Before & After: Cottage-Inspired Custom Home in Lafayette

Are you on the hunt for a home that checks all the boxes on your list? Great location, noticeable style, and all the modern amenities you need to live in ease and luxury? Or maybe you have found a spot that ticks only one of these boxes, and the rest leave something to be desired? 

I know that finding the perfect property can be difficult. And sometimes, that perfect property simply doesn’t exist. Sometimes, the foundation of your dream home is there, and the rest is left up to you (or your design-build team) to get creative and create exactly what you want.

This is precisely the situation I found myself in several years ago when looking for the perfect home. I came across the following hillside property in Lafayette, California, and the home itself was an eyesore! Faded yellow and murky brown. Overgrown foliage. A sad backyard. Here’s the proof, if you don’t believe me…



But then, I saw a picturesque creek running on one side. I saw a great footprint of land that would be perfect for a luxurious English cottage-inspired home nestled charmingly into the hillside. In other words, once I looked past the obvious drawbacks, there was a world of potential.

Meet the Homeowner: Leila Douglah

You may already know me, but just in case this is our first time meeting, I’m Leila Douglah, owner of Douglah Designs. I designed and built the custom home you’re about to see as a retreat from the busyness of the Bay Area. 

Having run a design-build firm since 1997, I knew I had the design experience to pull off a massive transformation (read: demolition and new build) on this remarkable piece of property. I think you will be equally amazed by the results!

Project Scope

The original home was small, dated, filled with colorful pastel tiles, and included a narrow galley kitchen. It was far from my dream home and beyond salvaging. I decided to tear it down and build a larger English cottage-style home ideal for entertaining friends and family. With a budget of $2.5 million, I was ready to construct and design a house full of charm and luxury living. 

Scope and design goals at a glance:

  • Demo the existing structure and start from scratch
  • Design and build an English cottage-style home
  • Include amenities worthy of a luxury home
  • Design spaces perfect for entertaining friends and family

Design Challenges

As with any design project, renovation, or new build, there are always challenges, and this project was no exception:

  • The home backs up against the hillside, limiting accessibility.
  • A creek runs to the side of the property, limiting our floor plan.
  • An old septic tank on the property needed to get filled and compacted. Not a pretty job.

Fortunately, all of these challenges were remedied by smart design solutions, experience, and the talented trades I hired to help me bring the vision to life. (Which is exactly what we do for each and every one of our clients, as well.)

Are you ready to see the completed project? Let the tour commence…

After: Charming English Cottage Meets Nature Retreat


Whoa. That’s not the same droopy, yellow home, is it? Now, this home has character, presence, and feels irresistibly inviting. The stunning stone facade, arched doorways, and unique details of the tapered eaves transport you to the English countryside. I also included a rounded seating area, where I could enjoy the front of the property and admire the colorful lupines blooming in the spring. 

You may have also noticed that I chose a neutral color scheme for the exterior, instead of the trending all-white we’re seeing so often these days. This helps the home to blend with the landscape, giving it that cozy cottage feel. Before we head inside, let’s take a walk around to the backyard…


Nestled against the hill, the home’s backyard boasts mature trees and plants. There is an outdoor eating area and a tiled stone patio. The large 4-panel sliding doors lead from the back patio right into the living room, allowing for an indoor/outdoor living space. Let’s go in and take a look…

Living Room Design: Where Old World Charm Meets the 21st Century


This large living room parallels the exterior’s Old World charm with exposed wooden beams stretching across the ceiling. The interior’s color palette also blends with that of the natural exterior to create a cohesive living experience. The stone fireplace adds elegance to the room with a minimal yet traditional style that makes me want to grab a book from one of the built-in bookshelves and curl up for a thrilling read by the fire. 

From here, turn around and you’ll see…

A Transitional Kitchen Design with Statement Hood


Ahh, the kitchen. The heart of the home. You can feel the warmth in this space thanks to traditional details, richly toned woods, and warm lighting. The gorgeous oven hood is also a focal point that brings the traditional architecture into the space. (If you’re wondering how we create kitchens in a variety of styles and tastes, you can read about our kitchen design process here.)

Luxury Master Bathroom with Show-Stopping Tile


This is a one-of-a-kind master bathroom filled with natural stone and tile work that creates an ageless look and feel. From the intricate tile pattern on the floor, matching wall niches, and built-in shower and tub, this space has no shortage of timeless elegance and sophisticated charm. Can you imagine yourself enjoying a soak in that bathtub after a long day? Been there, and it’s heavenly.

Note: A luxury home, especially one you want to have resale value, must include luxury-level amenities. You can read more about how to integrate these lifestyle additions into your home. And when you do, believe me, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

Staircase Straight Out of 15th Century Europe


One of my favorite features in this home is the iron railing on the stairs. This beautiful detail continues the traditional-inspired architectural style of the house yet feels like a unique statement piece. Not only does the dark iron juxtapose beautifully with the softer neutrals and more modern elements, but it is also a design motif that makes the entire interior feel cohesive and complete. 

Resale Value 5 Years Later

It was a privilege designing and building this unique English Cottage in Lafayette, and I lived in this house for 5 years before deciding to downsize. Even though I didn’t build it with the intention of moving anytime soon, I’m happy to say that the resale value was worth the initial investment — because I was smart about the design.


Even though most of our clients are designing a home where they plan to stay for years (just like I was), they also want to know that their sizable initial investment is going to pay off down the line. That is why the resale factor is always included in our preliminary conversations.

We will always tell you if a feature or material is likely to weather the years or contribute to resale value. Together, we help you very clearly make the right choice for your home.

This is one of the biggest reasons that hiring an experienced professional actually saves money long-term — building or renovating a home involves thousands of coordinated, strategic decisions.

Anyway, all that is to say that if you’re ready to build a home that brings you everyday ease and financial peace of mind, my team and I would love to help. Book an intro call with us here and let’s see if we’re the right fit for you.


Leila Douglah