The open-air kitchen and dining area transformed the once walled-in space into an inviting family-friendly room.
Designer Keely Kay remodeled this Lido Isle home with an inviting “California costal” look.
Jeff and Kirsten Ingham pose with the “queen” of the household, Lola the Australian Labradoodle.
Fun, innovative sleeping quarters offer space for friends to stay over.
The Inghams’ daughter helped select much of her bedroom’s decor.
Custom built-ins and furniture ensure that the Ingham children enjoy spending their time at home.
Kirsten and Jeff Ingham came to Lido Isle on a whim. Little did they know that three houses later they would be living in what Jeff calls “the place we want to be for a long time.”
The couple – who have been together for almost 30 years since meeting in high school in the San Gabriel Valley – were planning to buy a home in Pasadena in 2004. Kirsten especially felt an affinity to that venerable California city.
“Growing up in the Midwest, I wanted to live in Pasadena because it reminded me of the Midwest. And I thought, ‘I will never live in Orange County; there’s no culture, there’s no this, there’s no that,’” she says with a laugh.
“Then we came down to Newport Beach for a weekend,” Jeff recalls, “and we ended up buying a house here instead, on the peninsula.”
That’s the place the couple started their family, which consists of “one dog, a gecko, a guinea pig and then three children. Not necessarily in that order! We have a 14-year-old boy, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl,” Kirsten chuckles, then bends down to pet Lola, the dog, who avidly accompanies this home tour.
Their first home on Lido came after the birth of their elder son. Says Kirsten: “On the peninsula, the neighborhood we lived in wasn’t as family-friendly. We wanted a place that had other kids and room for them to play, and we found Lido. At the time, we moved into what was perfect for us. It was a small house; we had one child. It was an original Lido house built in 1931, the same year the bridge was built.”
That house was where they began working with interior designer Keely Kay, a Balboa Peninsula resident herself. Kay worked on that first Lido home as the Ingham family grew to two boys.
“Keely came in, and she’s an organizational expert, and she would say, ‘OK, you can max out this space by buying a piece of furniture that will fit in perfectly.’ So she helped us max out our space in that house, we were all good to go … and then came baby No. 3,” she says. “We were busting out at the seams. We loved that house; it was a cozy, warm home. But we grew out of it. So we rented a house then, because we couldn’t find the right thing to buy.”
But the Ingham family never considered leaving Lido once they became a part of that special island community. “There’s a saying among our friends and neighbors here: ‘You don’t move off Lido, you move around Lido.’ So we’ve done a few little house-hops, but this one is here to stay. I think we’re going to be in this one for a long time,” Kirsten says.
They found and bought their 3,960-square-foot house, a street-to-street home that sits on a 45-by-90-foot lot, in 2012 and immediately “ripped it up,” as Jeff remembers.
“The house was originally built in 1940, and then it was added onto, I think maybe three times, or even four,” he continues. “What often ends up happening here is that rather than tearing a house down, people just keep adding something on. So this one was pretty well built-out, and we realized we’d have to remodel it to make it the kind of place we wanted it to be.”
Back came designer Keely Kay, who consulted with the couple even before they chose the house. “Keely even started with us a step earlier,” Kirsten explains. “Keely was coming with us to see other houses, since most of the other houses we saw needed extensive remodels as well. She knows our family so well, and she could help us see through what it was to what it could be.”
Once the home was purchased, the collaboration began. “Keely used to call it ‘The House of Many Doors,’ because originally there were so many doors and so many passageways,” she continues. “We knew we wanted an open kitchen and a big dining room for extended family gatherings, and so we opened up the whole front of the house.”
That meant tearing out the galley kitchen, getting rid of walls, changing the orientation of closets and commodes, putting in a kids study area next to the kitchen (for easy monitoring of homework while dinner is cooking) and even replacing the façade siding and front door.
“We put in a Dutch door in the front, mostly because we always had one and we like it, and with no air conditioning, we always have it open,” Kirsten says.
Kay designed and then kept watch on every element of the renovation, from major wall removals to many of the decorative accessories used in the built-in shelves scattered throughout the house, which she describes as “California coastal with a traditional flair and a timeless influence.”
Being intimate with the family for so long was a distinct advantage for the designer. “I knew what Kirsten was after, I knew what Jeff was after, and I knew what the budget was – which we exceeded by about 15 percent in the end,” Kay says. “What I do is once we agree on the design, I have a lot of subcontractors and I act as construction manager on a project. So I oversaw the project for them as well. That way all my design details get implemented exactly as I want them. Nothing goes wrong, in other words.”
Actually, everything is right in this warm Lido home that incorporates the Inghams’ items of personal and sentimental value with Kay’s “functional but pretty” design elements, particularly evident in the upstairs sun deck. That’s where Kay created a space that had everything Kristen Ingham’s heart desired.
“It reminds me of being in Europe,” she says. “She designed the built-in seating area for it and still kept room for the ping-pong table. That was a must for me.”
And remember Kirsten Ingham’s doubts long ago about moving to Orange County? Forget she ever thought one bad thing about the county. “Now we’re so happy that this is home. I think we’re going to be in this house for a long time.”
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