Colorful Decorating Ideas from a Converted Farmhouse

White paint, bright accents, and a whole lot of windows helped a neglected farmhouse see the light

Kelly Phillips Badal
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Coming Clean

​​​​​​​It’s airy and idyllic now, but five years ago, this 1910 farmhouse was—well—downright dirty. When Christopher and Lisi Dean and their three children first laid eyes on it, the rickety 2,023-square-foot house had low ceilings, a maze of wood-paneled rooms, and a strange smell. The piles of trash left inside had been cleared away, but the signs of neglect had not.

In short, this wasn’t the sort of place that inspires breathless sign-on-the-dotted-line love. Lisi hesitated at committing to the overhaul the home would need, but Chris, the offspring of architects, wasn’t deterred. “I grew up knocking down walls and I love it,” he says. “I knew the place had potential.” The San Francisco–based couple—he’s the CEO of a mobile marketing company and she’s a private wealth manager—had spent seven years looking for a second home in Sonoma’s West County. Chris convinced Lisi that this was it.

To tackle the renovation, the Deans tapped San Rafael-based architect and interior designer , both friends of Lisi’s. “We thought, ‘What’s the quickest way to draw a line from the house’s seedy past to something pretty?’” says Bloom. “A total whitewash was the immediate idea.”

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Warm up a Cool Interior

  • , $155

First came a thorough gutting of the interior. The team raised the ceiling to 12 feet at its highest point, replaced the floors with raw pine planks, and opened up the rooms within the existing footprint. “Cutting away walls was the key to making this house work,” says Treadwell. New windows were also strategically placed to enhance sight lines to the 10-acre estate outside, a visual trick that makes the home seem more spacious.

Against the backdrop of the white walls and pale floors, Bloom played it loose with the decorating. “There were few directives other than to make it free and make it fun,” she says. In that spirit, Bloom started with streamlined vintage furnishings and then layered on accents that were big on both color and personality.

The end result “taps into the area’s warmth, color, and light—all the things you long for on a cold, foggy San Francisco day,” says Lisi.

“And it has nothing but good juju now,” adds Chris with a grin.

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Embrace Happy Hues

  • , all vintage
  • , $1,250 (for similar)
  • , $495/pair
  • , $495/pair
  • , $159

Zings of color enliven the home’s neutral-and-white scheme, starting at the mustard-yellow front door. The family room is anchored by a deep blue couch and a Moroccan rug. “We wanted this room to feel artsy but humble,” says designer Allison Bloom. To that end, she hung an unframed print of chard and various trinkets on the wall.

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Hack the Kitchen

  • , $129

Though the Deans’ new kitchen was largely sourced from Ikea, architect Constance Treadwell helped give it a designer look by adding an exposed plywood edge to the laminate countertop.

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Play up Contrasts

  • (on fireplace)
  • , from $199
  • , from $999

In the living room, dark accents amplify the lightness of the house and its surroundings. Black-framed windows, free of curtains, turn the view into artwork. The couple painted the living room’s brick fireplace charcoal for a more modern look.

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Repurpose Freely

  • , $250
  • , from $198

A formal headboard in the master bedroom didn’t fit with the home’s laid-back attitude, so Bloom hung a vintage Hmong batik tapestry found on eBay instead.

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Stay in the Lines

The mid-century Thonet room divider in the living room may be from a different era from the house, but it works because its clean lines meld with the architecture.

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Maximize Outdoor Space

The Deans repaired the existing wrap-around porch, adding a pergola. Just below, they installed a 20- by 60-foot pool along with an 8- by 8-foot “party” hot tub.

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