Greg and Wendy Blackband of Blackband Home & Design have been in the industry for more than 20 years and worked on several residential projects throughout Southern California. But, when it came to renovating their own Balboa Island home, they enjoyed getting to be on the client-side.
“My personal style is eclectic with a Spanish modern influence, and I’m drawn to Santa Barbara-style architecture with plaster walls and red tile roofs—plus I love to layer unexpected styles,” Wendy Blackband says.
After traveling the world, running a successful business, and raising two teenagers, the couple was looking forward to returning to her hometown and found a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home that was built in 1969.
While they loved its waterfront location, the “home was the least attractive house on the block, maybe even on the entire island,” she recalls. Thus, they decided to heavily renovate the “big box with a red-tiled roof” to reflect their eclectic style with a layout fit for entertaining.
They purchased it in 2011, immediately updating the flooring and bathrooms and redesigning the exteriors, but over the years they began a full renovation. “We gutted the inside, scraped the popcorn ceilings, redid the electrical and plumbing, replaced the drywall and more,” she says. And as living on an island means limited square footage, they planned to reorganize the original footprint.
“Structurally, this meant removing a wall and making sure our second floor was still supported. From a design perspective, I needed everything to be functional and multi-functional, while reflecting our style,” she says. The new exterior features Mediterranean nods like a stucco facade, custom-made reclaimed wood-and-glass Dutch door and new outdoor seating.
Inside, the couple got rid of the turquoise shag carpet, trading the dated look for white oak hardwood floors throughout, plus carved-out shelving and channeled wood cabinetry.
“Storage was a huge priority while designing the remodel,” she says. "We disguised some of the storage like in the dining banquette drawers, laundry and trash chutes in the main bathroom, and built-ins in all of the bedrooms.”
Now, the first floor, which at first lacked visual interest, has a colorful and cozy living room filled with photo albums, books, Palecek chairs, custom sofas with Perennials fabrics, plus an antique Shanxi carved console that is nearly 200 years old. Plum and other berry tones punctuate the open concept living and dining areas, which also includes a custom banquette with Kerry Joyce Textiles linens and artwork by Wendy Blackband’s mother.
“My mother has always been a huge influence on my life and a major source of inspiration,” she says. “She taught design at UCLA for more than 30 years, is a world traveler, and an artist. We loved the idea of having white walls, a clean palette for her large scale, colorful canvas paintings.”
The kitchen, which is small but impactful, features Currey & co. pendants, a terracotta-tiled peninsula, and carved wooden panels the couple picked up on a trip to Chang Mai, Thailand. Integrated doors on the appliances allow for a cohesive look.
Other travel-inspired design details include the 3,000-plus individually placed pebbles in the couple’s primary bath, inspired by the over-grouted style found in Mykonos, Greece. There’s also tile in the teen’s bathroom chosen because of their Southern Spain and Moroccan feel, two places they love to visit.
“The floor showcases a Spanish floor, but because we needed a thinner tile transition, so we opted for a porcelain which works out great for its durability and waterproof nature,” she says.
In the bedrooms, more vibrant colors, textures, and cherished collectibles are found. Cole & Sons wallpaper, vintage pillows, and berry and olive tones work well in the elevated primary suite. In their daughter’s room, there’s a Noir bed, blue Ro Sham Beaux pendants, a Cole & Sons paper, and Loloi rug. But, their son’s room has the most character of all with a ship mural that was originally a stock photo, Lostine lights, and side tables from Beijing.
For the pair, there were many lessons learned during the renovation, including the importance of understanding how you and your family use a space.
“What are your needs, how can you make those work, and then how can you make it look great?" she says. "I’m also a big believer in designing the home for you. Tap into the things that bring you joy and include those elements and influences throughout your home so that it reflects your interests and brings you happiness."