Designer Danielle Hickman helps a Utah couple turn their outdated beach bungalow into the vacation home of their dreams.

A short walkway passes leafy palms, fragrant jasmine and climbing roses as it leads to the trellis-shaded porch of a small bungalow. A partially open Dutch door offers a glimpse of the delight that awaits inside. There, an open interior welcomes with light-filled spaces, a chic, comfortable décor and a wall of windows overlooking a sun-soaked patio. In a word, bliss.

Danielle Hickman, principal of Domichel Hickman Design Studio, gutted the interior to make it look and feel more spacious. California Dreaming.
Danielle Hickman, principal of Domichel Hickman Design Studio, gutted the interior to make it look and feel more spacious. She painted it a fresh white, lowered the kitchen’s breakfast bar and new upper cabinets, enlarged the opening between the kitchen and dining space and eliminated part of the original brick fireplace that intruded on the dining area. Updated skylights illuminate new white-oak floors that foster a sense openness and continuity inside the home. Photo by Rebekah Westover.

This California vacation home was not always so charming.

When its Salt Lake City-based owners acquired the 1951 bungalow previously belonging to one of the duo’s grandparents, they envisioned a relaxed, modern summer home where they could escape to Newport Beach’s Balboa Island. What they purchased was a cramped and outdated house in need of an overhaul. “It had good features including beamed vaulted ceilings, a fireplace and the potential to be open and airy,” says designer Danielle Hickman, the mastermind behind the bungalow’s remodel.

The scope of the project belied the modest size of the 1,400-square-foot beach house. “This was a big job that required a complete gut remodel and was done with a top-to-tail update,” says Hickman, who incorporated many local products and vendors in the project. “I wanted to support Utah’s community and economy,” she says.

Danielle Hickman designs a White Macaubas quartzite from Venetian Tile & Stone tops new kitchen cabinets. Simple pendant lights from Visual Comfort help promote the room’s clean, open design. California Dreaming.
White Macaubas quartzite from Venetian Tile & Stone tops new kitchen cabinets. Simple pendant lights from Visual Comfort help promote the room’s clean, open design. Photo by Rebekah Westover.

Hickman began by opening the main living and kitchen spaces, creating an open-concept plan that made the home’s primary gathering area feel much larger. The designer also reconfigured a sprawling brick fireplace and eliminated bulky built-in storage units that gobbled space as they separated the living area from the sleeping quarters. Today, a strategically placed armoire and potted plant provide the needed barrier. “The built-ins were unnecessary because vacation homes don’t need tons of storage,” Hickman explains.

Hickman sets an arrangement of orchids from Orchid Dynasty on a glass-top table featuring a gleaming brass base. A clean-lined chandelier adds an understated, modern element to the décor. California Dreaming.
Hickman sets an arrangement of orchids from Orchid Dynasty on a glass-top table featuring a gleaming brass base. A clean-lined chandelier adds an understated, modern element to the décor. Photo by Rebekah Westover.

Opening and reworking the interior weren’t the designer’s only space-making tactics. She also created a fresh white backdrop to make the interior feel roomier and more open. “I used a single shade of white for all the walls, ceilings, base, case and doors,” Hickman says. The pristine palette continued with light quartzite countertops, white cabinets and understated light fixtures that allow the designer’s accent colors and pattern to prevail. “The white backdrop set us up for moments of big pops,” she says. Among these are a bedroom’s jungle-themed wall mural, the dining area’s wall-mounted marlin, a bathroom’s green tiles and a mix of framed art, live plants and select furniture pieces placed throughout.

Danielle Hickman Design, A single layer of black fireballs fill the firebox of the newly narrowed brick fireplace. California Dreaming.
A single layer of black fireballs fill the firebox of the newly narrowed brick fireplace. “We wanted them to be different and modern,” says Hickman, explaining the black orbs. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman Designs. The interior’s white backdrop provides a blank canvas for colorful pieces of art and furniture that Hickman strategically placed inside the home. California Dreaming.
The interior’s white backdrop provides a blank canvas for colorful pieces of art and furniture that Hickman strategically placed inside the home. “The contrast gives the eye a place to rest,” she says. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman Design. Light flows through a wall of windows that connects the living room area to the sundappled patio beyond.
Light flows through a wall of windows that connects the living room area to the sundappled patio beyond. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
In the master bedroom, Phillip Jeffries’ Arboretum mural creates a dramatic backdrop for a large canopy bed draped in a sheer white fabric. Hickman added custom nightstands from Old World Antique Reproductions to fit the compact space and complement its platform bed.
In the master bedroom, Phillip Jeffries’ Arboretum mural creates a dramatic backdrop for a large canopy bed draped in a sheer white fabric. Hickman added custom nightstands from Old World Antique Reproductions to fit the compact space and complement its platform bed. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman designs. Inspired by the bedroom’s mural, jungle-green paint enliven’s the master bathroom’s walls. A brassframed Rejuvenation mirror delivers a shapely reflection of the space.
Inspired by the bedroom’s mural, jungle-green paint enliven’s the master bathroom’s walls. A brassframed Rejuvenation mirror delivers a shapely reflection of the space. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman Design, Green tile from Contempo Tile invigorates the guest bathroom, where Hickman created a glass shower enclosure to help make the compact space feel open and bright.
Green tile from Contempo Tile invigorates the guest bathroom, where Hickman created a glass shower enclosure to help make the compact space feel open and bright. Photo by Rebekah Westover.

A strong link to the outdoors also expands the bungalow’s living space. Hickman fostered this connection by elevating the style and livability of the main patio, incorporating live plants inside the home and assuring that the natural light and views flowing through large windows remain unobstructed. Chic Dutch doors—located at both the front and back entrances—also connect the house to the California climate and gardens. Their cool-factor is practical, as well. “There is no air conditioning in this and many of the island’s homes, so we needed to be able to leave doors open to cool the interior.” With their upper halves open, the doors welcome breezes and neighbors who frequently drop in for a friendly visit.

“This wasn’t just about designing a home, it was about creating a lifestyle,” Hickman explains. As her clients cruise around town in their vintage pink convertible, pedal cruisers to the beach or simply kick back in their new digs, they relish their time at the reimagined home so much, they plan to expand their visits far beyond summer vacations. The bungalow is now their California dream come true.

Danielle Hickman Design. A Dutch door welcomes guests into the home. To foster the home’s chic style, Hickman painted it black and adorned it with brass hardware.
A Dutch door welcomes guests into the home. To foster the home’s chic style, Hickman painted it black and adorned it with brass hardware. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Hickman placed an assortment of mirrors throughout the interior to add shapely accents while expanding the visual space with reflected light.
Hickman placed an assortment of mirrors throughout the interior to add shapely accents while expanding the visual space with reflected light. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman Design
“I loved choosing art and accessories that I wouldn’t normally use in Utah,” says Hickman, who selected seashells and cacti for the décor, as well as pink accents for the girls’ bedroom. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman Design
The white-on-white decorating that creates the interior’s chic, casual style continues on the patio, where a clean-lined table and chairs invites the homeowners to dine and entertain outdoors. Photo by Rebekah Westover.
Danielle Hickman Design. “It can be a little daring to do so much white, but my clients were committed to the palette,” says Hickman, who anchored the patio with a woven daybed piled with white cushions. Original terra cotta tiles ground the space.
“It can be a little daring to do so much white, but my clients were committed to the palette,” says Hickman, who anchored the patio with a woven daybed piled with white cushions. Original terra cotta tiles ground the space. Photo by Rebekah Westover.

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