Indoor-outdoor living and the Mediterranean inspired their renovation. PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
Blackband Design owners Greg and Wendy Blackband looked to global influences, playfully mixed fabrics and indoor-outdoor living when renovating their own Balboa Island home.
While she’s traveled the globe, interior designer Wendy Blackband always envisioned returning to her native Balboa Island. “I was hopeful for our children to experience the feeling of being surrounded by water,” says Wendy, who co-founded Costa Mesa-based Blackband Design (blackbanddesign.com) in 2003 with her husband, Greg—with whom she now has two teenagers, Cooper and Piper. “I wanted them to experience the idea of living close to nature with sandy feet and salty hair. A place full of nostalgia, surrounded by natural beauty, a village feel, steeped in family tradition.”
Wendy and Greg Blackband added white stucco, a Dutch door and bougainvillea vines to their home’s exterior. PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
In 2011, the Blackbands purchased a three-bedroom, three-bathroom 1969 home near where Wendy grew up. “It was one of the least attractive houses on the island,” recalls Greg of the dated exterior and overgrown landscaping. “The interior was dark and dreary with heavily stained turquoise shag carpet, olive laminate countertops, 1960s appliances, hardware store shelving and popcorn ceilings. We had our work cut out for us.”
A peninsula features handcarved wood panels from Thailand PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
They approached the renovation slowly, in three stages; “live in the space before you renovate” is what Wendy advises clients, so they’ll understand how they use it. Initially, the Blackbands updated the ceilings, floors, plumbing and electrical work, followed by a revamp of the exterior in 2014. “We added white stucco to the exterior walls, tile accents in the window nooks and bougainvillea vines—all inspired by Mediterranean culture and architecture,” says Wendy.
The coffee table displays art, travel and cooking books. PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
Their international experiences also informed the design. “I’m from England and have lived in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and Wendy is a Californian and has lived in Spain and South Africa,” says Greg. “Much of the home is inspired by trips to Cabo San Lucas, the south of Spain and the streets of Santorini.” Notes Wendy, “We thought about Europe and the Mediterranean—multigenerational family dinners, harmonious indoor and outdoor living, olive oil and aperitifs.”
The bulk of the renovation took place in 2020. “In this last phase, we needed to make the original footprint work better for the way we entertain,” says Greg. “We maximized the layout by creating large openings for indoor-outdoor living spaces and took down several walls to open up the main living areas.” Wendy employed her flair for mixing fabrics and patterns. Colorful throw pillows jazz up sofas custom-made with Ralph Lauren and Perennials fabrics, and a purple velvet cushion covers a 12-foot banquette. “I wanted to play with some jewel tones, plum, berry, indigo and amber,” says Wendy, who never found the right fit for them in clients’ homes. The designs fit their needs as much as their style: “The living room cabinetry doubles as storage,” notes Greg. “Banquette dining allows our family and friends to gather around the large dining table while also offering storage underneath.”
Wendy employed her flair for mixing fabrics in the open living and dining space. PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
Extra kitchen cabinets flaunt brass hardware and unique Ashley Norton backplates, and a new peninsula features handcarved wood panels from Thailand, handmade terra-cotta Tabarka tile and a sintered stone countertop—“that can stand the abuse of olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes and red wine,” Wendy quips. A back den with a sleeper sofa functions as a kids’ workspace and guest room, and sliding doors lead to an interior courtyard—an unusual feature on Balboa Island.
A back den functions as a kids’ workspace, lounge and guest room. PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
Inside, an antique 1850s Shanxi console greets guests; walls slicked with Dunn-Edwards Warm White paint showcase paintings by Judith Corona, Wendy’s mother; and a coffee table displays art, travel, cooking and family photo books. “I learned from my mom’s coffee table to include things that spark curiosity and conversation,” Wendy says.
Three thousand individually selected pebbles form a pattern in the primary shower PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
Another conversation starter are the 3,000 individually selected pebbles placed in an alternating horizontal and vertical pattern on the primary shower walls. “[It’s] inspired by a favorite restaurant resort in Los Cabos,” Wendy says. Moroccan subway tiles and Spanish terra-cotta-influenced flooring line the kids’ bathroom, and the main bedroom juxtaposes tones of sage, mustard, indigo, burnt umber and black with crisp white walls, feathered Cole & Son wallpaper and Miro-esque artwork. “Our main bedroom style and color palette reflect the Spanish influence in my life,” says Wendy, whose grandparents hail from Spain
Daughter Piper’s room features turquoise Ro Sham Beaux pendants PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
Meanwhile, the kids’ bedrooms embody their personal styles and interests. Piper’s room features turquoise Ro Sham Beaux pendants and blush-colored fabrics, and Balboa Island Yacht Club enthusiast Cooper has a ship mural and Manzoni wood hardware conjuring the keel of a sailing schooner.
“I LOVED THE FREEDOM OF MAKING CHOICES STRICTLY BECAUSE THEY BRING US JOY AND REFLECT WHO WE ARE AS A FAMILY.” —WENDY BLACKBAND
The color palette and art in the main bedroom evoke Spain. PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN GARVIN
For their own home, the Blackbands went bolder and didn’t worry whether decisions made “design sense.” Says Wendy, “I loved the freedom of making choices strictly because they bring us joy and reflect who we are as a family.” Now that’s living well.