Our Designer’s Nontraditional Surf Escape

Our Designer’s Nontraditional Surf Escape

Our Designer’s Nontraditional Surf Escape


Christine Lin


Homepolish designer Christine Lin gives us the skinny on how she and her husband turned an unfortunate 1970's Santa Cruz pad into an oasis of calm for renters to come.

Photos by Helynn Ospina.

My husband, who loves to surf, had been searching for the perfect beach house in Santa Cruz for over a year when this property came up for sale. Within three days and some intense bidding, the property was ours! Since we live in San Francisco, our goal for the surf house had always been to rent it out as an Airbnb when we weren’t using it. The house had great bones, but was in major need of an update, having last been touched shortly after its completion in the 1970s. There was wall-to-wall carpet, taupe-painted beams, heavily textured walls, and tiled kitchen countertops—just to name a few of the many outdated features.

Since this was an investment property, we had a strict budget for the renovation and all its furnishings. We also had two occasionally opposing goals: ensuring that the home is durable enough to withstand regular rental usage and creating a home we love. My husband and I have similar styles so design-wise, it was fairly easy. We both love modern design and contemporary art, so we both knew going in that the typical beach house look was not for us.

For the renovation portion of the project, we refinished every single surface including exterior and interior walls, floors, cabinets—it was a soup-to-nuts endeavor. We paved the backyard in a custom concrete in order to create a lounge space, equipped with a hammock and fire that could work for both Santa Cruz’s warm days and chilly nights. The existing red oak floors were brought back to their original glory, and we added new matching hardwood floors in some rooms to replace the wall-to-wall carpet. The textured walls were plastered over and freshly painted in my favorite tone of white. The dull, pale blue exterior was painted a rich navy that paired perfectly with white trim and lime green doors.

We knocked down some closet doors to open up the smaller bedrooms; we figured that since this was a vacation house, closets aren’t a necessity. To save costs in the kitchen, we removed a portion of the upper cabinets and replaced them with open shelving, then followed up by painting the rest of the cabinets. A side note for the rental owners out there—open shelving is amazing because guests don’t have to go digging through every cabinet to find what they need. We couldn’t help ourselves and splurged on the custom concrete countertops, but there are no regrets there.

For the furnishings, I called in the big guns and made heavy use of Craigslist, Chairish, Etsy, and my local Alameda flea market to find amazing vintage pieces at even more impressive prices. My favorite pieces in the home are all vintage—even the artwork! Much of the lighting, sofas, tables, rugs, and additional pieces were found at inexpensive retailers, as we don’t want to bear the emotional burden if they were to be damaged by a renter. I tried to pick surfaces and fabrics that are easy to clean or can camouflage even the most offensive of stains. You might think that marble is high maintenance, but I found a honed marble coffee table through Chairish that was pre-treated. It has not a stain to be found, even after hundreds of guests. One piece that is special to us is the custom headboard in the master bedroom; I sourced the slab from a lumberjack and my contractor went all-out by sanding and mounting it directly on the wall.

Because we were not designing this home purely for our own purposes, we compromised on inexpensive rugs because we knew that guests don’t always follow the house rules of shoes-off. Additionally, the bathrooms were minimally renovated and only given a facelift, so to speak, with some simple flooring and hardware updates. Knowing that guests are usually tired after a long day of activities, we splurged on the beds to make sure we provided comfortable mattresses and soft, smooth sheets for renters to crash into at the end of the night. No matter how much praise we get on comfortable beds or fun artwork, the biggest compliment we’ve received is that “this place feels like home.”

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