Before & After: see how this mid-century home was transformed to add character back in

This dated cabin bungalow has had a modern makeover but still retains its original character

Exterior of a modern cabin bungalow at dusk
(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

California-based designer and architect Dylan Henderson transformed this dilapidated and dated hillside bungalow into a beautiful modern home in the Santa Barbara hills.  

Originally constructed by acclaimed architect Peter Edwards in 1957, the stunning property has had a modern revival with its clean, minimalist design. By using natural materials and retaining many of the home's classic architectural elements, Dylan has helped to restored the space to its former glory. 

Prior to the renovation the home nearly in a state of disrepair. The rural setting meant that nature had taken its course and deer had even found their way inside the property! Dylan and his team stripped back the entire structure to the property's bare bone to completely redesign the home for the 21st century. 

Dylan's goal was to honor the home’s original features while putting a fresh touch on the floor plan, layout, textures, materials, and finishes. 'My vision was to preserve the integrity of the original design while restoring the liveability of the project,' he explains. The result? An architectural masterpiece offering unrivalled views of the mountains that's been updated for modern living.


The exterior of a cabin house in disarray prior to renovation

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

Before Dylan stepped onto the scene, the bungalow had entered a state of disarray. Despite the wonderful setting, overgrown shrubland around the backyard meant the property was in lots of shade and had been almost entirely taken over by its natural surroundings. The exterior was shabby and unkept, but Dylan of SALT Architecture wanted to the preserve the wood before it could fall into complete disrepair. 

An outdated kitchen prior to renovation

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

The interior was dark due to limited natural lighting. This, combined with the natural browns of the wooden ceiling and cabinetry as well as the tiled flooring, made the space feel oppressive. However, Dylan was determined to retain the natural wooden features while injecting light into the home. 

'The original redwood siding was just beautiful and the redwood ceiling liner made a huge statement and needed to be preserved,' says Dylan. 'The overall integrity of the original architecture was really important to maintain. Peter Edwards was fairly well known in Santa Barbara and I felt honored to be able to preserve a piece of his work while interjecting a fresh spin on the project.'

An outdated bathroom prior to renovation

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)


A kitchen with wooden cabinets

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

The home now combines the best elements of old and new. It still has an overall old-timey aesthetic, but the modern finishes make it feel all the more comfortable. Dylan has preserved the kitchen's classic feel with the wooden kitchen cabinets, but the large windows allow more natural light into the space preventing it from feeling dark and suffocating, as it did previously. 

'When there is a lot of glass present I really like dark cabinetry,' says Dylan. He wanted to open up the space and emphasise the beautiful scenery that surrounds the home. By using the window to frame the wooded area outside the kitchen, it transports you into a magical hillside fairytale cabin. 

As Dylan explains: 'The darker palette really allows the outside to be the center piece which is definitely the case with this kitchen. The cabinets then essentially frame the view and pull the eye out rather than in which I love in this project.' 

The cabinetry in the kitchen is a book matched walnut flat panel which puts a modern twist on the Mid-Century aesthetic. 'I was thinking of the cabinets like a picture frame as I designed which I think worked out quite well,' he adds. 

A modern living room with large corner sofa

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

The neutral living room is a calming space to relax. One of the most striking features Dylan managed to preserve from the original structure was the redwood panelling for the ceilings. In order to do so, his team had to frame an entirely new roof cavity to hide all of the new wiring and piping which proved to be a major challenge. 

'The ceilings were definitely the greatest challenge as we had to get recessed lighting and fire sprinklers into the assembly without affecting the look and feel,' he says. 'It was a very forensic type of process to lightly touch what was in place.' 

The ceilings were very poorly maintained, so to restore the color while making ensuring they were also safe, Dylan had to blast and then re-stain them. 

'We started with walnut blasting, sand and re-stain in order to even out the grain and tone of the wood,' he explains. 'In areas were previous water damage had occurred the darker color is still present but that is a part of the patina of the age of the project so is sort of a wonderful addition.'

A bedroom with large windows

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

Throughout the home there is a neutral color scheme. The earthy tones create a tranquil environment that pairs beautifully with the green foliage outside the windows. 

'The house is very much nestled into its natural environment,' explains Dylan. 'I actually had a deer scare the heck out of me on one of my site visits early on as it had taken up residence in the living room. So, keeping neutral earth tones for the majority of the finishes felt natural and important.'

A modern bathroom with blue tiles

(Image credit: Gavin Cater)

Flat panel white oak cabinetry has been used for the bathroom vanities, making it feel more light and airy under the redwood ceiling. Within the modern bathroom, Dylan has experimented more with pops of color with the wall tiles. 

'In the rear guest bedroom we used a tile actually named Atomic as a bit of an ode to the time period,' Dylan says. 'I love the juxtaposition of the old and rustic with the new and contemporary. There is a wonderful balance that is created when aspects of an original design remain and more contemporary finishes are introduced as long as the integrity of the original is respected.'  

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.