Ranch Refined

A curated blend of craft, art and country charm fills a small sherman oaks ranch with big-time character.

Cheryl Davidson considers her home a perpetual work in progress. She has given her digs more than a dozen makeovers over the past 17 years. “I’m no longer surprised by the constant changes in the house and the constant repainting,” her husband Bill says with a laugh. That’s because Cheryl, an interior designer, loves to tackle challenging living spaces. “When you live in a smaller house, you have to maximize every square inch to make it work for you,” she explains. The family’s Sherman Oaks abode is a tribute to Cheryl’s winning formula of space planning, organizational design, keeping only cherished items—and jettisoning the rest. This approach, she says, enables homeowners to transform small dwellings into practical galleries that can showcase their personalities and tastes. Dressing her 2,700-square-foot ranch house in eye-catching hues, bold fabrics and homemade crafts alongside notable works of art, Cheryl created a budget-conscious, do-it-yourself style that exemplifies gracious living.

Cheryl and Bill Davidson, a Valley-based C.P.A., bought their home in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake. The 1956 structure wasn’t much to speak of at the time—2,100 square feet, outdated and outfitted with drab carpeting—but they liked the location at the end of a cul-de-sac, and the price was right. First the couple redid the doors, windows and floors and built a guest bathroom. Then Cheryl began to layer color, texture and thoughtful details as she created a comfortable retreat that echoed her whimsical sensibilities. “We figured this was a five-year house,” Cheryl recalls. “I didn’t think we’d be here for as long as we have, but we made a lifestyle decision and stuck with it.” Around the year 2000, the family, which by then included two children, was thinking of moving to a larger residence in the hills.

However, they opted to stay put and instead bought a weekend getaway home at the beach in Oxnard. “So we added on a couple of offices and made this house work,” Cheryl says. Two additions later, the dwelling features jewel-tone walls, caramel-colored oak floors and plenty of rustic quilts from Cheryl’s vast collection. Each room feels like a page from a scrapbook, bursting with family stories and artistic touches. Lesson one from Cheryl’s design bible: Never let go of precious mementos. In the former dining room-turned-sitting area, a daybed that sits beneath a window overlooking the garden was, in its previous life, her son Jake’s first bed.

Cheryl whitewashed and distressed the frame and refashioned it as a charming spot to recline with a book. “I didn’t want to get rid of it,” she says. “I like to incorporate items that you have. You don’t always have to buy new; things can be repurposed. This bed will always stay with us. There’s no reason to ever give it up.” Lesson two: Design is “all about the ‘etc.’” Cheryl’s attention to hardware is a prime example. She changed the metal trim on the home’s recessed lights to frosted glass trim and replaced standard, white plastic light switch plates with distinctive plates that add character to the walls. She gave the same treatment to doorknobs and drawer handles.

One obstacle the Davidsons had to work around is the narrow galley kitchen. Cheryl created a breakfast nook at one end and built a bench seat against the wall with a double purpose: its hinged lid opens to reveal extra storage space. The kitchen might be small, but boring it’s not: a vibrant tangerine hue on the walls, color-coordinated art and glimpses of the couple’s ornate serving ware through glass-paneled cabinets create a lively ambiance. “Big isn’t always better,” Cheryl says. “You can make a small space work for your lifestyle. Keep the things you love and have them make a statement about who you are.”