Old Bones, New Life

A couple with New England roots reinvents a historic El Segundo residence with fresh and modern, nautical-inspired hints recalling Cape Cod and Nantucket.

Three years ago Santa Monica–based couple Anne and Dave Collard set out to find the ultimate fixer-upper for their growing family of three children. “We wanted to be in the South Bay, and someone mentioned El Segundo. So we ended up coming down and going to different parks and meeting with different families,” explains Anne, an interior designer who works as a buyer for Waterleaf Interiors in Manhattan Beach and also owns a design firm. “We ended up meeting with a Realtor, and she asked, ‘What are you looking for?’ I said, ‘I grew up on Nantucket, and I’m trying to find a New England sort of Cape Cod fixer-upper.”

 Dave, who grew up in Boston, is a screenwriter who works in Los Angeles. “I told her, ‘The more work, the better,’” he shares. Within weeks the Realtor sent Anne an email with a listing for a historic home in El Segundo. 

“The next morning I piled all the kids in the car and drove down to see it,” says Anne, a former buyer for Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar in Santa Monica. “I immediately knew from the outside that this was the house for us.”

But this wasn’t just any ordinary South Bay dwell – ing. The Cape Cod-style home, the oldest on record in El Segundo, was built in 1906 for the foreman of Standard Oil Company. 

The Collards bought the house knowing it needed substantial work. They went through the arduous pro – cess of pulling necessary permits and exactly two weeks later learned they were expecting their fourth child. 

“It was not livable,” explains Anne of the house that remained relatively untouched by the previous homeowner, who raised five children there. “All the plumbing had seeped into the walls, and honestly the only thing that’s still existing is the fireplace and, of course, the front of the house. I wanted to really keep the authenticity of it.” 

For the transformation and restoration, the Collards looked to contractor and good friend Mike Sheerin of Sheerin Construction, who helped achieve a sophisticated, coastal feel. 

“We pretty much took everything down to the studs,” explains Anne. The extensive project consisted of raising the downstairs ceilings to create an open, flowing floor plan; situating the stairs to code; and adding a bedroom, nursery and laundry upstairs. They also converted the existing garage to serve as Anne’s design studio and added a large deck, a vegetable garden and a playhouse. 

“I was so excited, and the real estate agent was like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I wanted it to be really comfortable, functional and kid-friendly, so the kids would be able to ride around on their scooters. And I wanted it to flow well. There’s a lot indoor/outdoor flow.”

For the crisp, clean interiors, Anne used an all-white palette as the backdrop and added subtle punches of color with artwork and a blend of collected and new furnishings from her parents home in Nantucket, flea markets and thrift stores. “It’s very simple, coastal, minimalist, and there’s a lot of white,” says Anne, also a painter who studied fine art at University of Colorado at Boulder and the School of Fine Arts in Boston.

She frequents Long Beach Flea Market and stores such as Rooms & Gardens in Santa Monica for objects and accessories for her designs. “When people come into the house, they say they feel like they are in Nantucket,” she shares. “I like to mix old with new and used furniture that meant a lot to me growing up on Nantucket. Everything in the house means something to me and has a story to it.” 

In the sunny sitting room with fireplace, Anne outfitted the space with an upholstered love seat and ottomans in Serenity Linen from Best Slipcovers, a coffee table and side table by Annette Tatum, a lamp from Waterleaf Interiors and a painting by Nantucket artist Illya Kagan. She also placed two of her own original paintings of pears and a small seascape on the mantle. 

“I love the sitting room,” explains Anne. “It’s a really peaceful place to have coffee in the morning.

Anne designed the kitchen around a refurbished Wedgewood stove she found at Antique Stove Heaven in Los Angeles and paired the center island—topped with Caesarstone—with modern chairs from Design Within Reach and pendant lights by Juliska. She also added a fruit still life painting by Barbara Van Campen from South Wharf Gallery on Nantucket. 

“I wanted people to see the stove right when they walked in the house, and I centered everything around the stove. It’s really pretty, and it’s something that everyone comments on,” adds Anne, who along with Dave spends a lot of time in the kitchen making pizzas, crepes and pancakes.

The couple enjoys hosting friends in the space. “It’s a really good entertaining house, and Dave also really loves that. We have a lot of parties with friends that have kids, and it’s a super-easy house to entertain in. We cook all the time.” 

The kitchen shelves and pantry also carry a piece of the home’s storied past: salvaged mason jars found in a crawl space. “During construction we found bins and bins of mason jars, and I use them all for storage for oatmeal. They have art deco shapes to them.” 

But perhaps the home’s most recognized feature is the front door, painted a bold hue of Admiralty Blue by Benjamin Moore. “I got the idea on Pinterest, and initially I was going to do a red door but decided on blue,” says Anne. “It brings me to back to New England, and I grew up in a traditional East Coast home, so I feel like I’m bringing a piece of the Northeast here with me. It definitely stands out.”

She continues: “Even if I’ve had a crazy, busy day with work or the kids, the house is so peaceful and calming. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air, and that’s what I really love about it. It’s definitely a labor of love. It sounds so corny, but it is.”