Transformations-Design Moe

If you work in the design industry, it’s hard not to be captivated by the transformation process – taking an ugly, dated or poorly functional space and making it look and work better for the client. While there’s plenty of hard work involved in taking a project from conception to completion, there’s something inspiring about reviewing where a space started – and how it turned out.

This month’s Transformations features a before and after view of a beach cottage whose owners fell in love with its ramshackle charm and wanted to restore it to its original purpose as a casual, unassuming retreat for friends and family.



The down-to-earth cottage on the bay in Long Beach, CA, was likely built as a summer retreat sometime between 1920 and 1930. As the city’s Belmont Shores neighborhood became more fashionable, the house was probably used as a rental, growing haphazardly as a result. Along with a dormered second floor, the side porch was converted to a larger kitchen/dining room with a sleeping porch above. However, the dated kitchen was dark and uninviting. The sleeping porch and two balconies were later closed in to add three small bathrooms to the upstairs, which had also become dated.



Heather Moe, Design Moe Kitchen & Bath in Escondido, CA, worked to keep, or recreate, much of the home’s original structure and character. “We knew from the beginning that we were going to keep the existing footprint of the kitchen,” she says. “The galley plan was functional and suited the character of the house. The challenge became how to turn this small, dark and somewhat unexciting room into an interesting and inviting cottage-style space.”

For starters, she changed the patio door at the far end of the kitchen from a solid to a single-light door, which gave the kitchen a view to the outside patio and added natural light. To gain added height, and to make the ceiling more interesting, she removed the existing drywall and soffits and opened up the framing between the joists to reveal the bottom of the sub-floor above.

“We lightly sanded the exposed, rough lumber and painted the whole ceiling a clean white,” she says. “Although the builder felt uncomfortable with the idea of exposing the rough lumber because he was afraid it would look unfinished, the clients and I loved the character.”

Moe added period-style schoolhouse pendants and re-purposed an old kitchen sideboard as a sink cabinet that is complemented with framed, beaded inset cabinetry to reflect a more old-fashioned construction style. “As a nod to function and easy-living, we used high-end appliances (Wolf range, Sub-Zero refrigerator) and a gray-white engineered quartz countertop that echoed the look of traditional white marble,” she says.

When it came to the five bathrooms, Moe repeated the home’s gray/blue-green/white color scheme in each. In addition to using mostly retro-style fixtures, she used small-scale mosaic floor tile for all of the floors, each with slightly different details.

“In one bathroom, we added geometric slate ‘flowers’ to a white marble mosaic background and repeated that same floral detail in the shower niche,” she says. “We also took advantage of the unusually high, vaulted ceiling (left over from the porch) by hanging a vintage French-style chandelier in the center of the room.”

To deal with the awkwardly placed window, which seemed to crowd the small console vanity and mirror, Moe created a “frame” of window casing around both the window and the vanity mirror, effectively treating the two elements as one larger unit.