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Ship Shape

This article was written by Blake Miller and was featured in our June issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Karyn Millet. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.


When Raili Clasen got the call from her client to look at the circa-1927 Dutch Colonial farmhouse she’d recently purchase, the designer immediately saw beyond the dilapidated floors and walls. “The potential in this home was overflowing,” she says of the property based in the naval community of Coronado, California. The homeowners, Chip and Candice Kislack, had architectural plans already in motion, but when Clasen saw what was in the pipeline, she stepped in. “The plans were to make it into a really traditional home,” she says. “This home is rich in original architectural details and we really needed to lean into that rather than stripping it of its character.”

Clasen, founder of RailiCA Design, enlisted the help of architect-friend Eric Olsen. He then drew up revised plans for the Kislacks, which included preserving the home’s 1920s character and original architectural details. The goal was truly simple: renovate and modernize, but still make it look old.

As the team was about to embark on the renovation in the fall of 2017, the home was in complete disrepair, explains Clasen. “Walls were being torn apart by rats!” she laughs. Despite that, “only a few walls were removed, but we also didn’t add any in their place. We really wanted to maintain the home’s existing footprint.” The original three-inch-wide, red-oak hardwood floors were refinished, while some of the rooms’ original functions were changed such as a storage closet on the second floor that became an upstairs laundry room. “We really tried to keep everything intact,” says Clasen.

When it came to the interiors, Candice wanted “a moment,” says Clasen. “She was great and really pushed me. She essentially said to me, ‘Show me what you got.’ It was hard because I wanted the home to spring with a big personality, but that can be challenging with old houses.” The designer started in the entryway where a staircase with a stunning serpentine handrail was top priority to restore. “We wanted the entry of the home to really set the tone for the rest of the interior. But we didn’t want it to feel like Disney’s haunted [mansion] when you walked in,” laughs Clasen. To avoid that spooky vibe, the designer added a vintage piano she had lacquered yellow.

The rest of the interiors are an homage to the area’s rich history as a naval air station base. Navy camouflage wallpaper in the entry and oversize brass pulls in the kitchen are subtle salutes. “Everything was a nod to old,” but with modern nautical forms, patterns, and finishes, explains Clasen.

The home, now complete after an extensive renovation, was a labor of love for the designer: “To this day, it’s still one of my most favorite projects.”

A nautical theme can go awry when overdone. Here’s how designer Raili Clasen achieved the aesthetic in this featured design without it feeling over the top.

Finishes. Clasen looked to traditional, nautical-inspired finishes for hardware in the kitchen and bathrooms. “I had to do a lot of research on Dutch architecture and New Worldliness to hit the mark.” The natural brass sink faucet, for example, boasts nautical-inspired nobs in a ship’s wheel.

Patterns. Not everything needs to be sailboats and anchors to achieve a nautical theme. Clasen opted for a camouflage-pattern wallpaper in the entryway. The choice is a subtle link to Coronado’s naval background.

Palettes. While navy and blue with a pop of red screams seaworthy, there are other ways to incorporate the theme. Clasen chose wide plywood boards that mimic the underside of a boat and added them to walls in rooms including the primary bathroom and kid’s bedroom.