Back To Midcentury. A Renovation in San Lucas, CA

Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation  - exterior

Initially, the San Lucas Residence project carried out by homeowner and designer Claudia Andrade-Desbiens, together with husband Michael Desbiens, sought to put the midcentury modern ranch back into the market. 

Untouched since the late 50s, the nearly 3,000 square foot home maintained a solid bone structure with the requisite for major restoration and interior styling. 

A year into their work on the home, the couple decided to move into the beautiful ranch, tucked away in California’s Arroyo Pescadero nature preserve. We caught up with Claudia Andrade-Desbiens to learn more about the developments behind this stunning midcentury ranch.

Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation  - exterior

Which part of a new project excites you the most? 

I think the part of this new project that excites us the most is the fact that we were able to carefully choose the materials that was not only appropriate to the architecture and the style of the house but also that pleased us. 

What are the emerging trends in residential architecture that will shape our way of living in the next ten years? 

Right off the bat, I would say outdoor living. I believe it will expand in popularity and more and more people are going to continue wanting to have a connection with nature so homes with an indoor/outdoor relationship are going to continue to be big. 

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Can you tell us a bit about the story of this house/project and its owners?

My husband Michael and I are huge midcentury aficionados. We had already restored a Hugh Kaptur-designed midcentury modern home in Palm Springs a few years back and were looking for another project. 

At the time, in Southern California, there were not too many modern architecture to choose from in our price point. Then, I came across this listing in an area that is about 12 miles southeast of Los Angeles. We put an offer and our offer was accepted. 

The property was pretty much in estate condition. It hasn’t been touched since the late 50s or early 60s and needed everything – it was a complete gut job – but we recognized that it had great bones. 

We bought it, and then spent close to a year fully restoring it with the intention to put it on the market. But at the same time, we had put the loft we had been living in for sale and were looking for a place to move in that was closer to L.A. and call it home. Since we really loved how the ranch restoration turned-out, we decided to move into our project. 

Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation  - living room
Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation - living room

What was your approach for the project? 

The approach was to do a full restoration  not a remodel! The previous owners had spent a lifetime there and had raised their children in the house. We wanted to be mindful of it and honor that as much as possible. 

Because of the previous owners advanced age, the house and the grounds had been completely neglected and had maintenance issues creeping in everywhere. We didn’t need or want to make any structural changes and instead focused in bringing it back to life. Our approach for the project was to be as faithful to the original design, style and original architecture as we possibly could. 

The styling of the living room is gorgeous and the plywood presents a nice contrast to the dark floor tiles and details such as the lamps – can you tell us more about the idea behind the living room and to which designers did you turn to for the interior decoration?

The house is a custom midcentury ranch and has a very open concept. The living room opens to the kitchen and unfortunately, the kitchen cabinets were simply not something we could have saved and reuse because they were very damaged and had mold. 

We had to gut the entire kitchen and I designed new custom cabinetry. I chose walnut wood for the kitchen and the panels have a beautiful wood grain. 

When it came time for decor and to styling the house, I wanted to make sure I would be able to display all the midcentury goodies I have been collecting for years. Michael and I wanted the home to look and feel comfortable, and reflect who we are and what we love, but not kitschy. 

Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation - living room
Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation - living room

Which is your favourite part of this house and why?

We love the sunken family room the most. It is truly our favorite part of the house because it’s spacious for just the two of us, the furniture is incredibly comfortable and it just feels very peaceful and cozy in there, especially during these cold winter nights! 

There’s nothing we love more than to come home after a long day of work and unwind in the family room spending quality time with each other enjoying the warmth in front of the fireplace with a good book, listening to Coltrane and sipping a glass of wine. 

What materials have you used and why? 

Being a working designer and understanding the elements of modernism and the importance of historic preservation, I was careful to be thoughtful and as faithful to the architecture and period of the house as I could.

The entry and large living room floors originally had a very dark green slate but most of them were so badly damaged that they needed to be replaced. Slate is typical of the era, so it only made sense to replace with the same material. I searched high and low for the same type and color of slate with the exact pattern. It wasn’t easy and I almost threw in the towel! 

We used plank oak wood on the floors for all the other rooms in the house. For the bathrooms, I wanted to use mosaic tiles because it was very common in 1959 – the year the house was built, but we chose a very pretty muted color combination of warm whites, grays, and bronze. 

The mosaic tiles also reminds me of the boutique hotels Michael and I stayed during our many travels to Palm Springs and the walls in the bathroom of Oscar Niemeyer’s personal residence – Casa de Canoas which he designed for his family in 1951, and I had the pleasure of touring when I traveled to Rio. 

Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation - dining room

 What were some of the chief countermeasures you took to renew the deteriorating parts of the home? How did you go about giving the home a healthier look?

There was so much work to be done we didn’t know where to start! 

At first we thought that maybe we could do some of the work ourselves but soon realized that there was no way this would be a DIY project! We also realized early on that we had to hire the right contractor that would understand and respect our vision  we didn’t want to knock walls and remodel, but rather restore and give the home a fresher look.

Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation  - kitchen
Claudia Andrade San Lucas Midcentury house renovation  - bedroom
Photos by Claudia Desbiens