This story originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue ofDomino,titled All Together Now.Subscribeto be the first to receiveeach issue.
For a couple of years, Joanne Duong Bartels and Luke Bartels left the free-spirited surfer haven that is San Franciscos Outer Sunset neighborhood for Chicago. It wasnt long, though, before the city lured them backfirst to the other side of town, but eventually to right where they started: on the ocean, surrounded by their fellow artists and craftspeople. (Joanne is a wardrobe stylist; Luke is a furniture designer and woodworker.) One of the reasons weve stayed out here is because its a draw for a lot of people who want to make things, says Luke.
So a decade after their return, when it became clear they had outgrown their 1907 cottage, the subsequent renovation quickly turned into a family affair, as Joanne calls it. The couple never went searching for an architect; they simply called up their friend of 15 years, designer Timothy Balon. A neighbor, Katherine Fontaine, with her own construction firm Actually Design Build became their contractor. And Lukes colleagues at the collaborative workspace WoodshopDanny Hess, Josh Duthie, and Jeff Canhamwere tapped for their expertise. Like I do every day, Luke points out of his built-in sounding board for all construction issues.
The plan: completely overhaul the houses back addition, expanding both up and out to accommodate another bedroom and bath. (While the homes set of bedrooms and single bathroom had been the perfect size for two, children Veda, 6, and Alfie, 2, had since come along.) Everyone lives in the neighborhood, so it was constantly like, Oh, theres this issuecan you come help us? We were always problem-solving together, Joanne says. When, at the very last minute, she, Luke, and Balon decided the wall above the stairs should be curved rather than squared offWe wanted as many organic shapes as possible, Joanne notestheir merry band of artisans made it happen over a weekend.
And the porthole in that now-rounded nook? At first, it was going to be near the bathroombut then the painter (another acquaintance, of course) stopped by to do an estimate. He said, If you had a window here instead, I think youd be able to see the ocean from the stair landing, Joanne recalls. And we thought, Oh, my God, lets move it!
Throughout the process, creative friends and handy folks were pulled inincluding us, Joanne adds. Wherever wood was meant to be wood, there was Luke. He installed the floors, built the staircase, and paneled the playroom walls, all with salvaged elm from another comrade, Evan Shively, founder of Arborica. For the kitchen cabinet fronts, he used FSC-certified plywood, while the doors and window frames are deodar cedar (which gives the whole home a heady, woodsy scent), a nod to his childhood. Growing up, we had a bunch of those trees in our yard, and my dad would always take the saplings and plant them anywhere that people would let him, Luke remembers. He was like the Johnny Appleseed of Cedrus deodara.
Joanne took the reins for the finishing touchesbefore a revamp was even on the horizon. A full year in advance, she bought yellow boucl fabric to reupholster the living room sofa (an eBay score) and Cl zellige tile for the yet-to-exist master bathroom floor. Same goes for the vintage bar cabinet in the dining area, a Craigslist find. I would always say to Tim, What do you think of this? And hed say, You dont even have a remodel yet! Joanne recalls, laughing. But I feel like buying stuff or starting a project makes the process actually happen.
The decorating phase, too, was a group effort. Lukes sister helped the couple procure 100 percent Italian wool carpet in a deep scarlet hue for the library, then connected them with a rug binder, who cut one side into a sinuous wavea genius solution for one wall of the space being longer than the other.
With Luke up to his ears in carving and sanding, they turned to L.A. brand Kalon for the kids beds; each is handmade in the U.S. out of local timber. Veda had just two requests: a sky blue ceiling and to share a room with her brother. How could they say no? For now, the third bedroom has been designated an arts and crafts zoneslashfriends hangout. Before the reno, everyone started having kids and it became crazy, says Joanne. We had to make a space for them!
With the help of yet another talented friend, Joanne sewed almost all of the curtains, pillows, and upholstery, including the velvet headboard for the couples bed frame, another Bartels and Balon special. Long story short: Balon found a picture of an antique wood bed up for auction a long time ago; Luke re-created the zigzag design out of reclaimed bay laurel; and the trio put their own spin on it with a rust-colored cushion. This back-and-forth defined the whole experience. Tim would introduce us to things or wed find stuff, then the three of us would debate, explains Joanne, with one person taking on the role of tiebreaker.
Wrapping up the year-and-three-month-long transformation wasnt the end of the familys home as the unofficial neighborhood gathering spot. In fact, just the opposite. I always have a fully stocked bar; thats my thing, notes Joanne. Our house is the place where everyone goes; we host a lot of dinners and cocktails. In the summer, they serve Negronis; in the winter, Manhattansin their eyes, its the least they can do. From the plates we eat off of to the things we look at, theyre all made by people we know and love, says Joanne. We wouldnt be where we are without our community.
More From Our Winter Issue:
Sarah Sherman Samuels Epic Fixer-Upper Is the Stuff of Reno Dreams
Courtney Adamos Newly Renovated Cottage Is the Perfect Fit for Her Family of Seven
Brass Cabinets and a Few Lucky Surprises Made This Century-Old Home Truly Shine