For Jen and Adam Wallach, the prospect of moving from San Francisco to the suburban town of Alamo in the East Bay was enticing, but not without its challenges. They were glad to do away with Adam’s daily commute, but they were less excited about the housing options. Personally, the area lacked the contemporary midcentury style of architecture they were drawn to, and they had a hard time finding a home that would meet both their functional and aesthetic needs. After a few years of looking, however, things changed with a visit to a midcentury modern residence near Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. “The house had been remodeled several times and felt stark inside, but it had an abundance of natural light, a good floor plan and an indoor-outdoor feel,” Jen says. “We were drawn to its potential.”
To maximize that potential, the couple brought in designer Melissa Winn, builder Jim Wood and architect Guy Ayers, who had renovated the home for the previous owner. “Guy specializes in midcentury remodels and is extremely knowledgeable,” Jen says. “We knew working with him would make things go as seamlessly as possible.” The architect’s experience with the residence, which was extensive, proved to be a helpful reference point. “In the previous remodel, we stripped the house to its framing, added the master suite, converted the northeast bedroom to a family room, remodeled the kitchen and baths and replaced all of the windows,” the architect says.
This time around, the owners aimed for a multiphase update. Working closely with Winn and Wood, they started with the interiors. New built-in walnut cabinetry was added throughout the house, old skylights were replaced and the walls received a fresh coat of paint. Inspired by the tongue-and-groove cedar that appeared under the exterior soffits in places, Winn incorporated more of the warm wood throughout the interiors. “To help bring the house back to its roots, we added cedar to the ceilings in the living and dining rooms and down the hall, which includes a hidden door to the master,” she explains. Another significant cedar element, a built-in cabinet system and seating nook the designer created to enhance the kitchen area, helps soften the crisp whiteness of the room’s existing cabinetry.
When it came to furnishings, Jen selected most of the individual pieces and collaborated closely with Winn on the furniture layout and scale. “I have a passion for interior design, and I had put together a binder of images and clippings I’d collected for what I consider our ‘forever’ home,” Jen says. “We used that for inspiration and at the same time tried to find a balance between my tastes, which are eclectic, and my husband’s, which lean a little more toward contemporary.” In the living room, color and texture choices were influenced by the structure’s original copper fireplace. “The owners like warmer hues, such as reds, pinks and oranges,” Winn says. “With the organic shape and color of the fireplace as a focal point, we were able to organize complementary mixed-material furnishings in the space.” Two vintage Siesta chairs by Westnofa, for example, pair with a hefty coffee table topped with reclaimed French floorboards and a contemporary Dellarobbia sofa. A collection of thoughtfully layered antique Turkish kilims and a custom steel swing chair, which Jen had commissioned, add a final layer of personality to the space.
The personal touches continue in the later architectural updates as well. “The owners wanted to do things in a creative way—they paid attention to details,” says Wood, noting the cabinetry design and the pivoting front door, which goes along with a new two-car garage to revamp the façade. “The attached garage was built to look like it was part of the original house,” says Ayers, adding, “We pushed the garage forward, which created some depth and interest to the front entry.” The architect oversaw the new addition and reconfigured the existing one-car garage into an office and then added a new wine cellar and mudroom in place of the old driveway.
Behind the home, the Wallachs overhauled the yard as well to encourage an indoor-outdoor lifestyle for their family. Just off the living room, a paved sitting area was covered with a steel-and-cedar roof and appointed with a sectional from Caluco’s Cozy collection. Farther back in the yard sits one of artist Jayson Fann’s Spirit Nest Creations, which was built on-site out of 4,000 pounds of intertwined eucalyptus branches. “First and foremost, it’s a beautiful piece of art that we look at every day,” Jen says of the piece. “But it’s also functional art, in that the adults and kids can sit or play in it and enjoy it.”
The Nest, together with the other singular elements both inside and outside, add up to create a home that’s a direct expression of its owners. “Not only do I love the finished product, but I love the stories behind each piece,” Jen says. “We knew this house would require work, but in the end, it’s everything we hoped for.”