A Manhattan Beach Couple Reinvents Their Once-dated Residence with a Fresh Take on Cape Cod Style
Hints of home.
- Written byJennie Nunn
- Photographed byLauren Taylor & Sara Tramp
For most, the pandemic has served as a life-altering catalyst for inner reflection—an opportunity for restructuring priorities and a time for major change and transition. In the case of Manhattan Beach homeowners Judd and Susie Gilefsky, it meant rethinking their own living space and creating a sanctuary for themselves and their two children, but with a precise and nostalgic design vision: a nod to Judd’s East Coast roots in Massachusetts.
The couple, referred to South Bay interior designer Christine Vroom by a good friend who had previously worked with her on another project in Palos Verdes, knew they needed design expertise to remodel their dated, cabin-like 1950s home they’d lived in for 14 years.
“The prior owners had remodeled and repainted. When we moved in it was fine, but after a decade we decided to make it our own,” recounts Susie of the 2,300-square-foot residence. “And it was partially due to COVID-19 because we were home more and noticing everything we didn’t like about the house. We had a dishwasher leak and needed to replace the floors. We asked Christine to lighten and brighten it up.”
In addition to the couple’s desire for more space for family gatherings and Susie’s regular book club discussions (the existing galley kitchen was tight and cramped) and a mudroom or drop zone for the kids’ backpacks, sporting goods and extra storage, the couple wanted a Cape Cod aesthetic for the partial remodel of the lower level of the home including the kitchen and dining areas. To make it feel fresh and different, Christine—originally from Boston—tapped Lawndale–based company Williamson Homes for general contracting needs and created an interpretation of the look with fresh blues, whites and grey tones.
“I think Cape Cod can sometimes go seagull objects and lighthouse tchotchkes. They were very trusting of me, and I got my inspiration from an East Coast coastal home versus going traditional Cape Cod,” explains Christine, owner of Christine Vroom Interiors in Palos Verdes Estates. “I wanted it to feel current and like a contemporary Cape Cod home in Manhattan Beach by using more of that Nantucket blue and not staying so traditional with the white and blue. So we added grey/blue tones with wood tones to mix up the elements. On the East Coast, they tend to like richer wood tones and different wintery types of blues. We captured the essence of the East Coast.”
To open up the kitchen and create a more cohesive flow, Christine and her team removed a wall separating the living room and dining room, changed the layout of the kitchen for more space and functionality, created a long upholstered banquette to tie the dining room and kitchen together along with extra seating, and added a library-like area with built-ins and a fireplace. In the kitchen, Christine selected Benjamin Moore’s Normandy 2129-40 for the island and hood; a pair of Hampton pendant lamps by Hudson Valley; custom alder-stained wood beams; and Martin counter stools by Essentials for Living.
“I wanted it to feel current and like a contemporary Cape Cod home in Manhattan Beach by using more of that Nantucket blue and not staying so traditional with the white and blue. So we added grey/blue tones with wood tones to mix up the elements. On the East Coast, they tend to like richer wood tones and different wintery types of blues. We captured the essence of the East Coast.”
“She had such a great understanding of what we wanted, and she made the whole process fun,” adds Susie. “For the kitchen ceiling, it was just going to be drywall. One day she casually said, ‘We should do tongue and groove.’ Now people comment all the time on how great it looks.”
Susie and Judd also trusted Christine with all of the artwork, decorative objects and finishing touches—down to the salt and pepper shakers. “If she would have only done the furniture, it wouldn’t have looked as good,” explains Susie. “We still have our old photos, and she helped with the frames.”
Christine was also instrumental in incorporating details from their life story, including cities where they have lived such as Palos Verdes (Susie’s hometown), Manhattan Beach and other significant locations with personal meaning. “I threw out, ‘Hey, it would be nice to have a photo of the town where I grew up in Massachusetts [Marblehead], and she found an artist,” adds Judd of a painting by artist Amy Roberts that Christine found online. “She was so responsive, and she’s a fun person to work with. What I’ve told some people is that I feel like I’m in a vacation home down at the beach or at a little beach cottage on Nantucket or Cape Cod.”
For Christine, one of the most gratifying aspects of the job was creating a timeless home for the couple and their children to grow into, filled with pieces of sentimental value. “It’s not trying too hard,” says Christine. “It’s very easy breezy, clean and classic.”
Judd, Susie and the kids are still pinching themselves with the redesign. “I love the way everything looks. It’s casual enough that it doesn’t feel too formal or stuffy,” says Susie. “One of the neighbors walked in [she hadn’t seen the house at all during the design process] and was dropping F-bombs left and right at the finished design. It’s funny to see people’s reactions. Every little detail is just incredible.”