny, on the other hand, grew up in a hippie commune and her early-days bohemian lifestyle directly influenced her desire to have her new home be casual, airy, light and fun.

In our minds, (since lets be honest, we couldn’t put up lemon tiles as a kitchen backsplash and act like that would be an ok move for Jenny) at the heart of what Mario was conveying through our initial meetings - if we really distilled it all down -  was that he wanted his home to feel established and regal. So we chose to ground his style in one that has been around for centuries, Old World architecture. We’d accomplish this by leaning on materials that have been used throughout history  - stone, marble, wood, etc - and make sure to weave in intricate detail that showcase fine craftsmanship.

For Jenny’s juxtaposition, we wanted to move to something a bit closer to Old World Italy while still staying true to the coastal, breezy, “go with the flow” sensibility she was looking for. Luckily they’d gone on a trip to Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean Sea and both loved it, so we drew inspiration from the New World elements of that old coastal town for Jenny, by keeping the palette grounded in white and bringing in blues from the sea so that the home overall struck a bright, fresh tone.

Welcome to: New Old World.

This project entailed 1) gutting their original galley kitchen and opening up the space between their living room and dining room for better flow between all three areas ; 2) re-imagining their behemoth brick fireplace that sat squarely in the middle of their living spaces, then restyling the living and dining rooms that flank it; and 3) turning their enclosed patio into a flex space with room for guests and an office.

Here is the moodboard for our New Old World concept

And here is a breakdown of the spaces:
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  • True story, Jenny agreed to purchase their home sight unseen because she was away on business and therefore Mario did the walkthrough of their soon-to-be-home solo. So after they moved in, she realized that ½ of the kitchen appliances didn’t work properly. When we met them 4 years later, they were still using their oven as a filing cabinet. Needless to say, their small, dark kitchen was ready for a major transformation!
  • We tore down everything and worked with an engineer to put in the proper support needed to pull back all the nearby walls, since we wanted to create a room that felt very open and oriented towards the other main living spaces. We put in a massive structural beam across the entire span of the kitchen. Instead of recessing it into the ceiling, which was very costly, we chose to highlight the beam’s natural beauty by sanding it down, painting the hardware, and adding an oil finish to it.
  • We centered the whole kitchen around a massive eleven foot island, which would serve as the central hub of the home, with lots of seating, storage and clear sightlines straight to their backyard.
  • We used semi-custom cabinetry for this kitchen, since we wanted to mix paint grade and wooden cabinets together. Also, the island wasn’t a standard size - and if you’re looking to do prefab cabinetry, you need to stick to a pretty standard set of cabinet box sizing. We chose a mix of white and white oak cabinetry.
  • We focused our energy around four main wow moments in this kitchen: 1) a gorgeously marbled quartzite countertop for the island (to bring in some fancy Mario!), 2) a custom kitchen pendant that we commissioned by local artists, Echeri Ceramics, to bring in some Mediterranean blue hues.; 3) we added a white stone facade to the entire kicksplash of the island for texture and some understated regality. To instantly transport you to a small European town at first glance!; and 4) we splurged on oversized gold hardware to bring some weight and visual impact to the white cabinets.
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Living Room and Dining Room

  • This home’s living and dining areas were conjoined by a huge brick fireplace and glass hutch / bookcase that ran almost the entire length of each room in its pre-remodel state. It took up a lot of real estate yet wasn’t visually appealing in any strong sense. Removing it entirely was not an option due to budget and structural constraints, so we decided to make it a focal point instead.
  • We removed the hutch / bookcase (which sat closest to the kitchen) to create a walkway between rooms and to bring in more light. Then, in true New Old World fashion, we Venetian plastered the entire thing, covering the old bricks with a creamy white texture. On the living room side, we enhanced the mantel so that it extended the length of the fireplace, then tiled the bottom half with a strongly veined, marbled tile to ramp up the refinement.
  • On the dining room side of the fireplace, we turned their old unusable fireplace (there was one on each side!) into a dry bar. We drew inspiration from images of old 1950’s Italian bars, then created the Debarnardos a modern day version. We found an old cherry dining table on Craigslist, removed the legs, cut the top down to size and fit it in the opening as our bar’s base. Then, for that ribbed wood detail facade you often find in old bars, we used old leftover cherry flooring (literally, we have every weird thing you can imagine in our warehouse, so of course we had cherry flooring) and ripped it down to ½ strips to vertically apply them to the facade of our bar. Finally, we tiled the opening with calacatta marble subway tile, then loaded it up with booze so they’d be ready for a party at a moment’s notice.
  • For the living room furnishings, we found a bright teal striped rug that we then loaded with an assortment of European-esque furnishings. For above the couch, Kele made an all original gallery wall of a dozen or so prints, all filled with Kele’s art inspired by Cinque Terra.
  • For the dining room, we commissioned our woodworker, Thomas, to make us a one-of-a-kind dining room table complete with custom turned legs. We paired it with an awesome old vintage chandelier we found locally, then hung three large photography prints from Italy, and completed the room with the most fabulous vintage dining chairs (which I really wish I’d taken home with me).

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Flex Space

  • The first step to turning this enclosed patio into a guest room / hangout room / office, was to rip up all the broken old tile (blessings upon our intern Devin for spending a full day demo’ing that out for us, which was NOT an easy task), then also ripped out the old bar that took up half the room.
  • We removed the glass sliding interior door and installed a proper privacy door into the space, with a new landing pad into the room. We removed the exterior slider as well to create more wall space and give them a proper “room”.
  • We wanted the floor to really sparkle in here, so we covered the entire thing in this gorgeous, blue patterned cement tile from Zia Tile. We also painted the walls blue too, including all the baseboards, to create a room that was bright, fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. For furnishings, we put a daybed in the back of the room for guests, some bean bag chairs for the kiddos, and added a smaller desk for homework and Mario and Jenny’s sometimes work from home days!
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