7 minute read
At Home with the Cumifords
At Home with the Cumifords
Story By Rachel Trigueiro | Photos by Lifestyle Staff
From young love in junior high to a custom home on the lake, Visalia natives Chris and Chelsea Cumiford built a life they don’t need an escape from.
With a striking, eclectically-styled home, the Cumifords squeezed every inch out of the interestingly-shaped 9,500 sq ft property. Tranquil views of water surround their 4,000 sq ft modern industrial home. Chelsea says, “We built it with strategic window placement showing off its best views...the pond in front...and the lake behind.”
The house is inspired by a mix of Chris and Chelsea’s life experiences plus historic time periods, and it shines with elements of modern industrial design.
Throughout the home, beautiful, curated vintage pieces tell a rich story. “About a month after we bought the lot, we went to an antique store in Sacramento and saw these Oriental, historical doors. They are over 100 years old with square nails and a wood piece sliding the two doors together. The tower doors lead into the tower porch area and were the first thing we bought for the home. We built the house around these doors,” Chelsea says. The couple stored them for five years until the build was complete.
Similar to their youthful love story, Chris and Chelsea’s shared appreciation for design also began at a young age in their childhood homes. “Home was always important to us,” Chris says. “[It was] the most basic and central part of our family. My first home was one of Visalia’s oldest houses, a large Victorian downtown, built in 1899. My parents fixed it up and restored it to its Gilded Age glory.”
Chris recalls his parents filling the home with antique furniture and playing old classical music on the Victrola. Although they moved when he was around age four, “[That house] was the beginning roots for my love of history, ambiance, and home,” he says.
Chelsea says of her own childhood home, “My parents built and designed their own custom home in Oak Ranch when I was a toddler--around the same age as our kids now. It was a different styled home than ours, but the open space and layout was something I loved and really tried to emulate with our home.”
Another major experience that shaped the home’s historical and industrial design came from Chris’ time spent working as a tour guide on Alcatraz Island during college. Chris goes on to explain: “The island presents this major contrast: beautiful nature interwoven with crumbling concrete buildings. Combine that with a dark history that stretches from the American Civil War, the Penitentiary Years and the Occupation of Alcatraz protest, and it’s a unique time capsule of American history.”
In 2014, while Chris and Chelsea were living in a tract home they loved, they began looking for their dream home. One fall day, fate took the couple to The Lakes. While touring a home that was for sale, they looked across the lake and saw an empty lot. Though the lot wasn’t for sale, their agent, July Hong, reached out anyway. Thirty days later, the Cumifords were the proud owners of lakefront property, and the journey to build had just begun.
Buying and building a home in The Lakes didn’t come easy. As educational employees (Chris is a teacher and Chelsea is a school psychologist) they worked diligently to see their dream come to pass. The couple decided to pay off all their grad school student loan debt and the lot loan before starting construction. Chelsea says, “We were willing to wait because we wanted to get it right the first time.” And for four years, the couple budgeted every single dollar.
Leading up to the build, the couple sold their first house and moved into a tiny apartment for 16 months. “We lived in the living room because the apartment was basically a storage unit,” Chelsea recalls. “Anybody can do it, but you have to have the patience. You have to be willing to wait.” The two finally started building in May 2018 and finished in April 2019, with projects still incomplete.
“We built the shell and structure of the home and everything else was bare minimum. As we’re moving through projects, we’re paying with cash. It’s taking a while, but we have a lower loan because of it.”
Creativity was key for the Cumifords as they built their home. Along with their contractors, they found more affordable ways to achieve the looks they loved and wanted in their home. The two learned to cut costs and increase efficiency by sourcing accommodating and helpful construction contractors including Westco Builders, who worked well with the Cumifords’ process. One cost-cutting example: the marble countertop cutout from their stove range became the downstairs bathroom vanity counter.
A favorite space in the home for visitors is The Lakes Merchant Co. Bar, adjacent to the great room. “Our goal was to create a ‘third space’ that feels like you’re in an actual Gilded Age lounge bar somewhere, but is comfortable and functional enough for the whole family to enjoy right in our own home,” Chris says. The bar has a seasonal cocktail menu, themed events, and often has several games playing on multiple screens. It’s the social space of the house, and creates a fun atmosphere for the sports-loving family. “
"[Lighting is] so essential for emulating the aesthetic of the places we love...
Many unique elements can be found in the bar, including its large wooden countertop. The two discovered it in Porterville from a 1950s jewelry store. They refurbished it and topped it with white marble. The room is full of nods to the past, with black and white tiles similar to the 1912 pattern on the Titanic’s main floor and a colored Tiffany light at the center of the bar. Along with a drafting table, piano, and vintage rugs, these classic touches bring soft contrast to the industrial exposed joists, concrete floors and the roll-up glass garage door. Most weekends, the Cumifords can be found out back on the bocce ball court. Some evenings, just the two of them enjoy taking a spin on the boat, while catching the latest Giants game over the radio.
As for the future, “There’s places we still have dreams for, like a spa and an outdoor kitchen; they’ll come in time. For now, it’s fun to keep dreaming,” Chelsea says. The couple looks forward to hosting their kids’ team parties one day and having friends over for years to come. Their story is a great reminder that good things take time and hard work, and are always worth waiting for.
In Memory of Tom DeVore (1953-2020)
Tom was our architectural drafter and passed away shortly after our home was constructed. We appreciate everything he did for us to help make our dream home become reality. - The Cumiford Family