A Ranch-Style Home Goes Bold With Tile

Some modern tile brings a California ranch-style home into the 21st century.


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Photo by Eric Zepeda

One day, you walk into your comfortable but well-worn home and see it through new eyes. Yikes.

After years off putting off much-needed upgrades and maintenance, an Oakland couple had an epiphany: bring their 1970s-era California ranch-style house into the 21st century. They turned to Emeryville interior designer Carolyn Rebuffel-Flannery of Workroom C for the revival.

Part of Rebuffel-Flannery’s process is to determine the short- or long-term vision of the property. For this couple, the property was their forever home and worth the investment of high-end materials — and the expert craftsmanship required to achieve their vision.

Starting with the structure, Rebuffel-Flannery worked with Alamo’s Joe Walsh Construction to redesign the entryway, kitchen, and upstairs bathrooms to better accommodate a growing family, improve physical flow, and provide stunning visual interest.

“As is often the case, one of the partners is a little more conservative (or skeptical) about incorporating expensive design elements like big, bold tile into their home,” said the interior designer. “The wife of the couple had compiled a series of Pinterest and Houzz boards with tile as the dominant design element. She has a really great eye. Her boards captured the overall aesthetic of what she envisioned, but her husband wasn’t entirely convinced.”

If not then, he is now.

Step into a welcoming, newly designed entryway to an attention-grabbing foyer featuring sculpted Heath Ceramics tile. The semi-matte finish and oblong-within-a-rectangle shape capture and bounce light in every direction, adding intriguing visual depth. Stare long enough and you’ll see a spectrum of colors — from navy blue to bronze — as unexpected patterns emerge in the repetition.

“Getting this tile to work with the angled edges of the bannister and ceiling lines required some mathematics,” said Rebuffel-Flannery. “But the result was a surprising ‘fluting’ along the cut edge of the tile, adding another textural element to the overall design.”

From the decidedly masculine vibe of the entryway, Rebuffel-Flannery carried the tile theme into a newly resuscitated kitchen using handmade tiles sourced from Mercury Mosaics. The aqua blue-green backsplash enlivens the muted, natural palette, against resurfaced cabinets and flooring, imparting a soothing cool to a timelessly modern kitchen.

“Working with handmade tile is always challenging,” said Rebuffel-Flannery. “They’re often not uniform in size or color, and, sometimes they’ve been fired in separate batches adding another dimension to the equation.

“We take time to physically arrange them to ensure we don’t get ‘clumps’ of dark or lighter colors, and the shapes match as closely as possible so our caulk lines appear straight. We spent numerous cycles discussing the grout. Just the grout.”

The tile theme was carried throughout the home’s update including a downstairs powder room and two upstairs bathrooms.

“It was really a home of its epoch — outdated ’70s-era finishes and tight, constricted spaces,” said Rebuffel-Flannery. “But the homeowners were willing to take chances. My role was to say, ‘Go for it!’”

And they did. In a big, bold way.

Resources

Workroom C by Carolyn Rebuffel Designs, 4040C Harlan St., Emeryville, 415-235-0674, CarolynRebuffel.com

Joe Walsh Construction, 9 Bolla Ave., Alamo, 925-855-0111

Heath Ceramics, 2900 18th St., San Francisco, 415-361-5552, ext. 13, HeathCeramics.com

Mercury Mosaics, 1620 Central Ave. NE, Ste. 125, Minneapolis, Minn., 612-236-1646, MercuryMosaics.com

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