Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

Pasadena-based interior designer Kirsten Blazek took a 50s ranch house and infused it with modern, Southwest style.

Other house-hunters saw a nondescript Ranch house with dated interiors. Interior designer Kirsten Blazek saw an opportunity to create her very own oasis of California cool.

Christine Lennon  – April 21, 2021 | Updated April 30, 2021

“There’s no logical reason why I am so attracted to the American Southwest,” says Kirsten Blazek, who was born in Scotland and moved to the States in her early 20s when she was a self-described “fresh-faced know-nothing.” “It’s the opposite of where I grew up. Maybe that’s why I like it.”

Blazek tapped into her love of Western art, Aztec-inspired pattern, natural leather, and a dark neutral palette when she was furnishing the home for her own family. “I didn’t know how long I would live there, but I knew it would be a good investment,” she said.

When she first saw the house, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving 2017, it was a non-event in an otherwise chaotic real estate environment. The location was excellent, close to the Arroyo in a coveted Pasadena neighborhood near the Rose Bowl, but there were few takers.

A few coats of Black Fox by Sherwin Williams changed the whole personality of the home.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

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“I guess no one could really see the potential,” she says. “It was kind of a mess, but I knew I could make it special.”

In a back-breaking five month remodel, which Blazek describes as “psychotic, and not something I would ever recommend to clients,” she opened up the ceilings, fixed the wood floors, knocked down a few walls to create an open living area, installed a new HVAC system, transformed the kitchen, and painted the exterior, along with the doors and window trim in Black Fox by Sherwin Williams.

By knocking down a few walls, Blazek created an open concept kitchen/living/dining area. Then the formal dining room space was free to use as the primary bedroom, once she added a closet.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

The result of her efforts is house that’s both comfortable and visually sophisticated, and a master class in how to re-think a layout to make the most of your square footage.

Blazek worked with the small footprint of the kitchen, but made it feel more expansive with larger windows, a Clé patterned tile, a Caeser Stone Island, Summer Studio custom stools, and ceramic pendant lights from Rejuvenation.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

In the formal living room, Cole and Sons Wallpaper and Fireclay tile in high-gloss black express the dark glamour that Blazek loves. “I’m a little witchy,” she explains. Rug by Mehraban.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

“I’m not scared of wallpaper at all,” says Blazek, who chose this Artemis paper by House of Hackney for a powder room, which has a kind of Old Dutch Masters vibe. “In a small space like this, you can go bolder.”

Alex Zarour for Virtually Here Studios

Blazek caught a glimpse of the new Farrow & Ball California-inspired paint color Terracotta by Kelly Wearstler, and immediately painted a bedroom (floor to ceiling) in the warm, flattering hue. The light fixture was a CB2 find. Rug by Mehraban.

Alex Zarour by Virtually Here Studios

Blazek combined a smaller bathroom and dressing area to create a larger primary bath with an open shower, a freestanding tub, and a large window to let in light. Matte black Kohler Purist fixtures are a sharp contrast to cool white tile and pale gray.

Alex Zarour for Virtually Here Studios

The octagonal mirrors are from Serena & Lily and the sconces were an Etsy find. Blazer used the same palette—Benjamin Moore White Dove paint on the walls and black fixtures by Kohler Purist—throughout the house to create a flow and cohesiveness from room to room.

Alex Zarour from Virtually Here Studios

Another wallpaper experiment in Blazek’s teen daughter’s bedroom made a big statement. By keeping the roman shades, the rug, and the bedding neutral, Blazek made the bold pattern work.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

A pair of hanging basket chairs with sheepskin throws, near a deep daybed piled with pillows, create a cozy outdoor conversation area. Blazek found these hanging chairs at a local garden decor shop; Serena & Lily sells a similar style.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

A mix of chairs, some from Article, others vintage Bertoia powder-coated in black, surround a dark wood outdoor dining table on the back patio. The designer’s love for Southwest style is everywhere you look—on these terracotta sconces, the hanging macrame ,and in the pottery on the outdoor table.

Alex Zarour of Virtually Here Studios

Designer Kirsten Blazek at home.

Mark Mannschreck

Despite Blazek’s love for the home, and the work that she put into it, it’s currently for sale. Check out her design and home staging work at her site, 1000 x better, here.

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