This house is like an Armani jacket paired with blue jeans— formal, yet informal,” says architect Barbara Chambers. “The pieces are beautiful, but also accessible.” Which is precisely what the homeowners, a young family trading life in San Francisco for sunnier Ross, sought from this new home. “We wanted an elegant feel, but it was important to have a house that was practical for children,” says the husband, recalling how much he and his wife enjoyed creating the dwelling for their family. “We matched the layout to our lifestyle, habits and needs.”
With a blank slate and a fortuitously south-facing lot before her, Chambers began designing a home that marries the indoors and outdoors. The dwelling, built by general contractor Bill Jetton and his team, draws inspiration from the shapes of a farmhouse but has an aesthetic rooted in a more classical vocabulary—the architect describes the result as clean and contemporary with a comfortable and livable style. “It goes back to forms and concepts that we’re all familiar with— simple gables, symmetry and proportion—but it’s an interpretation,” she says. The home’s footprint follows its long and rectangular lot, its two wings connected by a circulatory hallway. “Houses are just big boxes,” Chambers posits, half-jokingly. “We put all the pieces of what the clients want together, then it becomes about the site, windows and light.” For the exterior, perhaps the home’s boldest feature, Chambers installed traditional beveled siding horizontally in some sections and vertically on others (a contemporary twist for the traditional material), upping the impact with the juxtaposition of black and plain cedar-clad sections. “Talking a client into a mostly black house isn’t easy, but the contrast is exciting,” she says, “I’m referring to both the contrast of light and dark on the exterior, and how the overall house is dark outside but light as you go inside.”
Entering the great room is indeed an awe-inspiring experience as daylight streams through tall, mullioned windows. According to designer Stacy Stone, the architectural details and proportions of the rooms made the creation of the interiors a pleasure, citing the linen curtains that frame those large windows as an example. “They enhance the feeling of spaciousness while adding an additional soft layer to the room,” she explains. The interior color palette is a muted reflection of the home’s exterior and gardens. “We selected this palette in order to play with the light in the larger volumes of the house,” notes Stone. As for the sophisticated yet straightforward forms of the furniture and accessories, she says: “The house is like an elevated country house. To match it, we kept things simple, and not heavy.”
When sourcing furniture, finishes and fabrics the designer says balancing aesthetics with livability was key. “We selected pale fabrics for the living room, but all are highly durable. We designed the family room sofa to withstand—even welcome— being jumped on. The two matching ottomans are created with storage inside and have reversible tops: a cushy side for feet and a wooden side for tabletop activities,” says Stone. As proof this furniture is ready for anything, the designer notes the custom stone-and-metal breakfast table is sturdy enough to withstand any child clambering that might occur.
Upstairs are the family bedrooms: a cloud-like retreat for the parents and imaginative bedrooms for the children “The kids love their bedrooms with lofts and secret hideouts,” says the wife.
Outside, landscape architect Frederika Moller also took creative inspiration from Chambers’ design. “The landscape creates a connection between the architecture in the front area and the back of the property through clean, simple lines,” she says. “The homeowners requested a garden design with a strong indoor-outdoor connection, integrating entertaining areas as well as a large play space with the swimming pool as a focal point.” Bringing it all to life are Grecian laurels, bougainvillea, jasmine and ornamental grasses, with crape myrtles for summer blooms and maples for autumn color. “We love seeing the kids move freely between the family room, great room and outside, and the lengthy yard is an ideal playing field for games,” notes the husband.
It’s that livability, inside and out, that makes this a very “realistic” house, according to the architect. “This residence is luxurious, but also comfortable— a perfect balance,” Chambers notes. For Stone, that state of equilibrium is something tangible. “This home’s feel-good factor is a sense of ‘ahh,’” she says. “Entering it provides an immediate feeling of calm energy and well-being.”