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A Refreshing Remodel

Zahid Sardar | September 6, 2016 | Story Interiors

In Silicon Valley, where very large houses are not uncommon, a structure that totals roughly 5,000 square feet might seem modest. But a recently remodeled collaboration between architect Ken Linsteadt and interior designer Kendall Wilkinson still manages to impress. For starters, the three-bedroom dwelling is the guesthouse. And there’s one exceptional feature that may tempt guests to never leave: an indoor pool.

When the two-acre South Bay property was acquired by a tech executive and his wife, who is an avid triathlete, it featured a T-plan, two-story house dating back to the 1970s. The awkward layout included four bedrooms on the ground floor and a master suite that, perched above the unsightly two-car garage, felt like an afterthought. And there was no pool, which was a must-have for her. The homeowners envisioned not only a new, larger residence that they would occupy, but also turning the original abode into a generously sized guesthouse, complete with a pool. The latter, which is now configured in an H-plan, took four years to complete. But the final result appears to be well worth the wait (and any delays). “The interesting thing was to leave what was there and yet make it simpler,” Linsteadt says. “The spaces were cozy and not soaring, and we simply tried to work with that.” Thus, even though the window openings remain unchanged, modern large-paned bronzed-steel French doors and windows, with slender mullions, make them seem enormous. In reorganizing the layout of the guesthouse, the architect also linked it to new landscaping by Ron Lutsko.

On the ground level, instead of the old warren of rooms, is Linsteadt’s tour de force: an enormous poolroom and gym. In the former, a 15-meter lap pool is lit at night by oversize glass and steel lanterns, which hang from high wood-beamed ceilings. A bank of five French doors along the north wall opens to the back garden. On the other walls, as a nod to the owner’s penchant for fine jewelry and fashion, Wilkinson has displayed vintage swimwear she collected over several years at the annual San Francisco Fall Antiques Show. A bedroom, currently used as a yoga room, neighbors the pool. The master suite, whose floors were lowered to allow for loftier ceilings, has French doors that open to the garden and a low-water lawn. Directly adjacent to the master bedroom, a foyer that bridges it to the other wing of the guesthouse has stairs leading up to the top floor, which contains an open-plan kitchen, dining and family space; a separate living room; and another bedroom suite.

The new fenestration, stone-and-stucco cladding in lieu of standard painted wood siding and painted zinc roofs echo the design of the main house, but the finishes inside the guest quarters are deliberately understated. For instance, within the “great room,” the kitchen is appointed with stainless steel and concrete counters. The stove hood is made nearly invisible, wrapped with simple tiles that match the backsplash, because the owners desired a casual, farmhouse-like vibe. “We wanted the guesthouse to have a minimal, modern look within a simple cottage vernacular,” Linsteadt explains. So cerused white-oak plank and stone floors, plaster-finished walls, and white Sivec as well as veined Calacatta marble in the bathrooms all add subtle shades of white and gray. A black steel surround for the family-room fireplace offers a satisfying contrast.

To keep the decor informal too, Wilkinson and her team used an eclectic, artful array of furnishings made of a variety of materials, including textiles, glass, stone and wood. In the living room, a digitally sculpted marble coffee table called Cumulus by Dutch designer Joris Laarman, who is known for his 3-D printed works, is from New York’s Friedman Benda gallery. “We wanted the quiet architecture to be a canvas for a lively play of associative colors and textures, and custom pieces that reflect the surrounding mountains and gardens just outside,” she says. “The colors we used for textiles—pale yellows, and accents of blue and orange—reflect grasses and oak forests as much as the antique rugs we selected before we picked anything else.” In the master suite, the accent hues take their cues from a blue 1940s Murano glass chandelier that the owner acquired at Epoca in San Francisco. While the interiors’ overall aesthetic is modern, there are additional elements from a range of eras. “We worked with a lot of vintage pieces discovered at art shows in Art Basel Miami, at FOG [Design+Art fair] in San Francisco, and in gallery stores such as Maison Gerard in New York and Hedge in San Francisco,” Wilkinson elaborates. “One-of-a-kind furniture is like art,” she adds, pointing to a pair of 1950s table lamps by Italian designer Piero Fornasetti from Bernd Goeckler Antiques in New York, and 1950s Jacques Adnet leather and pony hide lounge chairs from Hedge, all in the living room.

Much like Hameau de la Reine, the 18th-century pastoral retreat near the grand palace at Versailles, this elegant guesthouse is also an easy getaway for Linsteadt and Wilkinson’s clients, who can entertain friends there in a more relaxed way. To enhance the rural idiom, and the owners’ farm-to-table culinary interests, Lutsko surrounded the building with a network of walkways and ponds linking discrete gardens for vegetables and cut flowers. Although it is on the top floor, the kitchen also opens to the outdoors, thanks to an expansive dining terrace on the north side; the alfresco area has new stone and masonry stairs at each end that lead directly down to the gardens. The stainless steel mesh railings will eventually be covered by climbing vines, so that “the garden will literally rise to the living spaces above,” says Linsteadt. Even with its breadth of noteworthy amenities, for the architect, the pool is what really imbues this project with that wow factor. “If there is one thing I had never done before, it is an indoor swimming pool,” he says. “It is something you don’t often see.” And that’s no simple feat in Silicon Valley.

Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley

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