6 clever updates to this Californian family home made it easy to entertain a crowd

Smart changes to this Piedmont home mean it's just as comfortable for big get-togethers as it is for a family of five

front porch sitting space with white canework sofas and chairs and hanging plants
(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

Cortney and Benjamin Allen bought their home in Piedmont, California, in mid 2019. They saw instantly that the property had the potential to become a spacious and characterful family home for themselves and their three children. 

The house was built in 1905 and the Allens loved its historic detailing, but at the same time there were some areas that were in serious need of an update. There was another requirement for this busy family, too. Not only do they love to entertain friends and family at home, but they also often host meetings, events, art classes and music recitals for the larger community. 

This house had to be so much more than a family home and the Allens called in an interior designer to update and reconfigure the space. The project began in the heart of the home – as the family considered various kitchen ideas and figured out how to improve the challenging existing layout.

While the main redesign work was completed by January 2020, the owners of this ever-flexible home called on the designer's expertise once again in mid-2020. Working and schooling from home during the pandemic had put further demands on the multidimensional space and a few further tweaks were suggested to help the space run even more smoothly. 

The family asked interior designer Alexis Smith of Studio Shoshin to remodel the home's key rooms, including the kitchen, and to refresh and redecorate many of the other spaces. 

Alexis understood the need to incorporate flexibility in the layout in order to make the house feel comfortable and cozy for the family of five, whilst still being spacious and versatile enough to host much larger get-togethers. 

'We developed space plans that could accommodate dozens of people in the living room for a piano recital, as well as space for hosting art classes and visiting in-laws in the lower level,' explains Alexis. 

1. Flexible dining room for family meals and entertaining

bright dining room with round table and windows on both sides with white sideboard and upholstered chairs

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

The dining room is one of Alexis' favorite spaces. 'It manages to be both very beautiful and inviting,' she says. 'The dining room needed to feel cozy for five on a typical weeknight but also handle large dinner parties on occasion.' 

For anyone in search of dining room ideas, there are plenty worth borrowing from this bright and airy room. 

The family intended to use their dining room nightly, so Alexis selected a custom table by Keith Fritz that was perfect for five but could expand easily to accommodate guests. ' Indeed, the adjacent butler’s pantry includes cabinets built specifically to house the extra table leaves so that adding additional seating on short notice isn’t a chore. 

Around the table is a set of vintage Louis XIV-style dining chairs from the 1960s with silver leaf carved wood frames. Aux Abris’ Garden of Eden grasscloth wallcovering, brings the outdoors into the room. 

2. Kitchen – enlarged and remodeled 

kitchen with blue island and basketweave bar stools and large brass lantern pendant light and white worktops and cabinets blue range cooker with extractor hood

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

The original kitchen was dated and its layout was awkward. Space was at a premium, but project architect April Gruber of AG Design Studio suggested removing a rear stairwell to add extra space to the kitchen. Alexis suggested her clients consider white kitchen ideas as a way of increasing the sense of space in the reconfigured room, with a blue central island adding a strong block of color. 'We wanted to make a somewhat tight space feel generous and airy,' she says. 'We gave the blue Lacanche range room to breathe by forgoing upper cabinets on that wall and instead created a dramatic backsplash punctuated by a pair of lively paintings. The oversized lantern above the island is by Urban Electric.

3. Butler's pantry – a useful new space 

narrow fitted butlers pantry white part-glazed cabinets black worktops floral artwork

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

The butler's pantry was originally a laundry room, but the new incarnation of the space connecting the formal dining room to the kitchen feels as though it has always been there. There are plenty of clever pantry ideas in this room, which boosts the kitchen storage options and provides neat shelving for glasses and serving dishes. 

'The glossy floor-to-ceiling tiles bounce light through the narrow space and are paired with traditional details in the custom cabinetry to keep the space quiet and sophisticated to relate to the very elegant dining room, and to make a connection with the home’s architecture,' says Alexis. 

4. Formal living room – with space for a crowd

living room with blue sofa and white sofa with piano and guitar and view to patio beyond bright artworks on walls

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

Here's a living room that has to work hard for its living! If you're looking for living room ideas for a multifunctional space, you'll find inspiration right here. The clients asked that the family living room be formal enough for entertaining – and occasional music recitals – and yet also designed for everyday family use. 

living room with white sofas and armchairs with floral cushions and fireplace and bright artwork above shelves either side

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

Shades of blues and greys are incorporated throughout the living room space while several works of art bring additional liveliness and color. Fabrics are by Kravet and Soane. The custom hand-painted fireplace tile is by Ann Sacks. Sconces are Visual Comfort, the coffee table is Paul Ferrante, and the pair of armchairs are by Aesthetic Décor.

5. Front porch gets a new dimension with an extra seating area

front porch seating space with basket chairs and sofa and hanging plants and red front door

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

The front porch had a radical redesign as a result of the pandemic, a real sign of its times, as Alexis explains: 'This is a generous, covered space, which we designed to serve as an extension of the living room when all entertaining needed to move outdoors during the height of the pandemic.' If you're looking for front porch ideas, we think this airy, old-world space could be a winner. 

 Lighting is by Urban Electric and furnishings are Palecek.

6. Primary bedroom refresh

primary bedroom with grey walls and white fourposter bedframe and floral pillow

(Image credit: Lauren Andersen SEN Creative)

While the other rooms we've toured are used for socializing with friends and family, when it came to bedroom ideas for the clients' primary bedroom, Alexis suggested a calmer more neutral scheme. 

'We kept the color palette in the primary suite limited so that it felt serene, although a few pops of color give the bedroom a bit of energy,' she explains. 'We chose a canopy bed to create some visual separation between it and an adjacent seating area.' The clean lines of the bedframe and nightstands modernize the room. 

Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine, starting to write album reviews just as they switched from vinyl to CD releases. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.