Nature Is a Big Influence in This Sunny San Diego Home

Designer Nikki Klugh decorated this California midcentury modern-inspired home for two Cornell scientists inspired by the natural world and art.

September 01, 2020
Related To:

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Photo By: Jim Brady of Brady Architectural Photography

Holistic Approach

If San Diego-based designer Nikki Klugh looks familiar, you may have caught her on BET, NBC or other lifestyle shows. She helms the award-winning Nikki Klugh Design Group, and approaches projects by designing with all five senses in mind in order to create what she feels is a sacred space for her clients.

Such was the case for one of her latest designs. Her clients — two new San Diego transplants — needed help designing and furnishing their 2,156-square-foot midcentury-inspired home. While tackling the four-bed, two-bath space, Klugh also made sure to incorporate the homeowners' interests. "Much of the inspiration for their home originated with their love for all things science and nature, as they are both researchers at Cornell University," Klugh says.

Guiding Inspiration

Klugh says the living room's inspiration came from the 16th century painting The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, one of the couple's favorite works, because it draws parallels to their work as scientific researchers. "It was a perfect starting point," says Klugh, "given that the color palette worked so well with the elements of the home that we needed to work with, like the blond flooring and the aged wood fireplace surround." (Though the home wasn't built until 1980, it does contain some midcentury features found in original styles, like the wood paneled wall.)

New Vision

"This space was very challenging for the homeowners to envision, because the previous owners showed this room as one very large family room," Klugh says. She ended up converting it into to a living/dining room combo, and then transformed the former dining room into a study.

Klugh also added two chandeliers to anchor the new dining room. "The slope of the vaulted ceiling provided a fun way to offset the heights of the science-inspired lighting; they remind us of atoms!"

Family Time

The homeowners relocated from Ithaca, New York, in order to live closer to their grandchildren, and this table is large enough to accommodate everyone. In the corners, large fiddle-leaf figs (a favorite plant with designers because of its striking shape and leaf form) help balance the space while adding a tropical element.

Learn More : How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Breaking the Mold

With its color scheme of golden yellow and sky blue, the office is another room that takes its color cues from the couple's favorite painting. Klugh says the homeowners originally planned to use a spare bedroom as the office. "However, I showed them how using the [original] dining room for the study instead would allow them to enjoy a more open space that is also connected to a beautiful view of their backyard oasis." To that end, Klugh advises rethinking how spaces are traditionally used versus what works best for your lifestyle.

Small Things

Klugh is in favor of rounding out home accessories with personal photos and travel souvenirs to personalize your space, as seen here in the office. And, as elsewhere in the house, small plants and plant-motif decor are favored themes.

Natural Order

The owners wanted an airy space for the main bedroom, so Klugh opted for soft greens and creamy whites. She also featured nature elements throughout, from the wall of metal feathers to the seagull perched on the nightstand. There's a nod to the sciences here too, since the artwork in the room reminds the couple of geologic fractures. That artwork also serves to unite the room's color scheme and provides a strong focal point.

Wake-Up Call

"Normally, I would not orient a bed facing away from a main entrance of the room," Klugh notes, "But when the backyard oasis is calling to be recognized, sometimes you just have to give in!" As an unexpected touch, a wall of succulents complement without detracting from the view.

Eco-Friendly Touches

Klugh puts the finishing touches on bedding from Bamblu, which is made from organic bamboo and serves as an ideal choice for nature lovers.

Learn More : 22 Clever Bedding Ideas

Functional Space

"One of my favorite ways to create functional outdoor spaces with the livability and comfort of indoor spaces is to use rugs and curtain panels," Klugh says, adding that they help to soften the hardscape. Here, they're balanced by cushions that are in keeping with the interior color scheme.

"Always be sure to use 100 percent solution-dyed yarn for outdoor soft goods," Klugh advises. "These will withstand the elements for many years of enjoyment."

Warming Trend

The gold-and-blue color scheme continues in the backyard, and this inviting setup even includes a fire pit for San Diego's chilly winter nights.

Outdoor Living

Now that the renovation is complete, "It truly warms my heart to hear the stories of their grandchildren running around in the backyard chasing bunnies and birds!" Klugh says.

"I love that the home truly represents the clients as individuals and as a collective. Their extended family enjoys the various features we brought in, which allows them to gather indoors or on the patio. It's their perfect forever home and I'm so thrilled they love it too!"

Shop This Look