NEARLY 13 YEARS ago, Brenda Cantu, husband Rick Boyce and their two girls moved into a majestic place in the hills of San Anselmo. The Victorian-style home, built from the ground up in 1982, was in great shape, but for a few structural elements. “The only major remodeling we did was adding a front porch,” Brenda says. “To this day, it’s where we spend tons of our time.”
With young children to raise, updating the interior was not a priority. But as the kids got older and life got easier, the couple began sprucing up the place. In the beginning they tackled small jobs: updating a powder room and turning a workshop into an exercise room.
More recently, they decided to take on bigger projects, including gutting their 1980s-era kitchen. “We completely reconfigured the layout,” Brenda says. “In the old kitchen the sink and all the appliances were crammed together, which meant we were all constantly bumping elbows.”
The new kitchen features a Calacatta marble island and Caesarstone countertops. And while they chose white inset cabinetry to honor the home’s Victorian style, the overall space feels sleek and modern.
Next on the list were completely redoing the bathrooms and rethinking the outdoor space. By not moving any plumbing, the couple managed to transform four bathrooms quickly and on a relatively small budget. Another time and money saver: prefab vanities from Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn.
The yard makeover, on the other hand, took considerably more time and money.
For starters, they ripped out old stairways and pathways in bad repair and repaved them in Connecticut bluestone. They also pulled up an ancient free-form pool. “It was beautiful, but keeping it heated and full of water was an environmental disaster,” Brenda explains. The one detail of the pool they did keep: “There was a waterfall that dumped water into the pool. It was so pretty that we decided to hang on to it and use it as a water feature.”
In the spot that once was a pool, the couple created a gathering space with a large Restoration Hardware fire pit as a focal point. Other upgrades included dozens of drought-tolerant plants, four trees and all-new fencing. Finally, the entire yard was wired for light, allowing the space to be enjoyed well after dark.
And while the soon-to-be empty nesters have no immediate plans to move, the idea that they may one day sell factored into their renovation decisions. “This is such a warm, happy house,” Brenda says. “I’d suspect a family with little kids would move in and enjoy it as much as we do.”
WHERE THEY LIVE The Seminary neighborhood in San Anselmo
WHAT THEY OWN A four-bedroom, six-bath Victorian-style home
CONTRACTORS Dan Hayes Construction and Audon Magana, Green Thumb Landscaping
INTERIOR DESIGNER Ingrid Melin of IM Interior Design of Mill Valley
FAVORITE DETAILS “The fire pit. We use it at least three days a week,” says Brenda Cantu.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Going Big.“
Dawn Margolis Denberg has worked as a professional journalist for 20 years. Her work has appeared in top publications, including Wired, Shape and Parenting. She has also written several books for children including, The Men in Black Agent’s Manual The Official Godzilla Movie Fact Book. And, most recently, an episodic audio series for Tales Untold.