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before and after

Before & After: A Modern-Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California

by Annie Werbler

Meandering horse trails are just part of the charm of living in an equestrian zone, despite owner Julie Balcom‘s assertion that her 1978 southern California tract home previously “didn’t even try to emulate an architectural style.” Julie and her husband Ken, both junior high school teachers, bought the worst house in the best neighborhood they could afford and use their summer breaks to tackle home improvement projects. That schedule works well, as their Alta Loma fixer-upper needed some major attention, and paying for someone else’s previous upgrades was not on the home-buying agenda. The family adores their quiet neighborhood with their two small children, and having renovated previously, they knew that they wanted the most rundown home in a great school district for the kids. When Julie’s mother first walked through the space, it was so out-of-date she begged them to run the other way.

Luckily they weren’t easily deterred, and with a tight budget, the family knew they would end up doing most of the work themselves. Before they moved in, they scrapped the popcorn ceilings, ripped out all the downstairs floors, and installed dog-claw-durable wood laminate. They replaced all the windows, which had vines growing through them and scaling the interior walls. They also replaced the whole kitchen and painted every room. This past summer, Julie and Ken renovated the downstairs bath, which was crumbling apart in their hands. The budget was unforgiving, so they selected inexpensive yet durable finishes. The clawfoot tub had been upstairs in their master bath, but given they live in earthquake territory, they decided to move it downstairs to replace the previous owners’ handmade stucco shower. They then painted the tub a dark green and installed maple drawer fronts made by Ken’s father on an IKEA vanity.

Of all these challenges, the toughest currently is the lack of a proper office. The teachers frequently leave stacks of papers to be graded on the dining room table, and the garage is invaded with curriculum binders and resources. They have a desk in the family room, but it’s not equipped to handle their daily needs. Julie’s biggest gripe is the carpeted stairs and upper floor, which keep getting bumped lower down their summer DIY list.

The family has homebody tendencies after long days at school, so it’s crucial they enjoy their residential surroundings. Overall, they wanted to create a bright, open space that would encourage their friends and family to stay a while. Modern-bohemian, southern California style seems to make everyone feel right at home. —Annie

Photography by Julie Balcom

Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
1/23
In their Alta Loma entryway, Julie and Ken Balcom's vintage console, One King's Lane runner, and Target lamp greet guests with a beautiful and affordable blend of styles.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
2/23
The double-height living room is the ideal spot in which to host family events that may spill over into other areas.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
3/23
IKEA sofas and sheers work well with flea market finds and handmade online discoveries. A plant ledge on the wall of windows adds green life into the room.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
4/23
A minimal and organic dining room is tucked just behind the living room.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
5/23
A glamorous bar area carries brass accents through from other zones.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
6/23
The textural World Market dining table sets off additional affordable items such as the JCPenney pendant light and West Elm area rug.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
7/23
During their kitchen renovations, the Balcoms added a window the previous owners had covered up.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
8/23
Julie originally envisioned her bright, cheery, and timeless kitchen with marble countertops, but she opted for durable granite for practical purposes.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
9/23
Painting the fireplace and walls made the family room feel twice as large.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
10/23
Though not a sufficient home office for two teachers with tons of paperwork, Sherwin-Williams Aloof Gray walls establish a work zone within the family room.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
11/23
The comfy, small space fits the family of four perfectly, and they spend a lot of time here lounging together.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
12/23
The downstairs bathroom was completed on a tight budget with maple drawers made by Ken's dad and clean, modern finishes and accessories.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
13/23
Thirties Vertex tile from Overstock makes a graphic statement.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
14/23
Hanging plants with vessels from Syltas at Etsy, Target, and vintage sources do well in sunny and humid bathroom conditions.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
15/23
When the Balcoms moved into their master bedroom, they had to sand down the bottom half of all four walls, which had been covered in a DIY concrete texture by the previous owner.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
16/23
With a nod to the horses in the neighborhood, Julie and Ken are just starting to focus on decorating their bedroom. It was previously their dumping ground for furniture and tchotchkes without a home.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
17/23
A comfy chair for reading, plush textures, and vibrant Sherwin-Williams Loyal Blue walls round out the master bedroom in progress.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
18/23
Julie's daughter wanted everything in her bedroom to be pink, so Mom and Dad compromised by devising a sweet and artistic space for their craft-loving little girl.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
19/23
Floral Anthropologie wallpaper and vibrant tassels add a fun, youthful vibe to the room.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
20/23
More pretty details by way of a peacock bed from Craigslist and Zara Home quilt.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
21/23
The young man of the house is all about exploration and adventure, and he loves finding all the lizards on his wallpaper.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
22/23
An arrangement of DIY, Land of Nod, and Society6 prints stay up-to-date with the son's interests.
Before & After: A Modern Bohemian Fixer-Upper in Southern California, on Design*Sponge
23/23
IKEA dressers and Anthropologie wallpaper feel clean and contemporary for a child's bedroom.

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Comments

  • Also because they (we, I’m a fellow Californian), live in earthquake territory, I noticed that their plants in the living room are right above the sofa! Do the owners share how they secured the potted plants?? I’d love to know! It’s so funny that seeing that arrangement of decor in CA makes me nervous, haha!

    • Thank you so much, Jane. I took this photo of my neighbor’s horse and had it blown up as an engineer print at Staples. Then I mounted it to cheap foam board from Home Depot.

  • This is lovely. It makes me want to buy another house just so I can do something similar, even though I love my own home. Especially love your lounge areas.

  • I’ve been considering that bathroom tile from Overstock for a remodeling project, but haven’t been able to find any pictures of it in an actual house. It looks great here! Would you recommend it? Does it seem durable? Thanks so much for any insight!

    • Thank you, Amelia. So far it is holding up well, but I do want to warn you that our first boxes of tile were delivered in pieces. Overstock replaced them, but it did set us back about three weeks in our bathroom renovation.

  • i didn’t think the house was in that bad shape until the photo of the first floor bathroom. what a riot! is that shower made from cardboard? you did an amazing turnabout on your home – it looks lovely despite the fact that there are still parts that need to be improved, such as the carpeted stairs. congrats and enjoy.

  • What a transformation! The finished project is very stunning. The white theme really brightened up to room. Simple and clean looking home. I love the application of white subway backsplash in your kitchen and bathroom.

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