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How the Blums Transformed Their North Park Home into a Sweet Sanctuary

Plus, their tips for keeping your home cozy for the holidays!

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North Park Home - main

The Indian wheel table, purchased in San Francisco, was one of the few pieces that made the move to San Diego with homeowners Jackie and Brent Blum. For the holidays, Jackie keeps it simple, elegant, and monochromatic. The black crystal glassware, from Lux Bond & Green, complements the dinnerware and the leather-wrapped vase from The Artesanal.

In December 2017, Brent and Jackie Blum gave themselves one heck of a Christmas gift when they closed on their home on the south side of North Park. It was nearly everything they wanted—a house with two entrances (to create an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, for guests and short-term renters) and lots of potential. What it lacked was the Spanish architectural features the couple envisioned, indoor/outdoor living, and landscaping.

The Blums, who had been living in San Francisco, knew they wanted to live in North Park. They had friends in the area and liked the vibe, the walkability, and the Spanish architecture they saw everywhere. While they searched for a place to buy, they rented an apartment in the Earnest building on 30th Street so they could get to know the area better and zero in on their ideal location.

The hunt took months. The couple put in offers, and were outbid by all-cash buyers. They saw multiple Spanish-style homes they liked, even though none of them matched their vision exactly. “I would get home from seeing a home we liked and immediately start drawing potential floorplans,” Jackie says. “We had to will the home into something we wanted.”

North Park Home - front door
North Park home - family

Jackie, Zazie, Hunter, and Brent pose in their main living space. The photos hanging on the wall above them are recent additions, printed and framed by Framebridge, and were taken by the couple during their travels. The leather sofa from Restoration Hardware wipes clean so it’s puppy- and kid-proof, and the velvet pillows from Arhaus add cozy texture.

Then their Realtor showed them this house near Bird Park that gave them pause. Painted a baked-potato brown, the house needed soul—and a full-gut renovation. Plus, the kitchen created a problem because it was situated in the center of the home. Jackie and Brent couldn’t figure out where it made sense—financially or spatially—to add a second kitchen to create two properties in one. Still, they put in an offer.

Then Jackie had her lightbulb moment while the couple was on a flight to Cincinnati to spend Thanksgiving with Brent’s family. “It just came to me: ‘We’ll give the kitchen to the guest house,’” she remembers saying. “And we’ll build a Spanish home.” She then sketched her idea—which included bumping the front of the home out and adding an arch window—on the cocktail napkin beneath her drink.

This wasn’t their first remodel project. In fact, most of their courtship involved renovating the home Brent had bought in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco before they met.

North Park home - patio
North Park home - kitchen

Storage goes to the ceiling in the kitchen, so Jackie designed a library rail and ladder made by Bateo Chavez Welding. The couple loves to cook together; therefore, the sink has two faucets, and lots of counter space. Their bedroom reminds them of places they’ve been. The rug, made by an all-women cooperative in the Atlas Mountains, came from Morocco, and the folding doors open to outdoor seating takes them back to Bali.

“On the second date, he shared the blueprints with me,” Jackie says. “I, of course, gave him my thoughts and ideas. We fell in love collaborating on the project. I realized we were building our future home when Brent showed me plans that included built-in dog dishes in the kitchen island. He didn’t have a dog; he was making room for me and my Lab, Charlie.”

So they knew what they were getting into when they bought this house. Still, before finalizing plans, they consulted James Osborne Craig, an architect in Santa Barbara whose work is anthologized in the book Spanish Colonial Style: Santa Barbara and the Architecture of James Osborne Craig and Mary McLaughlin Craig. “He helped guide our decisions on the tile and railings we should use,” Brent explains.

The couple began renovating early in 2018, living in the ADU while they worked on it. They removed walls and created a living area, dining space, and second bedroom from what had been a big rec room. They installed insulation, hung drywall, and put in a shower pan. They tiled the bathroom and painted. They framed closets, replaced the floors and baseboards, added landscaping, and tiled the stoop. They worked late into many nights and enlisted help from family and friends.

North Park home - bedroom
North Park home - bathroom

Jackie and Brent didn’t change the size of their bathroom, but they modified the footprint, maximized the space, and included a double-sided fireplace by Napolean that can be enjoyed from the freestanding soaking tub and the bedroom, too. Jackie admits that the herringbone pattern she chose for the Stone Source tile was challenging, “but the result makes it worth it,” she says.

While the couple DIYed most of the ADU (they always leave the plumbing and electrical work to the professionals), contractors worked on the main house addition and renovation. To create the Spanish contemporary home of their dreams, the entire facade of the home changed. A large arch window created the centerpiece on the nearly 600-square-foot addition, and the couple replaced the bay window in the living room with accordion-style doors that open to a deck covered in custom terra-cotta-colored arabesque tiles. They tiled the roof, added white stucco on the home’s exterior, and replaced the front door with an arched wooden one.

They also sourced all the landscaping for the property from Exotic Gardens in El Cajon and strangers on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. They filled the property with fruit trees, San Pedro cacti, agaves (some of which needed to be dropped in place via crane), Euphorbia, iceberg red roses, bougainvillea to climb the arch around the front window, and star jasmine to climb the pergola off the primary bedroom.

In the kitchen, the couple added faux-wood box beams from Jason Chase, of Jason Chase Design Build. They increased the size of their bedroom slightly, borrowing space from the nursery they were creating (little Hunter arrived March 22, 2019), and installed accordion-style doors off their bedroom that lead to a private shaded deck, inspired by one they saw in Bali.

As newlyweds, Jackie and Brent spent a year working remotely while jet-setting to 25 countries. The places they’ve been influenced many of the decisions that Jackie (who is launching her interior design business next year) made when it came to picking finishes and furnishings. The trio of black pierced-metal lantern lights in their room, for instance, remind her of their stay in Marrakesh. The giraffe standing near Hunter’s crib in the nursery (pictured above) was a gift from Brent for Jackie. He had it flown in from South Africa, where they first saw it.

Besides surrounding themselves with travel closets, replaced the floors and baseboards, added landscaping, and tiled the stoop. They worked late into many nights and enlisted help from family and friends.

North Park home -dining room and tree

This room, the addition Jackie conceived, was designed to accommodate the very large mirror—another item from their San Francisco home—and the tree, which Jackie decorates the way she envisions her great grandmother would have done. “My mom and I both collect Old World glass ornaments,” she says. So antique glass, mercury glass, and glass icicles and pinecones reflect (along with the mirror) the twinkling holiday lights.

North Park home - kids room
North Park home - living room

When the couple couldn’t find a coffee table to fit their needs or aesthetic, they had one made. This one, custom from Jason Chase Design Build, raises up to a comfortable table height when dining or working takes place in the living room. Oftentimes they eat al fresco—whether they’re entertaining or not—through the La Cantina folding door on the deck they covered in custom tiles from Mexico.

While the couple DIYed most of the ADU (they always leave the plumbing and electrical work to the professionals), contractors worked on the main house addition and renovation. To create the Spanish contemporary home of their dreams, the entire facade of the home changed. A large arch window created the centerpiece on the nearly 600-square-foot addition, and the couple replaced the bay window in the living room with accordion-style doors that open to a deck covered in custom terra-cotta-colored arabesque tiles. They tiled the roof, added white stucco on the home’s exterior, and replaced the front door with an arched wooden one.

They also sourced all the landscaping for the property from Exotic Gardens in El Cajon and strangers on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. They filled the property with fruit trees, San Pedro cacti, agaves (some of which needed to be dropped in place via crane), Euphorbia, iceberg red roses, bougainvillea to climb the pergola off the primary bedroom.

In the kitchen, the couple added faux-wood box beams from Jason Chase, of Jason Chase Design Build. They increased the size of their bedroom slightly, borrowing space from the nursery they were creating (little Hunter arrived March 22, 2019), and installed accordion-style doors off their bedroom that lead to a private shaded deck, inspired by one they saw in Bali.

As newlyweds, Jackie and Brent spent a year working remotely while jet-setting to 25 countries. The places they’ve been influenced many of the decisions that Jackie (who is launching her interior design business next year) made when it came to picking finishes and furnishings. The trio of black pierced-metal lantern lights in their room, for instance, remind her of their stay in Marrakesh. The giraffe standing near Hunter’s crib in the nursery was a gift from Brent for Jackie. He had it flown in from South Africa, where they first saw it.

North Park home - guest bedroom

The Blums designed their home with others in mind. The indoor-outdoor dining at the front of the house; the pocket door that lets Hunter sleep while his parents—and their friends—chat; and the guest house where visitors sleep in style beneath a bamboo headboard from Urban Outfitters and whimsical, custom pendant lighting by Plaster Studio that hangs on either side.

Besides surrounding themselves with travel mementos, Brent and Jackie fill their home with sentimental pieces as well. They have a tradition of celebrating their wedding anniversary (August 8, 2015) every month on the eighth day. “We take turns surprising the other,” Jackie explains. “I might have this month, and then Brent has the next. We may do small things for each other, like write a letter, go to dinner, decorate the other person’s desk, or get a gift.” The giraffe was an eighth-day gift. The painting in the hall of Jackie’s beloved Lab dressed as Queen Elizabeth I was another present given on the eighth.

Together, Jackie and Brent created their dream home. They’ve made a place to work (the third bedroom in the main house is a his-and-hers shared office space), entertain, and host (Jackie’s entire family is coming to stay in the guest house for the holidays). But do you think that the couple who met, courted, and married in the midst of a remodel are done buying and transforming homes? No way. This fall, they bought themselves an early Christmas gift—an A-frame home in Big Bear that they plan to renovate, rent, and occasionally use.

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