On Another Level

Tucked away in the Santa Clarita Hills stands a three-story home designed with a masterful mix of modern lines, bold accents, and family functionality.

Images: Lauren Pressey

To hear interior designer John McClain tell it, the connection between him and the homeowner of this Spanish-inspired home was electric from the get-go. McClain, the creative director and CEO of his eponymous interior design studio, remembers their first meeting fondly. “The family was so gracious, open, and willing to embrace all this home and life could offer,” he says.

Built in 1985 and spread over three levels, the 2,930-square-foot, four-bedroom property is the primary residence of a professional lawyer, her teenage daughter, and their beloved pets. McClain and his team were after a grand transformation, which meant a renovation that spanned almost a full year.

“Every space and surface was addressed,” says McClain. “One of our greatest challenges was the sheer number of levels. The original layout had a total of seven levels, including three floors, two sunken living spaces, and two elevated areas. We were able to fill in the two sunken spaces to create a far more functional and open living space.”

These changes have completely modified the way mother and daughter live in the different areas, especially the main living and the light-filled dining areas. Considered the heart of the home, the kitchen — which comprises plenty of cabinets — also went through a complete overhaul.

Aware that the family wanted to live freely in the new space, McClain was determined to use materials he deems “indestructible.” “There was zero need for anything delicate or precious,” he says. “All of the upholstery is commercial-grade, heavy-duty fabric with protectants and most of the rugs are machine washable. Every single item was selected with the knowledge that it would be appreciated and used daily.”

A color palette of black, white, brown, gray, and green lends a sophisticated, timeless feel. “This classic combination provides an aesthetic that will be as appropriate in 30 years as it is now,” says McClain. He added mixed metallic accents, bold pops of color, and geometric patterns to provide visual interest.

The renovation took into account the family’s need for entertainment space for family and friends, but McClain made sure to make some space for peaceful solitude. Aesthetically and functionally, the house features a true sense of balance.

“Our universal goal is to create an atmosphere of welcome and relaxation whenever our clients come home,” explains McClain. “We achieve this through multiple clever closed storage solutions, which reduce visual clutter, comfortable yet elegant seating options, and thoughtful furniture placements to create frustration-free passage and flow.”

But although the designer and homeowner connected instantly, the project did have some challenges. The main bedroom — where the desire for luxury and retreat was paramount — required inventive thinking.

“There was only one appropriate head wall, but it was flanked with a small staircase to one side and access to the closets on the other,” recalls McClain. “To accommodate all the quirkiness, we created the illusion of uniformity by installing bamboo roller shades at the same height and commissioned custom drapery with three panels of equal length and the fourth much shorter to clear the stairs.”

Passionate about design since a young age, McClain approaches a home as a reflection of the persons who live in it, and as such, he invariably highlights the unique character of the space.

“I have loved design from as far back as I can remember,” he notes. “From rearranging my childhood bedroom furniture to helping my grandpa build family homes, design is part of my DNA.”

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