When you live in a setting that’s blessed with temperate weather and rolling hillsides as far as the eye can see, an indoor-outdoor lifestyle isn’t a luxury—it’s a prerequisite. Such was the case when one family decided to leave their cramped city dwelling for a new home in a leafy enclave in northern California’s Menlo Park neighborhood. “They wanted to build a modern agrarian-style home that would meld with the ranches that are common in the area, yet they wanted the design to be clean, fresh, and new,” says San Francisco-based interior designer Jen Macdonald of Jennifer Robin Interiors, who worked with Tim Chappelle of Arcanum Architecture to bring those wishes to life. “They hoped their home would include indoor-outdoor living, be centered on family life, have beautiful proportions, and be welcoming.”
To achieve just that while referencing the beauty of the home's surroundings, Chappelle designed three gable-roof forms connected by a flat roof entry element. “The property is pie-shaped, and we organized the building forms to maximize the width of the property at the front and rotate the garage doors perpendicular to the street,” says Chappelle. “The massing creates the opportunity for all primary rooms to have windows and doors on multiple sides and embrace the California lifestyle experience of an indoor/outdoor feeling.”
Meanwhile, Macdonald combined natural textures such as reclaimed wood, leather, and jute with a soothing palette of earthy beiges, tans, and grays; graphic yet subtle patterned textiles break up the interiors, while lacquered marble countertops in the kitchen lend sleek sophistication to balance the rustic elements, including custom-stained oak floors, throughout. “I love working with reclaimed wood—bringing something with a history back to life is always important,” says Macdonald. She also encouraged the owners to add antiques wherever they could. “I love balancing old and new, masculine and feminine, high-end and low-end products,” she says. “Striking that balance brings peace to a space.”
But while her goal was a carefully curated aesthetic, Macdonald didn't sacrifice comfort to achieve it. “I am a mother myself so I understand how important it is to have fabulous interiors but also understand that a home needs to be realistic and durable,” she says. To meet her beautiful yet functional mantra, Macdonald worked with Carmel-based Statsky Design to create several unique custom pieces in versatile, hard-to-destroy reclaimed wood, from the dining table off the kitchen to the television hutch in the joint kitchen and family room. Large lifting and sliding doors in the main living space allow for easy access to the outdoors, whether the family is entertaining guests, hosting play dates, or spending downtime together.
That healthy communion between nature and structure is, in fact, what the family loves most about the home. "It is open, dramatic, light, and inviting," says Macdonald—which happens to be everything her clients wanted in a new house. The transition between what's beyond the windows and what's within is appealingly effortless, and entirely in keeping with a laid-back California lifestyle. The family wouldn't have it any other way.