June 13, 2024


Interior spice

Beach-loving family lives small while living large in Carlsbad mobile home

Sara Pacetti never imagined she would work with an interior designer. That changed in August 2018, when her family downsized from a four-bedroom house in Cardiff, with a two-car garage, to a three-bedroom mobile home in Carlsbad, with a carport.

Pacetti recognized that she felt a bit overwhelmed by how best to organize her family’s spaces in their 1,000-square-foot mobile home. As she admired a close friend’s home that had recently been completed by interior designer Dasha Hervey, of Sea and Pine Interior Design in Del Mar, Pacetti admitted to herself that decorating doesn’t come naturally to her.

Her friend came to the rescue with an unexpected and generous housewarming present: a gift of interior design services with Hervey, an American Society of Interior Design-certified designer with a special talent for helping her clients reflect their own personalities and fulfill their needs through good design.

But still, Pacetti felt unsure how to proceed until Hervey walked her and husband, Vinton, through the design process. They both felt a rapport with Hervey, who was happy to collaborate in making their new home function well for them and their two children.

The porch and entrance feature UV-resistant furnishings.

The porch and entrance feature UV-resistant furnishings.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I loved the family’s back story and everything that went into their decision process. It’s possible to have the lifestyle and freedom they desired. I wanted their home to look like I never showed up, that they owned (the design), not me. It’s about pulling everything together — and it doesn’t have to cost a million dollars,” Hervey explained.

The Pacettis had found themselves at a crossroads in 2017. Vinton had just sold his business, and they had to decide whether to stay in San Diego or return to Florida. They had moved to San Diego originally in 2006 to transfer his company, which makes professional-grade safety equipment for skateboarding and other active sports, closer to the hub of skateboarding. Vinton continues consulting and designing for the new owners, while Sara teaches second grade in a North County public school.

The couple and their children, ages 13 and 9, loved their casual California coastal lifestyle and their ability to bike to the beach.

The couple and their children downsized from a four-bedroom home in Cardiff to a 1,000-square-foot mobile home in Carlsbad.

The couple and their children, ages 13 and 9, downsized from a four-bedroom home in Cardiff to the 1,000-square-foot manufactured home in Carlsbad, which allows them to live more affordably while keeping the coastal lifestyle. The mobile-home community is right across the highway from South Carlsbad Beach.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Pacettis decided to look for a home to buy, but they didn’t want to spend all the proceeds of their business’ sale on a house or be saddled with a huge mortgage, nor move inland to a more affordable community.

“We wanted to stay close to the beach and were willing to downsize to keep the lifestyle. We grew up in small spaces. We want to live tiny, but live large,” explained Sara.

After looking throughout the region, they came up with the perfect solution for their family. They found a manufactured home located in a well-maintained, tranquil mobile home park, right across the highway from South Carlsbad State Beach, one of the few in the region without age restrictions.

“This is the most peaceful place I’ve ever lived,” Vinton said.

A blend of vivid colors in the Pacettis’ living room plays off the Oriental-style rug in the home in Carlsbad.

A blend of vivid colors in the Pacettis’ living room plays off the Oriental-style rug in the home in Carlsbad redecorated by designer Dasha Hervey. Over the years, the single-wide manufactured home was expanded to a double-wide structure.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Built originally in 1968 as a single-wide mobile home, the house, like others in the community, had been expanded to a double-wide structure and improved over the years. Although it was in good condition when they bought it, the Pacettis knew they wanted to remodel to improve its efficiency for their family.

To begin, they replaced the mostly glass, seaside Florida room’s exterior with a solid wall with conventional windows, while also upgrading the home’s old metal siding with a modern weatherproof composite product. They also added better insulation and ventilation.

Fortunately, Vinton is extremely handy, Sara said, and he was able to undertake most of the construction himself.

“His nickname is ‘the Martha Stewart of men.’ He cooks, sews, does laundry, but also skateboards, rides motorcycles and is a jack of all trades,” his wife added with a laugh.

A sitting area in the double-wide mobile home of Sara and Vinton Pacetti.

A sitting area in the double-wide mobile home of Sara and Vinton Pacetti. Interior designer Hervey wanted the home to reflect the family’s back story.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

She explained that Vinton grew up in a St. Augustine, Fla., family with tailoring and boat canvas and upholstery shops, where he acquired sewing skills and familiarity with fabrics and foam. He started his business while a sponsored skateboarder, by using his knowledge to craft his own skateboarding pads and other safety equipment. His equipment’s quality drew prominent customers, including skateboard legend Tony Hawk, who lives in Encinitas.

Their first consultation with Hervey involved a virtual walk-through and discussion of what’s important to them, how their family lives, which items they wanted to keep, what colors and things they love and what they hate, and any specific requirements they had for their home.

Some long-cherished family keepsakes became part of the home’s decor.

Some long-cherished family keepsakes became part of the home’s decor.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For Sara, her favorites were clear: a bright, multicolor ottoman and a slightly muted but vivid vintage-style Oriental-patterned rug, both of which she had purchased for her living room to establish their home’s basic palette.

Their color scheme was built around these vibrant blues, greens, pinks and reds, which Hervey summarized as “full Florida cha cha cha,” garnering a full-throated laugh from both Pacettis.

Other choices included long-cherished keepsakes, among the few items they’d brought from their St. Augustine home: the large mirror Vinton had framed with wood milled on the family property in 1888; the corner cupboard Sara’s great-grandfather had built and Vinton had reconstructed after it was shattered in the move; the colorful portrait of a cow reminding her of the cattle ranches of her central Florida homeland; the lace doily her mother had crocheted; and the rocking chair her father had given her after the birth of her first child.

These were the pieces that Hervey built her design around and presented in an overall plan for the home. She incorporated them in a mood board and layout along with guidance and suggestions for furnishings, fabrics and other products, many of which the Pacettis could source on their own. Most interaction was done remotely, with the Pacettis making measurements and taking photos and narrated videos of their spaces.

Vinton’s carpentry and sewing skills proved beneficial as they collaborated with Hervey on their home’s redesign. Since custom draperies are so expensive, Vinton made their draperies himself and also crafted a burnt-wood storage chest for their bedroom, fashioning tufted blue velvet cushions for its top.

One of the first projects in the remodel was the decluttering, streamlining and “quieting” of the Pacettis' master bedroom.

One of the first projects in the Pacettis’ remodel was the decluttering, streamlining and “quieting” of their master bedroom. Vinton Pacetti, a former sponsored skateboarder with sewing expertise who went on to build a business making skateboarding pads, made the storage chest and tufted blue cushions himself.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I wanted the house to look nice, and be approachable for my kids to have friends over,” while also expressing their personalities and retaining the flavor of their Florida upbringing, Sara explained.

Two projects they completed immediately, in what turned out to be the first of two design phases, were the decluttering, streamlining and “quieting” of their master bedroom, and setting up a small parlor area — a throwback to their Southern upbringing.

“A lot of people don’t know how to accessorize. I like to pool things, tighten them up as a grouping, so they tell a story,” Hervey said, explaining that simplification can help calm the environment.

She pointed out the kitchen grouping of Sara’s pink depression glass dishes, a baby gift at her birth, combined with her grandmother’s green glass candy dish and Vinton’s family’s vintage Pyrex bowls, which tell the story of the family’s roots.

The framed map on the wall in the bedroom pinpoints where the couple met in St. Augustine, Fla.

The framed map on the wall in the bedroom pinpoints where the couple met in St. Augustine, Fla.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Several months into the pandemic, after the Pacettis had completed their Florida room remodeling, they were ready to move to phase two of the design. But because of COVID-19 restrictions, they had to do everything remotely, via Zoom, video and photos.

In this phase, Hervey helped them select and order a new solid-color L-shaped sofa, complete with both the chaise and storage ottoman Sara desired. They followed Hervey’s suggestions for choosing an appropriate three-tier multifunction coffee table and other dual-purpose storage tables and chests. They also set up an entertainment and work nook for the children, updated the front porch with UV-resistant furnishings and completed the parlor with a boho-style beaded chandelier.

While their square footage is small, it appears more spacious because of its openness and free-flowing breezes and its use of dual-function furnishings with hidden storage.

“Everything must have a dual purpose,” Hervey explained.

As they continue to implement Hervey’s plans, an appreciative Sara reflected on their happy collaboration.

“I loved how Dasha takes all the things she knows about the person and puts it into the design. Her design reflects our personalities,” she said.

Tips on working with a professional interior designer

Good design doesn’t need to be expensive, but its does need to be intentional, explains Hervey. The Del Mar-based designer recently completed her term as director of membership for the San Diego chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

She recommends working with an ASID-certified interior designer because their certification requires that they remain up to date with the latest trends, products and structural standards through continuing education. Many, like Hervey, also have specialized certifications in kitchen and bath design.

Some other key tips from Hervey:

Working with a knowledgeable designer can save you money, because it can help you avoid costly mistakes.

“You can do it once and do it right,” Hervey said. “We improve lives through good design.”

She works almost exclusively on referrals, which, according to Hervey, she feels is the best way to find an interior designer. Compatibility is key, she explained. Make sure you look at examples of the work of the designers under consideration, whether in person at friends’ homes, or online on their website, on Houzz (if they’re listed) or on Pinterest.

Be sure you’re honest with the designer, sharing your likes and dislikes, and what’s important to you. Clear communication is critical.

“We’re problem-solvers. What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want to keep and discard?” she added.

If in doubt about your color preferences, look in your closet.

“Normally I can pull a design from people’s closets, from what they wear,” she said.

Be honest with your designer about your budget and whether there is any leeway to purchase a special piece. Even if you can’t afford everything you’d like, a good designer can incorporate some items to approximate the “feel” of a more upscale design.

Every designer charges differently for their services, Hervey explained. Some charge by the hour, some by a fixed fee for an estimated project, others charge an hourly fee plus a percentage of the products.

However your designer charges, expect to sign a letter of agreement before beginning any work and expect to pay a professional retainer fee.

Don’t let yourself feel intimidated, and don’t hesitate to ask your designer “why.”

“If your designer is not listening to you, you may not get the design you want,” she said. “It should always be a collaboration.”

Sours Larson is a San Diego freelance writer.