10 Ways This California Home Perfectly Blends Form and Function

Steal these 10 ways to make your home family-friendly without sacrificing style from a designer whose California home was overrun with kids and Lego blocks.

front exterior mother child standing at front door
Photo: Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Scoring a 45-year-old home that has never been updated may not be every homeowner’s ideal. But for interior designer Cecily Mendell, the dated house was pure potential. Plus, its location was ideal: 30 miles east of San Francisco in husband Allan’s hometown.

The mom of three boys and founder of Cecy J Interiors figured she and Allan would start by “ripping up the old carpet and living with it for a bit.” But during a long closing period their longing to finally feel settled in one place grew, so they launched into a nine-month complete renovation, crafting a home where cleanup is easy and skateboarding inside is OK.

Every design decision considered the kids, steering the spaces toward low-maintenance and modern. “I wanted to stay true to the country French architecture but infuse the more casual, barefoot California living I love,” Cecily says. She even put kickplates on interior doors that handle little feet scuffing them with a don’t-sweat-it attitude. Discover Cecily's 10 ways to marry form and function when renovating a home.

casual dining room wall to wall console and large artwork
Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Make Rooms Multifunctional

Cecily Mendell’s remodeled dining room is as likely to host a Lego block building marathon as a dinner party. The wall-to-wall console houses toys and a colorful display of favorite books. A long, narrow photo (Courage by Sean Riley) fits the console’s scale and makes the room look wider.

Change the Floor Plan

Veined marble and warm gray walls are Cecily’s base for mixing lots of finishes in the kitchen. After opening it up to the family room, Cecily flipped the range to the opposite wall and ditched a breakfast nook to make way for a 9-foot island covered in Calacatta marble. It looks fancy but handles even the rowdiest guests—like the dozen kids at her twins' birthday party.

Cecily Mendell

Every room is used and loved by the whole family. Nothing is off-limits.”

— Cecily Mendell

Brighten Up the Space

The former entry gave the impression that the house was dark and cramped. Cecily annexed an underused sitting area in the primary bedroom above so she could vault the foyer, which is now light, airy, and open. She then paneled the two-story wall with flat molding for some depth.

sisal wallpaper master bedroom black curved side table
Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Add Textured Wallpaper

The subtle texture of sisal wallpaper (Holland & Sherry’s Fitzrovia in Lapis) in the primary bedroom adds interest to the simple pattern. Shapely black accents give the cloudy-sky color scheme an unexpected edginess.

Opt for Easy-Care Upholstery

White furniture—like the living room’s linen couch—might seem counterintuitive in a home with young kids, but it’s actually easier to spot-treat than colors that might bleach or bleed, Cecily says. She pairs the couch with gray chairs upholstered in outdoor fabrics that quickly wipe clean.

Cecily Mendell

Kids are part of the gig and are welcome everywhere. But outdoor fabrics help.”

— Cecily Mendell
guest bedroom blue wallpaper collected artwork
Erin Kunkel

Create a Family Gallery

In the guest room, Cecily painted the walls a moody flat blue (Caspian from Portola). The art includes pieces passed down from her grandparents, kids’ drawings, and flea market finds. “I love using a guest room to collect,” Cecily says. “It gives visitors a story to enjoy.”

boys bedroom with California graphic sign
Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Keep Shared Bedrooms Simple

Because Cecily’s twin boys share a small room, she kept the bedding simple so it doesn’t overwhelm the space. A hit of color comes from a graphic sign by artist Michael Glotzer.

open shelf toy storage with Legos
Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Use Clear Storage

“Storing toys in a way that’s easy for kids to find them and put them away is always a struggle,” Cecily says. Clear bins keep them visible but organized.

subway tile bathroom drawer storage trough sink
Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Splash-Proof a Bathroom

Adding a trough-style sink to the kids’ bath makes it easier for everyone to brush their teeth at once. Cecily prefers low drawers over cabinets so she can assign one to each kid. Generous floor-to-ceiling tile withstands bath-time splashing.

whale skeleton wallpaper in nursery white crib
Designer Celily Mendell's home in Alamo, California near San Francisco.

Rethink Kid Themes

Navy whale skeleton wallpaper (Abnormals Anonymous’ Bruce in Captain Nemo) in the nursery is Cecily’s humorous play on animal themes common to nurseries.

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