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  • Sarah Mervis

The Chief's Condo

Updated: Sep 29

That one time my inbox chimed with an email from my husband's boss.


As the wife of a firefighter, my immediate reaction was: Is everything okay? Turns out one of the few female fire chiefs for San Diego was looking for some help with her home renovation, and I ended up being the right gal for the job.


Aware of her inspiring ability to make a name for herself at the top of a male dominated profession, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to help out a fellow boss babe! After some initial emails, we chose to meet up at a little cafe to discuss design details and drink hipster coffee. It didn't take long for me to realize that my client knew her way around home improvement projects, so without hesitation we dove into the scope of her current remodel.


This fire chief had purchased a newly built condo located in North County San Diego, with the ability to customize the space however she desired. Showing up to our coffee date already prepared with a vision for her kitchen, my client decided on a comfortable mixture of traditional and bold ideas with a

youthful twist. Knowing she would someday rent the condo to future tenants, her desire for a space that felt young was an important factor with this design.



After a couple hours of sipping our trendy coffees, we snapped our

MacBooks closed and left with a plan! The next phase of the remodel would be our final preparation step: material research. Homeowners who have experienced a renovation know this research process to be overwhelming; navigating a mess of materials can be completely and utterly challenging! Which is why utilizing a designer to sift, sort, and store each idea in an easily accessible place is crucial to keeping the sanity of everyone involved.


Tip: When diving into the world of materials, create a list with descriptive characteristics of the products you desire for your space. Specifications such as color, pattern, and price point can provide guidelines to your research and help deter that lost feeling renovators so often obtain. If you continually find yourself distracted by the abundant options, go back to your list and write down additional characteristics! The more guidelines you create for yourself, the easier it will be to locate the materials that fit your vision.


After weeks of emails and text chains between the chief and I, we agreed to meet at her new condo with arm loads of tile and flooring samples. Originally, my client preferred gray tones and cool colors for her home's remodel due to her strong distaste for mustard undertones. Pushing past this limitation, I challenged her to incorporate small amounts of warmth into this design, specifically because of her plans for renting the space to future tenants. Open to the possibility of stepping out of her comfort zone, we were able to narrow down our material samples and finalize our design!


We agreed to include warm toned wood floors and implement my client's desire for a tin backsplash that replicated the pattern of a mosaic accent tile. Our vision finally came to life, full of fresh vibes and youthful attributes with just the right amount of warmth the space needed! Of course my love for rattan pieces found their way into this design, as I suggested installing woven pendants over the kitchen island to bring the tones from the wood floors up to the ceiling. Successfully we achieved a warm feel for the condo, providing my client with a sense of comfort that reminds her she's home.



This fire chief's ability to accept a challenge and take on risks resulted in a kitchen that was uniquely timeless, youthful, and completely customized. As designers, it is our responsibility to encourage new ideas! Sometimes all it takes is a little out-of-the-box thinking to create something imaginative and incredible :)