Before & After: A Healdsburg Vacation Home Opens up to Breathe


Susan and Brad Harmon don't sit idle for long. While renovating their vacation home in Healdsburg, they fulfilled their dream of moving to Northern California full time, then got antsy to work on another project.

Brad had been a licensed contractor in Massachusetts for years and is a man of many talents, including tiling, remodeling and millwork. Susan has a flair for interior design. "We're serial remodelers," she says with a laugh.

Although the 1966 ranch house had spectacular valley views from the front and back, it didn't make the most of them. After an extensive renovation, the wine country home is crisp and bright with earthy notes.

Houzz at a Glance

Who lives here: Susan and Brad Harmon

Location: Healdsburg

Size: 2,600 square feet; four bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms

(Before Photo, original photo on Houzz)

BEFORE: "The exterior was a mix of wood siding, brick and rustic stucco … kind of Asian, kind of Mediterranean, kind of midcentury modern, with no one style that really held it together," Susan says. "The house had an identity crisis."

But what it lacked in curb appeal it made up for in views, which the couple realized could be enhanced by opening up the rooms. "The house hadn't been remodeled since the 1980s," Susan says. "We were so excited to take it on and update it."

(Open Homes Photography, original photo on Houzz)

AFTER: A refreshed front entry foreshadows what awaits inside. A new modern door with clear glass side panels replaced existing stained glass panels. Susan picked out tile for the entire house before they started construction, and used a large-format porcelain tile with a wood-formed cement look here, as well as in the laundry room, the half-bath and her office.

This home is all about indoor-outdoor living and the views. Comfortable chairs let the couple look out across the driveway to the Alexander Valley.

Stucco paint: Coconut, Benjamin Moore; trim paint: Slate, Benjamin Moore; front door: Moderno, ETO Doors; tile: Utah White, Artistic Tile via Ceramic Tile Center

(Before Photo, original photo on Houzz)

BEFORE: The kitchen was a narrow galley with 8-foot popcorn ceilings. The couple had to take care of asbestos removal throughout the house during the remodeling process.

(Open Homes Photography, original photo on Houzz)

AFTER: Now the kitchen is completely open to the family room and dining room, and the couple can see the view across the pool to the Russian River Valley.

Pendant lights: Hubbardton Forge; cabinetry: semicustom in Mushroom, Crystal

Wood and steel appear all over the house. Engineered oak floors throughout add a modern warmth the couple loves.

Brad transformed the built-ins into bookshelves and cabinets. Previously, the storage space was 2 feet deep, which he kept intact behind the new cabinets on the bottom. He reconfigured the open bookshelves to be just 1 foot deep and cut the number of dividers between them in half. The doors to the backyard were existing. Susan chose black paint for contrast.

Before, the fireplace surround was composed of a lava rock Susan describes as "drab and almost black." This was unfortunate for Brad, who completed all the tile work in the house himself. He had a bear of a time installing this tile, but the pattern that plays with light and shadow so beautifully was well worth it. The new hearth is a dark marble stone slab from the same color family as the tile.

The kitchen is now more open to the dining room, with the continuous vaulted ceiling forging a stronger connection between the two.

"In wine country, you wind up with a lot of wine bottles; it just happens!" Susan says. Brad custom-designed this wine refrigerator, which is three bottles deep and holds 400 bottles. The entry wall tile wraps around the sides.

"It's easily accessible and interesting and fun to look at — it's almost like art," she says.

(Before Photo, original photo on Houzz)

BEFORE: On the back side of the family room TV wall, the hallway to Susan's office was what Brad deemed "a hall of doors." A furnace and hot water heater hogged up space in here (another set took up room off the couple's bedroom). They moved the furnaces to the attic and replaced the hot water heaters with tankless ones that they put outside.

(Open Homes Photography, original photo on Houzz)

AFTER: Relocating that equipment made room for a long pantry. After getting rid of those doors, Susan was ready to keep things open in the narrow hallway, opting for sleek cabinets in an area that they keep neat and organized. The cabinets on the left are deep pullouts. The sliding door leads to the kitchen.

(Before Photo, original photo on Houzz)

BEFORE: The master suite was a sea of green shag carpeting. As you can see out the window, the landscaping was so overgrown that it blocked the views.

(Open Homes Photography, original photo on Houzz)

AFTER: By removing the bulky armoire, relocating the existing furnace and hot water heater, and blowing out a few awkward closets and the existing bathroom, they created a large master bath and his-and-her walk-in closets they can enter from both the bathroom (between the sinks) and the bedroom.

(Open Homes Photography, original photo on Houzz)

Susan kept the tones in the bedroom in calm neutrals. French doors look out to the backyard and pool at the end opposite the bed.

The couple found the nude by artist Arlene Diehl at an art fair in Healdsburg Plaza.

Rug: Restoration Hardware; woven shade: The Shade Store; white velvet drapes: West Elm

This article was written by Becky Harris for Houzz.

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