It’s not surprising that one young couple with two kids decided to build a house in Newport Beach’s Harbor View Homes neighborhood, given its generous green spaces and family-friendly amenities. But when it came to choosing a style for their home, they opted for a different approach to the Cape Cod-inspired structures so prevalent in the area. To turn their vision into a reality, they called upon architect Eric Olsen. “We wanted to create something that fit in with the neighborhood,” says Olsen, who grew up in Harbor View, “yet was unique and had more of a modern farmhouse style—something that felt like it belonged up in Napa.”
Both Olsen and the homeowners appreciate the aesthetic of architect Howard J. Backen, who is renowned for designing homes, wineries and restaurants in Northern California, and let Backen’s use of clean modern lines balanced with natural rustic materials inspire their approach. “The owners wanted something stylish and cool, but they have young kids, so they also wanted something that could stand the test of time with little ones running around,” says Olsen. When it came to the layout, the couple asked for four bedrooms, a playroom and open living spaces. The architect answered their request with an entry that evokes an immediate feeling of airy expansiveness. “There’s an overlook hallway above, with clerestory windows to bring in lots of light,” says Olsen, who kept the main living spaces on the first floor and situated the bedrooms upstairs. “You can also see all the way through to the open dining room and the outdoor fireplace.”
From that first glance, visitors are met with eye-catching details, such as the rustic reclaimed lumber lining the second-story ceiling and, closing off part of the hallway, a big barn door. “The touches of reclaimed wood in that entry make a statement when you walk in the front door,” says builder Garrett Calacci, who constructed the house. “There are enough details to make the house feel unique, without making it overdone.” The stair leading to that second-level hallway is defined by an artful railing made of wood and stainless-steel cables, adding to the farmhouse feel. “The stainless-steel cables are chic, but they’re still rough and industrial so no kid can really harm them,” Olsen says.
The house is replete with elements that add warmth and intimacy, from the reclaimed wood, to the gleaming white tongue-and-groove ceilings in the living room and kitchen, to built-in bookcases and shelving. “It was important that the home felt fresh yet inviting,” explains Olsen. “The way in which the paneling, moldings and built-ins were designed was an attempt to achieve that. They add another layer of texture to the spaces.” The built-ins also help display the owners’ collections. “We have a lot of old books,” says the wife. “So we definitely wanted built-ins to be a big part of this home, and they are.”
The interior’s neutral palette evokes a casual Wine Country feel, creating the ambience the family was looking for. “There’s a sense of calmness, not chaos,” the wife says. “We have color in a couple of rooms, but it’s always balanced out with neutrals.” To furnish the spaces, the couple brought many pieces from their previous residence. “In our last home, we started collecting antiques from Big Daddy’s Antiques, this huge warehouse in Los Angeles full of great pieces,” the wife says. “There’s a table behind our couch that we use as a console. It was probably an old farm table originally, and I love how it’s worn over the years. We also have books, objects that we’ve collected and our art collection.”
As it all came together, the couple and their team were able to create a stylish yet relaxed, family-friendly home that suits its owners as well as its locale. “It’s a warm home that fits in with the neighborhood,” says Olsen, “but it’s modern in its own way.”