Playful Touches and DIY Magic Transform This Builder-Grade Home
Some three years ago, Camille and Ben Kurtz moved out of their small condo and into a larger home in San Marcos, California. The brand-new place was so-called builder grade: a blank canvas of basic trim and finishes. At first the couple made minimal upgrades, knowing that Camille, an avid do-it-yourselfer and brains behind @the_kurtz_home, planned to leave her own imaginative mark on the house over time. "We started slow—a little bit of trim, some paint—and then as I got more confident, I took on bigger projects," she recalls.
Camille, a home-design influencer, sketched out a plan for their house in 2018 when they moved in, and she has mostly stuck with her original vision. "I made small tweaks and changes as I went, thinking that something might look better if it was arched, or deciding on floating shelves," she says. Most important, she wanted the design to reflect her and her family's playful personalities. (Camille and Ben have two young daughters: Charlotte, 5, and Ava, 3.) "I like to get fancy and be surrounded by beautiful things," Camille S explains, "but I also love adventure and can get down and dirty going camping and climbing rocks for two weeks."
One of the highlights of the home is the luminous Fireclay-tiled kitchen, a deep-blue and white space that Camille describes as "moody, with a bit of surprise." She's happy to cook there all day long and welcome guests to the dinner parties that she and Ben host. The room's open-floor plan lends itself to congregating, and visitors inevitably gather around the island.
From the kitchen, Camille can also hear her daughters in the loft-area playroom, where they camp out with their toys and lose themselves in art projects. If they aren't up there, they're likely in Charlotte's room. Although the sisters each have spaces of their own (Ava's room is scheduled for renovation next, along with the butler pantry and the main bedroom), they often hang out together in Charlotte's private wonderland, where she requested a bunk bed atop her own, outfitted with a slide—a wish that the house's high ceilings could fortunately accommodate. The kids access the slide via a staircase that doubles as a built-in storage unit. "Because the room is done all in one blue, the staircase just fades away," Camille adds.
Charlotte's room also showcases Camille's prowess with color, in the form of a mural she painted beside the closet, as well as the matching hand-stenciled floral patterns on the adjacent wall. "Although the stenciling was beautiful in the end, that was one of the more tedious tasks!" Camille says. "On the other hand, the process was so relaxing, I could do it for hours. It's amazing how painting transformed Charlotte's entire room."
Another marker of Camille's ingenuity is the statement chandelier in Charlotte's room. The glamorous piece may look as if it was plucked from a vintage shop full of 1970s treasures, but it was actually crafted by Camille, who stitched together ostrich feathers, foam, and an Ikea pendant light kit.
Camille, who says she has the bandwidth to overhaul only two rooms a year (due to the amount of energy and time she invests in each space), has also turned the once-drab entryway into an inviting foyer that has the air of a "European boutique hotel," as she puts it, defined by black-and-white vinyl floor tiles that she cut into a triangular design. There's also the staircase, which captures her and Ben's passion for artwork in a homey assemblage of public-domain images sourced from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art via its Open Access initiative.
When the family first moved in, the backyard was essentially an expanse of dirt, so Camille tackled that zone from scratch, softening the space with pavers, artificial grass, and plants. The biggest challenge was conjuring a sense of intimacy, as neighbors are very close by, so she added a standout cedar trellis, which replaced a white plastic fence. "I wanted to create a nice backdrop, and it feels urban now too, like you're sitting in a café somewhere," she says.
The yard's newfound coziness is also heightened by a fire pit. Blessed with Southern California weather year-round, Camille likes lingering by it with friends for wine and conversation as much as with family for frequent s'mores sessions. Charlotte and Ava, she laughs, "can't get enough."
This article originally appeared in our Winter/Spring 2022 issue. Get the magazine here.