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NorCal Homeowner Finds TV Fame With Rustic “First-Time Fixer”

Design Trends

About an hour east of Sacramento, along Interstate 50, in El Dorado County is the small town of Somerset, California. The area’s forested hills are dotted with small wineries, farms, meandering creeks, and it is here where Melissa Gayle Gustafson of Melissa Gayle Photography and her family have recently settled down. Gustafson has overhauled an 1,100-square-foot 1950s country home into a modern farmstead filled with airy, neutral tones and rustic elements; a space whose aesthetic fits somewhere between Amber Lewis and Chip and Joanna Gaines. In fact, it’s no surprise that the latter duo featured Gustafon’s home renovation on an episode of their Magnolia Network show, “First Time Fixer” on Discovery Plus.

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Describing her aesthetic while designing the home, Gustafson explains, “My eye is drawn to natural elements. Using clean neutrals for paint and then accenting with real earthy textures and materials is definitely my style.” The challenge for the young family was how to make a charming, yet cramped, cabin feel much larger while still retaining the cozy charm and classic feel of the original. For Gustafson, that solution boiled down to brightening the space by removing walls to form a great room, creating soaring ceilings, as well as through the use of multiple shades of white.

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“There are many shades of white as we all know,” shares Gustafson. “I did my research and must give credit to Amber Lewis’ book Made For Living. I looked at tons of imagery and saved everything I loved into one collage board making sure to note the juxtapositions of color with furniture pieces and beams.”

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before and work in progress


After narrowing down her references, Gustafson took them to her local Dunn-Edwards store location where it was easy for the on-site Professional Color Advisor to pull the corresponding color samples. ”I love the customer service,” Gustafson adds. “It feels like I am shopping with a small brand when I walk into a Dunn- Edwards store.” Living an hour outside of town with two young children, however, means it isn’t always possible to find the time to get to a Dunn-Edwards store. In those instances, Gustafson found Dunn-Edwards’ paint delivery to be a game changer. “They even delivered to our house, which made all of the difference in the world to me,” she stated.

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Formerly a closed floorplan with wood-paneling, the interior has undergone a complete metamorphosis. “We tried to freshen up the space and still incorporate as many elements from the old walls and home as possible,” stated Gustafson. Ball of String (DE6190), a soft tan, serves as the base hue for the walls of the home found throughout the great room, living area, primary bedroom, and bathroom. While a truer white with pink-tan undertones, Milk Glass (DEW358), adorns the paneling on the home’s trim and the great room and bathroom ceilings. Gustafson explains, “These rafters were new and it was super important for us to have them feel like they had been there all along. This warm white is the perfect color!”

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Continuing the rustic feel, the kitchen cabinets get a vintage vibe with cool neutral, Shady (DEC774). In the hallway and her daughters’ bedroom, Milk Mustache (DE6169) is the hue of choice to paint over reclaimed cedar wood panels a look the homeowners say really gave a lot of character to the ceiling.

After a year of work, the renovation was complete. To other homeowners searching for a little direction identifying their own aesthetic, Gustafson advises to cull images of spaces that make you feel good. “Eventually you will begin to understand and see common visual themes.”

For more designer stories and their favorite shades of Dunn-Edwards whites, click here.

All Photography by @melissagaylephoto