Homeowner Catherine Yewell describes her style as classic and sophisticated but approachable. The same could be said for the living area of her Diablo house, where wingbacks wearing comfortable gray velvet and a streamlined white sofa embody a tailored softness. In contrast, her husband, Peter, is a self-proclaimed “music nut and sports junkie,” who gravitates to the game room and its reclaimed barnwood-clad walls, pool table and artwork by The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. But their home didn’t always so clearly match their preferences. When the couple purchased their Shingle-style residence, it was in need of a makeover, and they were firmly in agreement on one point: “We wanted who we are to come through in each room,” Peter says. “Every space had to reflect us.”
To realize their goal, the couple turned to designer Catherine Macfee. “The owners are the same but different, in that she is whimsical and casually refined, while he is more modern yet rustic and playful,” says the designer, who aimed to bring out both styles in the interior. “As it stood, the house’s open floor plan worked for them, but its dark and formal aesthetic did not.” Even though its sensibility didn’t match with theirs, the couple fell in love with the house for its timeless architectural feel and its location in the Diablo Country Club. “It’s a very forested area that’s up against Mount Diablo,” the wife explains. “We also have three daughters, and the house had everything we wanted, including enough bedrooms, a work-at-home space for Peter, a rec room for the kids and places for us to entertain.”
What it didn’t have was a fresh feeling that responded to the playful lifestyle of its new inhabitants. Starting at the entry, Macfee immediately addressed the dated paneling that lined the staircase by glazing the dark-oak surface. “It helped bring down the imposing tone of the wood,” says the designer, who also brightened the railing with a coat of white paint. She then designed a pair of English-style wood-framed wingbacks and juxtaposed them with an abstract painting to establish the traditional-modern dialogue that pervades the house.
The entry leads to the living area, where a soaring 23-foot-tall ceiling presented Macfee with the challenge of making the room feel comfortable given its grand scale.
She found inspiration in the home’s old floor plans, which the couple acquired when purchasing the residence. “The original plan called for a fireplace, and we put in a more substantial limestone version to help ground the large space,” Macfee says. Here, details such as nailheads on the rounded wingbacks and a wood-and-metal coffee table with a channeled edge counter the room’s softer feel. In the adjacent dining area, the designer used big swaths of printed fabrics, such as an ikat pattern on the draperies and a swirling geometric pattern on the chairs, to distinguish the space. “I felt with the abundance of neutral hues, we needed a larger-scale graphic pattern for drama and to add a little spice,” says the designer.
Moving from the clean, tactile living and dining areas to the French-farmhouse feel of the central kitchen, with its glazed-oak cabinets and handmade tiles, marks the transition from the more feminine, traditional side of the home, to the wood-accented spaces of the family and game rooms that boast a more masculine feel. This area also needed more structural changes, requiring the project’s builder John Buestad to skillfully enlarge the family room to create a connection between the kitchen and game room. “Prior to that, the closest way to get to the game room was to walk outside, but now everything flows together,” Peter says.
In the family room, there’s a noticeable design shift. “It’s here that Peter’s aesthetic really starts picking up,” says Macfee, pointing to the exposed structural timbers that frame the space and the antiqued-leather chairs that imbue a Western ranch accent. But Catherine’s presence is felt, too, with the tailored gray-and-white chenille sofa and a bold motif on the fabric of two upholstered armchairs. “She has a super fun side, and that graphic pattern responds to her sense of whimsy,” Macfee adds.
A complete counterpoint to the living area, the game room, dubbed the man cave, has a decidedly masculine feel, with hefty leather-covered chairs and sofas facing a coffee table—topped with an antique leather gym mat—that doubles as an ottoman. An adjacent space, lined with reclaimed barnwood, houses the pool table. Hovering above the piece, a hand-forged blackened-steel light fixture makes an eye-catching centerpiece. A large sliding barn door connects the game room with the family room, creating one big, owing entertainment space.
To tie the masculine areas into the rest of the house, Macfee selected an antique Moroccan rug for the game room. Its geometric design—in cream, gray and brown hues—reflects the bold fabrics used in the dining area. “I wanted to bring the use of graphic pattern elsewhere in the house into this space,” Macfee says. The soft floor covering and the faux-fur and velvet pillows are also subtle feminine interjections that serve as reminders that every room in this house was designed with both Peter and Catherine in mind. “The success of the design was expressing bits of each of them in every room,” Macfee says, “while still allowing both personalities to speak louder in their own spaces.”