My Houzz: 2 Old Cottages Become 1 Cool, Colorful Home

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A family of three had to think outside the box, or actually two boxes, to picture these side-by-side houses as one home. Interior designer Kathy Farley of Art Decor and her husband, artist Michael Shemchuk, knew the neighborhood they wanted to live in but had trouble finding a home they liked. Eventually, their search led to a great place with one drawback. “The lot was perfect, but the property contained two small rundown cottages,” Farley says. “So we followed the same footprint and connected the cottages to create a single-family house.”

Before Photo

Two Small Cottages Become One Family Home

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Michael Shemchuk, Kathy Farley and their 17-year-old son, Chet
Location: Albany, California
Size: 1,760 square feet (164 square meters); three bedrooms, two bathrooms
Year built: 2012

BEFORE: Here are the two original cottages with worn-down exteriors.

Exterior by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

AFTER: The main entrance to the new house sits in the middle of the former driveway and connects the two cottages.

Living Room by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The home now features an open floor plan combining the living room, kitchen and dining room. The fireplace, enclosed in the silver box, has a perforated steel screen. The wooden doors, made from ipe, hide the TV and storage space.

Living Room by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Artwork and comfortable seating define the living room.

Painting: Michael Shemchuk; sofas: Ted Boerner; shag carpet: California Carpet; ottoman: vintage

Kitchen by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Kitchen by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

“The kitchen was added on to the back of a cottage, which allowed us to raise the ceiling height and to add steel clerestory windows,” Farley says. It’s an updated version of the kitchens in the original cottages. The countertops are Carrara marble, and white subway tiles make up the backsplash.

Wall paint: Boca Raton Blue, Benjamin Moore

Kitchen by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Floating wood shelves display a collection of American pottery.

Shelf paint: Apple Blossom, Benjamin Moore

Kitchen by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The custom-stained cabinets are a combination of tongue-and-groove doors and flat-panel drawers. Kitchen gadgets dangle conveniently along the backsplash. “We use every one of these tools,” Shemchuk says.

Upper cabinet paint: Purple Haze, Benjamin Moore; lower cabinet paint: Amethyst Shadow, Benjamin Moore

Kitchen by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The custom island has a zinc top and provides storage for small appliances. The kitchen’s walls have a custom plaster finish.

White leather bar stools: Crate & Barrel; metal stools: vintage

by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Sliding panels are more attractive and space-saving than conventional doors. This one hides the family’s stacked laundry appliances.

Door track: McMaster-Carr

Dining Room by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Exposed steel beams structurally and visually connect the open spaces.

The dining room sits in the center of the house where the former driveway used to be. One of Chet’s primary school projects hangs proudly from the light fixture in the dining room as a counterpoint to his father’s painting on the wall.

Harvest table and benches: Ted Boerner; lighting: Tech Lighting; custom steel doors: Melissa MacDonald Metalworks; chairs: vintage

by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Extra seating can be found against the wall just around the corner from the dining area.

Photograph: Zeke Berman;
leather chair and Mexican hutch: vintage

Home Office by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Farley uses the spare bedroom as the office for her interior design business. Her desk, file cabinets and shelving are custom-made.

Maple table: Ted Boerner

by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

A vintage metal expandable file holder contains Farley’s folders of current clients and ongoing design projects.

Home Office by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

A flea market find helps Farley stay organized.

Hall by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The frosted glass front doors give the home privacy while allowing in plenty of daylight.

Wall paint: Citron, Benjamin Moore; fork print: Tracy Kendall

Bedroom by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The master bedroom is tucked in the back of the home. Windows overlooking the garden make it feel more like a treehouse than a conventional room.

Painting: Michael Shemchuk; wall paint: Sea Pearl, Benjamin Moore

Bedroom by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The homeowners built a wall to hide their walk-in closet. They found the oak mercantile cabinet in the dumpster of a recently vacated factory. Framed vintage wallpapers hang above it.

Wall paint: Blue Note,
Benjamin Moore

Bathroom by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The master bathroom is a study in blending old with new. “We used the vintage cast-iron tub and storage cabinet from the original cottages,” Farley says. The glass brick wall lets in plenty of light while providing privacy.

Bathroom by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The walls have a white plaster finish, and the floors are black slate.

Toilet: Kohler

Bathroom by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

The custom floating vanity has a Carrara marble top. The medicine cabinet is recessed, and its door is flush with the wall.

Dillon sconces: Restoration Hardware; fixtures: Chicago Faucets; steel-framed mirror: custom

Bedroom by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Chet’s bedroom is on the opposite side of the house from the master bedroom and has its own bathroom — good privacy for a teenager.

Paintings: Michael Shemchuk; wall paint: Dreamy, Benjamin Moore

by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

“Our kitchen has been featured in various kitchen decor books,” says Farley, seen here with son Chet.

Landscape by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Shemchuk’s art studio was built behind the house, leaving room for a garden, seating area and fire pit.

by Margot Hartford Photography

Margot Hartford Photography

Shemchuk is surrounded by some recent paintings in his studio.

My Houzz is a series in which we visit and photograph creative, personality-filled homes and the people who inhabit them. Share your home with us and see more projects.

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