When a couple of devoted homeowners bring their beloved Atherton digs back from the brink, the results are nothing short of a revelation.
They say rock bottom is a beautiful place to start. Annie and Jim Barnett decided to embark on a massive home rebuild in 2013 when the beloved 1950s Cape Cod-style house they bought 16 years earlier finally succumbed to wood rot and termites. “In that state, we knew it could not be ours forever,” says Annie, a photographer. Since the couple was unwilling to relinquish the Atherton property’s idyllic landscape of redwoods, birch trees, dogwoods, and iceberg and Eden roses, they hired the Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife design team of Brooke and Steve Giannetti to help bring about a second coming.
Typical of midcentury houses, the original structure was dark, with plenty of walls, no flow between rooms and no connection to the garden. Though the new build fits plumb within the native footprint, the tremendous volume of the rooms gives the impression of more square footage. “The new house has all the moves of a traditional home, but with the walls gone, the spaces are a completely different, loftlike experience,” says Steve, the architect. Tall ceilings, up to 14 feet high, accommodate an abundance of oversize steel-frame windows: Not only do they imbue the rooms with natural light, they also unite the interior with the landscape, and give the home the charming appearance of a garden conservatory.
To play up the beautiful greenery inside and out, Brooke, the interior designer, kept the decor neutral, but also anchored it with the character of time. “We incorporated the Barnetts’ existing collection of French and Swedish antiques with new pieces made of natural materials that will age well,” she says.
Layers of upholstered Belgian linen furniture—from the living room’s matching sleigh-back Giannetti Home Alix sofas to the Mason ottoman in the family room—add monochromatic elegance atop white-oak plank floors. Brooke placed wicker chairs (traditionally used outdoors) in the kitchen for an alfresco-cafe effect. And the faceted-glass lanterns in the living room, which bear a striking resemblance to modern-day terrariums, are an unwitting representation of the home, which features potted Japanese maples, living topiaries, and seashells the family has collected from beaches all over the globe. This newfound intimacy with nature has proven to be a transformative experience for the Barnetts, who are recent empty nesters. “When we saw our new house for the first time, we burst into tears,” says Annie. “I just kept saying, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’”
Photography by Lisa Romerein.
Written by Leilani Marie Labong.