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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

5 tips for Transforming a Tract House Into a Custom Home

Written by Posted On Sunday, 11 June 2017 10:54

One of the most common questions asked of an interior designer, is whether it is possible to transform a tract home into a warm and cozy custom home? 

The answer, is yes. The notion of “cookie-cutter” style homes is prevalent across the country, and dates back to the 19th to 20th century when coal mining towns needed homes to be built in a hurry.  Today, it is a very popular request to have your home customized so that it matches your needs, your design style and is a reflection of your personality. 

Perhaps this is best explained by sharing an actual example with you.  Approached by a family living in a Carmel Valley (San Diego, CA) tract home, we took on the project of transforming this home into a custom one.

While the home required significant upgrades, the kitchen was the room that needed the most redesigning it into a one-of-a-kind space that it represented the homeowners and their style. For resale values, kitchens and bathrooms are the best place to spend your money on a home renovation.

Our homeowners wanted a unique custom kitchen with all the bells and whistles that reflected their South Asian heritage as well as their love for cooking. These worldly travelers wanted the kitchen to be a showpiece where friends and family could gather to enjoy the space and the extraordinary food that she loves to prepare.

Tip 1: Share your needs with your designer

By reflecting the client’s needs, we took a track home kitchen and turned it into a chef’s dream with a 48” gas range with eight burners, two dishwashers, double built-in pantries that showcase the owners spice collection and expansive windows that bring the outdoors inside.

Tip 2: Be open to all options

The homeowners requested that we incorporate their existing kitchen table into the new design, as they wanted that table to be the meeting place for meals and entertaining. To fulfill their wish, we created a smaller, furniture style island that is utilized as a buffet and storage unit. The island further accentuates the bold backsplash with hand-made arabesque tiles that were incorporated into the counter top of the island. The rich depth of colors on the island compliment the other colorful pieces in the room.

Tip 3: Incorporate your personality

This family’s’ love of color was integrated into the space with vibrant custom arabesque tiles. Cream cabinetry was used for most of the kitchen in conjunction with a soft blue cabinetry for the pantries and sink base.  To contrast the blue sink base we incorporated the client-selected fluted farmhouse sink. A darker blue was used for the furniture-style island and grand wall hood. The hood was flanked with a custom 6x6 deco tile mosaic that incorporates burgundy, cobalt blue, aqua, sand and cream into the space.

Tip 4: Functionality is key

The original kitchen had a walk-in pantry. However, the homeowner found it hard to view her things in the deep, narrow space. She stores all of her spices in glass jars and wanted them to be easily seen and accessible. So we removed the walk-in closet and created two wide, 24”deep pantries so that she could easily see what items she had. In between the pantries, we created additional storage with appliance garages with pocket doors. These spaces incorporate a charging station, and a functioning work/storage station that is the hub for this busy family.

Tip 5: Creating your homes statement pieces

Hand blown glass pendant lights hang above the unique island to allow the natural light to shine through and give an unobstructed view of the canyon. The furniture-style island has unique details that incorporate the backsplash tile onto the counter for that further ethnic reference. This one-of-a-kind piece gets rave reviews from all her guests.

Creating this space was incredibly fun and exciting, and the overall result was exactly what the client was hoping for.  Using these five tips, you will be more assured that you are able to customize a tract home into a custom home.

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Deborah Gordon

Deborah Gordon is an award-winning designer, with a full-service interior design firm specializing in residential kitchens, bathrooms, built-ins, home offices, home theaters and fireplace surrounds.  Deborah is based in San Diego, CA and her work has been featured in countless publications and award shows.
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