Julie Carabello admits that she didn’t fall for Paris on her first visit. “It takes time for Paris to warm up to you, and for you to feel at ease there,” she explains. But years later, when she rediscovered the city with her husband, Michael Baum, Julie had developed an interest in art and architecture and promptly fell under the spell of the city’s many charms. “That was almost 25 years ago,” she says. “Since then, we’ve gone about every other year. Paris is the epitome of beauty to me.”
So when the couple decided to buy a historic 1906 house in Ross, a picturesque community in Marin County, they naturally began to infuse it with an aesthetic refined by their experiences in France. “We wanted to create a bit of European flavor that we could come home to every day,” says Julie, who began by reviving the front exterior with antique Victorian entry doors. The couple restored the front porch railings, redesigned the front steps, and worked with builder Milton Barrientos to add a stone terrace and new doors to the back. They also made extensive changes to the landscaping. Drawing on European inspirations, the couple reimagined the grounds with pleached lindens, manicured hedges and parterres, white picket fences, and plenty of roses. Manicured side borders, complete with topiaries, by landscape designer Valerie Erdman of Terra Fina Design provided the final touches.
When it came to the interiors, Julie, who had experience in design, already had some beautiful antiques to get things started. But to keep things feeling current, she called upon designer Myra Hoefer. “Myra’s style is chic, simple and elegant, mixed with lots of old pieces and quirky new ones to keep it fresh,” says Julie. “I knew that she could bring in a more eclectic, informal and contemporary element.” To start, Julie and Hoefer, who worked on the project alongside designer Gina Gattuso, agreed on a dramatic change. “The first big step we took was painting the dark wood floors a high-gloss white,” says Hoefer. “That transformed the whole house into a very glamorous space.” Following that lead, the designers, inspired by china Julie found in France, turned to a palette of mostly black and white with bits of pinky-lavender for the main rooms. “There’s just enough of the purpley-pinks, which I adore, to be chic and interesting,” says Julie.
In approaching the large step-down living room, Hoefer and Gattuso suggested situating custom tufted banquettes on either side of the fireplace. “It’s very sexy, and it gives lots of alternate seating,” explains Hoefer, who also designed a custom slipcovered sofa and paired it with a skirted ottoman. Of course, they also incorporated the homeowners’ beloved antiques. “The settee in the living room is one of the first things I ever bought,” Julie recalls. “It had a hideous fabric on it, but I knew that it could be great.” Now it wears black and white silks “for a contemporary and bold look,” Gattuso says.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the cabinetry was repainted in a glossy pale turquoise inspired by one of Julie’s favorite Parisian haunts, the tea salon Ladure´e, which sells macarons in shades of pastel greens, pinks and blues. “I lived in Paris for 10 years and had walked the same streets that she’d walked and had been to many of the same places, like Ladure´e,” says Hoefer. “So there was a lot of inspiration between the two of us.” In the dining room, the designers updated the owners’ antique chairs with a white-painted finish and leopard-patterned fabric and anchored the master bedroom with a wrought-iron canopy bed.
In the end, the designers found spots for the owners’ sophisticated antiques and other treasures while giving the home a modern sensibility. “It looks like a loft space with gorgeous pieces inside of it, rather than looking too fussy or predictable,” Gattuso remarks of the luxurious rooms. Julie adds: “I feel like I’m in a Parisian salon. When you walk in, you leave California behind.”