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Designer Denise Maloney Brings a New Attitude to an Eichler

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Interior photography, <a href="">Brian Ashby</a>; exterior and portraits <a href="">Patricia Chang</a>
Interior photography, Brian Ashby; exterior and portraits Patricia Chang

Interior designer Denise Maloney grew up in Walnut Creek, so she knew about the city's Rancho San Miguel, the neighborhood that contains 375 Eichler homes. However, it wasn't until she and her husband, Dwight, returned to Walnut Creek after living in San Francisco that she spent much time there. While the couple was searching for a home, they discovered one of the low-slung, modernist Eichlers on the market, and they decided to buy it. "I grew up in a more traditional house in Walnut Creek," she says. "But I love modern architecture, and I was drawn to this house. It made sense to me, and I thought every inch was usable space—as opposed to having a formal living room and dining room that you rarely enter." The house needed a remodel, but the couple didn't hesitate to make it their own.

↑ Although the house had been subject to some unfortunate updates over the years, Maloney's first action was to take no action. "It took a lot of planning to decide what we were going to do," she says. "We thought about it for almost three years." Ironically, shortly after the project got underway, they had to change plans relatively quickly when Maloney found out that she was expecting a baby. One of the three bedrooms was converted to a nursery to make way for Owen, who is now nine months old. "We knew that we wanted the space to grow with him," Maloney says. "We didn't want anything too babyish." To that end, she installed a midcentury dresser that serves, with the addition of a changing pad, as a changing table. A glider moves back and forth with the comforting motion that babies love, but has the look of a chair that belongs in a living room.

↑ In the living room, dining room, and kitchen Maloney's plan is evident. She updated the space with materials and forms that perhaps didn't come from the 1950s, but would be respectful of that time period. To come up with the look, she studied the homes of neighbors and researched original Eichler drawings. "The community is tight knit," she says. "We are always gathering, and the neighbors are happy to share ways they remodeled their homes and resources."

↑ She decided to keep the envelop of the space neutral, but to decorate with colorful furniture and art. "I love color and I like to use it in my work," she says. "In my personal home, I wanted to show that color can be timeless and cool, and a way to express your personality."

One of her big decisions: Leave the woodwork painted. Traditionally, Eichlers had dark-wood ceilings, beams, and/or wall panels. In this case, several owners = several coats of paint. "It wouldn't have been cost effective to sand it all off," says Maloney.

↑ In the kitchen, Maloney decided to alter things a bit to make the home fit the lifestyle of their young family. "There was a 3/4-height wall separating the living room and the kitchen," she says. "We removed it and extended the peninsula a bit." This allows parents to see what's going on with Owen now and later, when he will be playing in the yard.

↑ In the master bedroom, neutral walls shift to a rich blue color. "I wanted to make things cozy and a little darker here," Maloney says. She and her husband were both swimmers at the nearby Monte Vista High School, so a watery tone and pool-centric art have a personal connotation.

↑ Maloney is already planning the next stage of the remodel (landscape redesign) for what has proved to be a great family home. "Some people would say this house is too small for a family," she says of the roughly 1,650-square-foot home. "But the fact that the yard is so accessible makes it feel a lot larger. And we found we really do use every inch of it every day."

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· Denise Maloney Interior Design [Official Site]
· The Eichlers of Rancho San Miguel - Walnut Creek [Eichler Network]
· More Designers at Home Stories [Curbed SF]
· More Eichler coverage on Curbed SF [Curbed SF]