Inside an Airy Victorian Farmhouse Retreat by Arterberry Cooke


If you’re looking for ways to brighten up your home or give it a more airy feel, Alice Arterberry and Barrett Cooke of Arterberry Cooke ArchitectureThe latest project from is full of inspiration. The design firm has transformed a folk Victorian farmhouse into a sunny oasis for entertaining. Built in 1915, the Pasadena, California home offers ingenious interior and exterior decorating ideas – from a clutter-free kitchen prep area to a pool house perfect for family get-togethers and playtime with the kids. Steal the design ideas below.

Kitchen and dining room

Jill Weller

Bring the outside

Rather than settle for the original choppy floor plan, Alice Arterberry and Barrett Cooke enhanced this home’s most active floor in conjunction with the owners, giving it an airy, open layout for entertaining. The designers combined the kitchen, dining room and living space and added folding doors that open onto the pool deck.

Find a bright spot for the breakfast nook.

The main kitchen dining area, which features wood paneling, is tucked away in an ultra-sunny nook and serves as the family’s command center for meals and arts and crafts sessions. For this reason, a custom quartz composite table top (also found in the kitchen) is a go-to choice. “They wanted it to be indestructible so they could use the space for everything and not worry about damaging the table,” says Cooke.

california home tower perimeter kitchen footprint

Jill Weller

Keep clutter to the perimeter.

When designing a kitchen, Cooke likes to “keep as many functions on the perimeter as possible so the island can stay clean and be used as a prep area and a gathering place for the family.” The result is a layout that feels open and manages to keep any messy cooking areas from taking over the space.

Have the look: Patio dining chairs, $140,; Unique globe pendant, $135,

Design tip: The wooden countertop gives the all-white kitchen a “warm and cozy” feeling, says Cooke, and is the perfect option for an island without an integrated sink or stove.


california home visit bedroom

Jill Weller

Go for a beach vibe all year round.

Your bedroom is meant to be a retreat, and that’s exactly what design firm Arterberry Cooke kept in mind during this makeover. Original woodwork and walls dressed in Behr Mountain Falls create a soothing atmosphere.

Have the look: Layne Velvet Curtain, from $88,; Seashell Accent Chandelier, $250,


california home visit bathroom shower

Jill Weller

Play with the scale in the shower.

A long brass shower arm, along with gray and white marble tiles in multiple patterns, shapes, and sizes, make a statement in the master bathroom. “We did pattern blocking, as opposed to color blocking, but both would succeed here,” Cooke says of the result, which features hexagonal shower tiles from Soho Studio. A custom vanity, with a medium wood tone, complements the brass hardware and adds a touch of luxury to the design scheme. “A lot of the woodwork in the house was very dark, so we were looking for ways to bring back some woodwork that didn’t feel oppressive to us,” Cooke adds.

california home visit bathroom

Jill Weller

Paint the woodwork.

The white wood paneling in the bathroom mirrors the original walls of the master bedroom and helps anchor the setup. “It was dark wood when they bought the house, but we painted it white and kept it lighter and brighter,” says Cooke. “We looked for elements that worked when the house was originally built and added them as much as possible to maintain a sense of cohesion.”

Cleaning tip: Don’t let little mildew stains on painted walls ruin your spa time. Scrub gently with a brush dipped in soapy water. Then apply a mixture of 3 tablespoons of bleach to 1 liter of water. Wait five minutes, scrub, rinse and air dry.

Bathroom tips from Carolyn Forté, GH’s resident cleaning expert

  • Flawless glass: Keeping glass shower doors and walls perfectly clear can be a challenge, especially in hard water areas. Drying them after showering helps prevent residue buildup. And an oversized microfiber towel makes quick work of this daily task.
  • Magnificent Stone: Natural stone, like marble, is a classic and durable bathroom choice, but many traditional bathroom cleaners contain acids that can attack these materials. Check the label and choose a shower cleaner, like Gold Graniteit is effective but safe for the stone.
  • Massage shower: Today’s fixtures often sport high-end finishes that can be damaged by the vinegar soak often recommended to clean a clogged showerhead. Instead, dip a brush in vinegar and go over the jets only. Rinse well and dry.
  • Teak tip: Accessories like shower benches and carpet will last longer and look better when cleaned with a soapy mixture of dish soap and water and sometimes protected with a teak oil or sealer.

    Have the look: Bamboo bath caddy, $70,


    california house call home

    Jill Weller

    Add more storage at the entrance.

    Every busy family needs a simple space equipped to handle real life. As the first floor lacked a traditional utility closet, a built-in wardrobe was installed to keep everyday essentials like coats and gloves in wraps. And Arterberry Cooke didn’t stop there: the wardrobe and the walls are all painted in Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl to gather space. “We wanted it to feel like it was already part of the room and kind of fade away,” says Cooke.

    Outdoor space

    home visit patio in california

    Jill Weller

    Design the perfect terrace

    Outdoor spaces also need care. Make sure yours is always ready for guests by following these simple steps.

    • Storage cushions: The best way to keep chair cushions and removable cushions clean is to keep them free of dirt and moisture after use and during the off season. Invest in a waterproof deck box for easy access when you need it and easy storage when you don’t.
    • Furniture to be cleaned: Thoroughly cleaning chairs and tables at the start and end of your outdoor season is essential, but regular touch-ups are what prepare them for impromptu get-togethers. Store a supply of heavy-duty cleaning wipes, such as Clorox Multi-Purpose Paper Towelsclose to remove dirt and stains quickly without rinsing.
    • Make the brick shine: Stone, brick and concrete walkways and accents tend to get dirty and stained when exposed to the elements. Use a cleanser like Granite Gold Exterior Stone Cleaner. Gentle and safe around plants, it comes in a size that attaches to your garden hose for extra pressure and reach.

      california home tour outdoor fireplace

      Jill Weller

      Build an outdoor fireplace

      “The connection to the outdoors is pretty perfect,” Cooke says of the inviting design scheme marked by a dramatic brick chimney and hearth (the original one was removed in the 1980s). A striped carpet ensures that the neutral seats placed on top remain the focal point of the area.

      Pool “Play” House

      california home shot billiard game house

      Jill Weller

      “They wanted a place where the kids could be less precious, where they could make a bit of a mess,” Cooke says of the pool house, which is a converted ADU (accessory dwelling unit). Not only does it serve as a cozy place for the owners’ three children to gather with friends, play games and watch TV, but it can also be used as a work or exercise space.

      california home tower colorful kitchen backsplash

      Jill Weller

      Install a colored backsplash.

      The sparkling tile backsplash of WowThe Fez collection in the pool house kitchen catches just the right light and keeps the space from feeling stark. Bright white on the cabinets and wall moldings brings even more brightness to the room.

      california home tower bedroom living room pool play house

      Jill Weller

      Keep it bright with white.

      Instead of overwhelming the pool house with strong colors and patterns, the white walls “let as much light bounce around as possible,” says Cooke, noting that she wanted it to have the same breezy feel as the main house. The timeless neutral was layered with natural materials, like a rattan headboard and jute living room rug, to enhance the coastal aesthetic. “Finally, the house feels cohesive,” says Cooke.

      Have the look: Rattan headboard, $379,

      A version of this function appeared in the June 2022 issue of Good Housekeeping.

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