From dated to Modern-Rustic: Before and After!


I apologize for my hiatus which has admittedly been extensive. Post election I’ve been feeling a bit out-of-sorts somewhat subscribing to the wise words of Thumper (Bambi’s buddy), “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” I don’t know how much longer I can bite my tongue, but I do have something nice to say, something about a house I spent almost a year and a half working on and the sweet client who was gutsy enough to hire me.



You see, when I first saw the house, it looked like this upon entering.







And I looked like I had just swallowed a GMO watermelon! I met with the client on a Thursday and had baby Kai the following Tuesday. I was just delusional enough (high on hormones?) to say something like, “I’ll need about three weeks off after giving birth,” and my client was just crazy enough to say “Okay!” (I take this as a HUGE compliment because I had competition–he interviewed at least one other designer.)







There was not much about this house that was working. The entry had a bad pony wall, the living room felt cut off from the kitchen–wait until you see the kitchen (someone had a strong affinity for scalloped cabinets), and the bathrooms were…less than lovely.







But almost every house has some beauty lurking beneath, so I called upon my go-to architect, Jake Niksto, to help me unearth it, and we joined forces with the adept contractor Litchfield Builders. And thus the preliminary meetings began.






Luckily for me, Kai arrived in late November so in between holiday this and inclement weather that, said meetings were postponed so I was able to have about two months of baby-bonding before the pencils hit the paper. And when those team meetings really got going, Kai was just little and sleepy enough that quite often I could get away with wearing him strapped to my chest as long as I kept standing and swaying. I’m sure his subconscious is filled with all sorts of interesting facts about footings and tray ceilings.





I love this rough-hewn mantel. It took the client a six-hour drive, there and back, in an oversized truck that the contractor was kind enough to loan, to retrieve this raw wood that was hernia-heavy, but I think it was worth every mile, sweaty brow, and penny! This is a double-sided fireplace so you’ll see it, in a moment, on the kitchen side, as well.






But first, a closeup of the concrete FireBalls, the lava rock that was placed with such care, (mini on the pan, large on the base) and a hearth fabricated from some of the coolest cement tiles I have ever seen. We searched high and low through many, many styles and color-ways of cement tile and this was the clear winner; however, if you are ever planning to use a black grout on a cement tile that has white in its design, brace yourself for a headache or, better yet, email me and I’ll tell you how we avoided turning the tiles into a smeary black dis-ass-tuh, as that person in the White House might say.






New French doors were installed, (landscaping happening now so please excuse the view beyond the doors), along with new ceiling registers which the contractor was able to make completely flush with the wall which was a bit more effort and money, but very aesthetically pleasing to avoid the usual over-mount overlap. We laughed that there were about four people in the world who would appreciate such a thing–and we were all standing in the same room.






The wood floors are California Collection Mediterranean Classics, color: Aegean. (We have the same floors at our house and I can vouch for them being quite dog and toddler proof!)



Here’s the scallop cabinetry detail in the former kitchen with some outdated tiled counters to boot.






And After!









I’m trying to give you the same vantage point in the Before and Afters, but it’s a bit tricky, because quite a few walls were removed and repositioned.







The curtained door in the photograph below, for example, was swallowed up by the new laundry room.







A different angle…







Now switching to the other side of the kitchen, and the other side of that double-sided fireplace which we had clad in a smooth gray stucco.







It’s hard to tell from the photo, but up close the stucco on the fireplace has a very pretty burnished effect. We instructed the stucco guys to burnish and then burnish some more and the result is a lot like concrete, but with more depth and mottling.







And who doesn’t want a wine fridge in the kitchen? Or juice-box cooler for the wee folks?






Here’s a shot with the funky, rusty looking pendants from RH.






For the most part, we veered away from open shelving because storage was key, but we gave just a touch of open shelves for some pretty on-display dishes.






Like so…






Okay, before your eyes start rolling at one more gratuitous kitchen photo, let’s look into the dining room (albeit through the kitchen), shall we?







Dining room with the barn door…






A few people have asked about this barn door and I’ll just say it was custom, with wood sourced on that aforementioned six hour (both ways!) drive and that when it comes to barn door hardware (and so many other things, darn it), you often get what you pay for, so if you want a barn door that glides with just a gentle push from your index finger, the hardware to get is KROWNLAB. (Plus their Black Stainless finish is very good, and not at all fake-aged in appearance.)



Unfortunately there aren’t any Before photos of the laundry room because to build it, we stole some of the former kitchen space, (of which there was plenty once we bumped out to add a new dining room). Good thing we had such a clever architect!







More barn door hardware from good ol’ KROWNLAB.







The other side of the laundry room. (More storage!)







This powder room also sprung up from borrowed kitchen space. I’m mad for this copper light from Rejuvenation and seriously considering recommending wall-mounted faucets for every bathroom remodel. Not only do they look interesting, but their position, as it relates to gravity, avoids the inevitable muck of pooled water that affects counter-mounted faucets.







The business (toilet) side. And more cement tile. The client and I were big fans but do remember that you need to seal cement tile very, very well to keep it looking clean and especially to avoid tinkle stains, ahem!








On to more bathrooms… Here is the Before of the guest bathroom.








And After!





The other side Before…





And After!






The master bath Before (with a little demo begun)…







And After…







This was as custom-built vanity and the plan was to paint it a very bright, knock-you-over-the-head-in-a-good-way blue since every other component of the bathroom would be chrome, glass, and a variation of white. Color winner: Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy.




The Toto Washlet Bidet Toilet. Prior to ordering, we researched that it has been called “a life changer”. My client has reported back: “Affirmative”.




We used a special stucco (Merlex SuperShower) to waterproof the walls on the shower side so we could keep the wall looking like a regular painted wall instead of tiling it, yet still ensuring it was waterproof. We also skipped glass walls and doors for the shower (only using a very minimal glass fin) and sloped the floor so water from the shower would head straight to the drain so we could avoid a dam/curb on the floor. This let a somewhat tight space feel as open and airy as possible and gave the European Shower feel that the client had requested.



There is also the cool factor of this Japanese Soaking tub giving this Euro-bath some Asian flair.







I styled the niche with a bar of soap and some greenery, but we all agreed this would be the perfect spot to rest a glass of wine–or sake. 🙂







Look, Ma! No walls (or dam/curb)!








And there you have it! Next on the list is adding furniture. But, for now, a parting shot of the charming cement tile…and me clicking my heels that the stars aligned and somehow let me simultaneously pull off the birth of my first baby and a client’s house (since this house was fully gutted and reborn in many ways)!



PS, When the Alec Baldwin skits aren’t even enough to settle the sense of unease, I try to remember the good people (the ones who were willing to hire the pregnant designer, haha) and that instead of biting my tongue, it might be better to share the nice things, the good stories, to remind ourselves of our strength, our value, and our conviction that good must triumph over evil. 🙂







Happy decorating!




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44 Comments on From dated to Modern-Rustic: Before and After!

  1. picky B
    March 24, 2017 at 4:20 PM (4 years ago)

    Really really really incredible transformation. The homeowner must be thrilled!
    When will you be getting your own tv show? 😉

    • Kisha Gianni
      March 25, 2017 at 7:36 PM (4 years ago)

      Thank you for the kind words! Now a show would be fun…:)

  2. Cori
    March 24, 2017 at 7:52 PM (4 years ago)

    I love love love your sense of style and always enjoy reading your blog posts! The house looks beautiful!

  3. J. Hall
    March 26, 2017 at 9:02 PM (4 years ago)

    Wow!!! WHAT a difference! You rocked it! J. Hall

  4. sherry hart
    April 3, 2017 at 4:22 AM (4 years ago)

    Beautiful….down to the very last detail! Love all of the tile selections… good!

  5. Summer
    July 3, 2017 at 2:05 AM (4 years ago)

    The burnished stucco on the fireplace turned out beautifully! Did you use a special stucco, or was it the burnishing that gave it that depth/ages appearance? Thanks!

    • Kisha Gianni
      July 5, 2017 at 1:23 PM (4 years ago)

      Than you! It was regular stucco (we used La Habra brand; Merlex is another one I have used), but stucco comes in different textures so you would need to specify a fine texture. The burnishing, however, is what gives it the mottled effect and that look of depth/patina.

  6. tony.d
    July 3, 2017 at 9:56 PM (4 years ago)

    was that stucco used for the fireplace?

    • Kisha Gianni
      July 5, 2017 at 1:25 PM (4 years ago)

      Yes. La Habra brand. Merlex is another brand. If using Merlex, ask for the “Santa Barbara” texture. If La Habra, ask for a fine texture. Lots of burnishing is also important to give some depth to the appearance–if you are after that look. 🙂

      • tony.d
        July 6, 2017 at 6:51 PM (4 years ago)

        awesome.. was that a specific color?

        • Kisha Gianni
          October 6, 2017 at 10:22 AM (4 years ago)

          Thank you! I’m sorry I only saw your comment just now. The color was Silverado by La Habra.

  7. Phoebe Monteith
    July 30, 2017 at 6:47 PM (4 years ago)

    Hi – I’m considering the Merlex for shower walls.
    Was the installer on this project already familiar with the product?
    The material looks pricey.
    Would any good plasterer be able to learn quickly how to work it without too much waste?
    Also wondering how long it took to cure. How did it smell during installation, and how long does the smell last?
    Looks gorgeous!

    • Kisha Gianni
      July 30, 2017 at 10:48 PM (4 years ago)

      I think the installer had only worked with Merlex one time before this project. I got the idea that its application was very similar to regular smooth-finish stucco. I don’t know the price, but it had a very great effect and I can’t imagine it would cost any more than tile and we used it in lieu of tile on the shower walls. Hope that helps!

  8. Kari
    October 4, 2017 at 8:27 PM (4 years ago)

    I adore everything about this house! I’m especially in love with the fireplace. I see it’s La Habra brand with a fine texture and lots of burnishing, but do you know the specific color used for the stucco? Hoping to achieve a similar look. I wish you could design our entire house! Beautiful work!

    • Kisha Gianni
      October 6, 2017 at 10:23 AM (4 years ago)

      Thank you for the kind words! The color was Silverado by La Habra. 🙂

  9. Abigail
    October 18, 2017 at 8:15 AM (4 years ago)

    What a beautiful transformation! We will be using the Merlex Super Shower in our master bath and I’ve been trying out creamy white colors. We’ve gotten samples, but it’s hard to get an idea of what the colors look like large scale. Do you mind sharing which color you chose? Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Kisha Gianni
      October 18, 2017 at 2:23 PM (4 years ago)

      Thank you. We wanted a fairly white white since the flooring was white hex tile so we didn’t want one white to look dingy or grimy in contrast so we used the Merlex Glacier White. Hope that helps! I’m excited for you that you’ll be using this product. It’s not commonly used, yet it is rather amazing! 🙂

      • Abigail
        October 19, 2017 at 7:33 AM (4 years ago)

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, I really appreciate it! We’re excited too! Now just have to finalize that color….!

      • Debbie Westera
        July 6, 2020 at 10:21 AM (1 year ago)

        You mentioned to ask you about tips for using black grout on concrete tile with a white design. Could you share those tips please? I purchased the black and white tile that were used on firolsceveitu the balls inside.

        • Kisha Gianni
          July 7, 2020 at 10:44 PM (1 year ago)

          You want to protect the white areas so when the grout is applied it won’t stain them. The tile installer we used was able to keep the whites areas white by first sealing the entire tile with DryTreat. Once that was done and dry, per manufacturer’s specifications, he taped off the white areas on the face of the tile with painter’s tape. Then he proceeded to grout as normal–part of that process is, at the end, the dark grout is smeared across the face of the tile as you clean the excess grout off. Both the DryTreat and the painter’s tape were crucial to prevent any staining during this process. As you can see, his efforts worked! Good luck!

      • Karina
        October 29, 2020 at 10:08 AM (11 months ago)


        Im looking into merlex now for my bathroom! did you pull the trigger on this and where did you get the material? Thanks

        • Kisha Gianni
          October 29, 2020 at 2:56 PM (11 months ago)

          I have had the Merlex Supershower installed in bathrooms for two different homes now (for two different clients) over a period of a few years and they seem to be holding up well
          . I believe you can source Merlex Supershower online. I hope that helps! 🙂

  10. Jo
    October 26, 2017 at 6:51 AM (4 years ago)

    Did you remove the rock on the fireplace or frame and stucco over it? We have a similar fireplace and I want to stucco over it!

    • Kisha Gianni
      October 26, 2017 at 5:30 PM (4 years ago)

      Some initial chipping away of the stone to smooth the surface and then lath and then stucco. It is a two-sided fireplace and the brick side was much smoother and, thus, easier to go over. I just visited a different client’s house today to see her fireplace where we also used stucco with a burnished finish (we used the color Oatmeal which is a really nice off-white) and it is soooo pretty. Lots of luck to you on your project. 🙂

      • Jo
        October 28, 2017 at 11:08 PM (4 years ago)

        Thank you!

  11. Michelle
    January 6, 2018 at 5:07 AM (4 years ago)

    I LOVE this and am totally smitten with the fireplace! Can you tell me what tile you used on the fireplace?

    • Kisha Gianni
      January 6, 2018 at 4:14 PM (4 years ago)

      Thank you, Michelle. The tile was from Mosaic House and is called Ramblas in Black/White. It’s a cement tile.

  12. Brooke
    May 12, 2018 at 3:09 PM (3 years ago)

    This is such an inspiring remodel! Can you share what countertops you used in the kitchen? I also love the white you chose for the cabinets. They’re so beautiful with that stucco color on the fireplace. Amazing!

    • Kisha Gianni
      May 14, 2018 at 3:47 PM (3 years ago)

      Thank you! The countertops in the kitchen are Caesarstone in color Raven. The cabinets are painted Benjamin Moore’s Simply White.:)

  13. Jennifer
    July 2, 2018 at 10:28 PM (3 years ago)

    Awesome fireplace!! I have been looking for inspiration and saw your fireplace on pinterest. I’ve been contemplating between cement and stucco. Now, I want to work with stucco indefinitely. I have a wood burning fireplace and removed everything down to the studs. Did the contractor used wire mesh for the fireplace? I was thinking of using cement board. Is this material heat resistant?

    • Kisha Gianni
      July 10, 2018 at 3:05 PM (3 years ago)

      Mesh was definitely used. I don’t know if cement board was used or if it is fire resistant. Definitely check on that since you wouldn’t want to take a chance. I wish I could tell you if cement board was used but the job was done almost two years ago now and I can’t quite recall. I will say I have now had stucco used on three different fireplaces–two for clients and one for myself–(and am about to have at least four more done) and it looks really great. Make sure to specify that you want a smooth finish, though!

  14. Dana
    September 29, 2018 at 7:38 PM (3 years ago)

    Amazing!!! Would you mind sharing the paint color on the walls in the living room? Love!

    • Kisha Gianni
      September 30, 2018 at 4:38 PM (3 years ago)

      I just looked through my files and can’t find the color that we finally picked for the interior walls, but I remember Benjamin Moore’s Snow on the Mountain and Sherwin Williams’s Creamy were in the running. I’m sorry I can’t recall the exact color. I do remember the kitchen cabinets and all the trim were BM Simply White.

  15. lauren
    September 30, 2018 at 8:57 PM (3 years ago)

    Hi! Do you mind sharing where you got those gorgeous black and white cement tiles used with the fireplace? Thank you so much!

    • Kisha Gianni
      October 1, 2018 at 3:33 PM (3 years ago)

      Sure. Mosaic House/Ramblas.

      • Debbie
        June 27, 2020 at 5:04 AM (1 year ago)

        Please, please, please tell me where I can find the black and white hearth tile on the fireplace with the white balls inside.

        • Kisha Gianni
          June 28, 2020 at 9:48 PM (1 year ago)

          The tile is from Mosaic House. They are located in New York, but their products can be ordered online. The style was called Ramblas. I hope that helps. Good luck!

  16. Lauren Miller
    October 1, 2018 at 7:01 AM (3 years ago)

    Would you mind sharing the brand / name of the tile you used on the floor beside the fireplace?
    Thank you!

  17. Deborah Wilson
    December 12, 2018 at 4:47 PM (3 years ago)

    What color stucco did you use on fireplace please? And which brand?

  18. Amy
    January 19, 2019 at 4:59 AM (3 years ago)

    Hi Kisha, so beautiful!!! We are at the end of a renovation and I am so happy to have discovered your blog – just in time for the fireplace! Other than the fine finish in Silverado (beautiful!), do you know which LaHabra product you all used? There are several and it would be great to select the specific product you used. Thank you so much.

  19. lisa
    August 22, 2020 at 7:45 PM (1 year ago)

    I love this house doing my fireplace now Going stocco Instead of rock so happy that the contractor not so happy now I’m trying to the house why don’t white trying to do side how do I go about interior wise that is


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