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Brett Waterman Home Restoration • 1898 Dutch Colonial

A remodeling effort in the early 20th century launched this house into an extended identity crisis.


Variations on a Theme

This home began its life in 1898 as a Dutch Colonial frame with its distinct ‘lunch pail’ shape.

In the 1920s a new homeowner made extensive renovations that left only that exterior shape to indicate the original design. That owner hired the art director of film studio in Hollywood to design themed rooms all throughout the house that would reflect the films he enjoyed. The main entry was given a French aristocratic theme. It was connected to two rooms with their own themes. The first was based around a mural depicting a landscape in China, the other a hunting lodge to feature his sport hunting mounts (complete with a water feature connecting the indoors with the outside).

When renovations stopped the house was left mostly untouched. It remained a mismatched hodgepodge of stylistic elements. During intervening years the kitchen suffered from comparative neglect. "Kitchens in the turn of the century were pretty sparse," Brett Waterman said. This one needed attention. It was a series of modular spaces that were difficult to navigate. Like much of the rest of the home during the earlier renovation, it suffered from poor planning for the additions he said. These thoughtless additions "cut off natural light…and flow of the house all in the name of square footage," Waterman said. They made the house less efficient, he added.

Waterman’s team opened the kitchen into its full available space, expanding into another section of the home to create a butler’s pantry and water closet. Additional reclaimed space was converted into a sitting room and breakfast nook for the family.

If It Ain’t Baroque, Give It It’s Own Style

From there the team was going to turn its attention to the entry hall, but Waterman found himself gravitating toward a new idea: the dining room lacked its own theme.

Lee Tosca, Waterman’s design and project manager, said their team never planned to go into the dining room. But, one day while she was offsite Waterman pulled at a covering on one of the walls—they started to crumble. Thus, the dining room was added to the scope of the restoration.

Waterman landed on an Arabesque theme, sometimes called Moorish, drawing on styles popular in Arab-speaking regions of the world. The design evokes "world history right in front of you," he said. "It makes you feel you’ve been transported to a different place."

The team updated the French theme in the entry hall with a new color palette and appropriate furniture. Serendipitous finds in the house’s storage, such as the original silk and velvet drapery let the team reinstate a sense of luxury original to the home as well.

Waterman was especially proud, though, of the new dining room:

"It was really fun to add something new to a home that was already so full of detail."


Waterman and his team removed the valences in the dining room and installed a cast plaster relief frieze from Decorator's Supply. More texture and depth were created on the frieze with layers of Annie Sloan paint, and a stencil along the bottom added additional height and bolder colors to cement the Arabesque aesthetic.

Light Fixture Conversion

The dining room chandelier started as an antique incense burner. The team at Old California reduced it to components to clean and refurbish the piece before adding six external candles and an internal light cluster that can be operated independently.

Arabesque Design

Design that draws on the arts of predominantly Arab-speaking regions like North Africa features abundant, intricate geometric designs. The style is heavily influence by those regions' religious and public buildings art and architecture.

More Transformations

Foyer Before

Foyer After

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Kitchen Sink Before

Kitchen Sink After

Butlers Pantry Before

Butlers Pantry After

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