Suburb Staid No More: A California-French Family Remake a Bay Area House


When we first met Stéphanie Ross several years ago, she had a hint of plaster dust in her hair. That was at Remodelista’s San Francisco Market, where she was showing her children’s clothing line, Les Petits Carreaux (now available at Anthropologie and in some women’s sizes, too). At the time, she had just about finished resuscitating her family’s apartment near the Champs-Élysées—we took a tour and immediately featured it: see A Grand but Understated Flat in Paris. And she was also getting started on their main base, a 1949 house in the manicured Oakland suburb of Piedmont. Every time we’ve crossed paths since then, we caught updates: what started as a rear deck addition had snowballed into a complete rethink of the interior.

Stéphanie and her lawyer husband, Aaron Ross—he’s from Piedmont, she grew up in a small farming village near Dunkirk, France, and they have a 10-year-old son, Joseph—had given their place a test drive by living in it for three years. “Everything was vintage suburban—aluminum frame windows, tile countertops,” she tells us. “The house is built into a hillside and the downstairs, half the footprint of the main floor, was covered in lime green shag carpet.” And so, as they began working with Kristen Sidell of Sidell Pakravan Architects, they decided to keep going.

The dark, conventional house was not them: “The Rosses are consummate entertainers who love gathering friends for everything from Beatles singalongs to raclette parties,” says Kristen, who, in close collaboration with Stéphanie (the two met as parents in their kids’ school), ended up rethinking just about every inch.  Together they introduced a new kitchen and bathrooms, new windows, updated finishes, and a new stair to an expanded first floor. The overall idea, in Kristen’s words, was “to create a much more open, expansive home that integrates the family’s French aesthetic with their California lifestyle.”  Now hoping to take on interior design projects for others, Stéphanie summoned us to see the results.

Photographs by Jean Bai unless noted, courtesy of Sidell Pakravan Architects.

The red brick exterior—with its original slate roof—was given a fresh guise courtesy of white paint and black-framed windows, including new French doors in the bay window. “My inspiration for the cottage style look was from the North of France, where I grew up,” says Stéphanie. Above: The red brick exterior—with its original slate roof—was given a fresh guise courtesy of white paint and black-framed windows, including new French doors in the bay window. “My inspiration for the cottage style look was from the North of France, where I grew up,” says Stéphanie.

The windows throughout are by Sierra Pacific. The house color is Shaded White and the front door and windows are Railings, both from Farrow & Ball.

 Stéphanie’s crucial requirement was that all of the original moldings around the ceilings and partitions be removed for a seamless modern look. (Scroll below to see the space as it was.)  The combination living room and dining area/kitchen were connected to the front and backyards through glass doors. The existing mantelpiece was replaced with a “minimalist protrusion that disappears into the wall,” says Stéphanie, all painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings. Above: Stéphanie’s crucial requirement was that all of the original moldings around the ceilings and partitions be removed for a seamless modern look. (Scroll below to see the space as it was.)  The combination living room and dining area/kitchen were connected to the front and backyards through glass doors. The existing mantelpiece was replaced with a “minimalist protrusion that disappears into the wall,” says Stéphanie, all painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings.

“Nothing is too proper or formal,” says Stéphanie of her mix of antique and contemporary pieces, the graphically patterned and the clean white. “It’s Paris and San Francisco united.” The geometric rug is from The Rug Company. Note Stéphanie’s lighting choices: “Instead of having only sconces and ceiling lights, I wanted table lamps everywhere—they’re mood warmers and nice accents.”

Thanks to the French doors in the front and new folding glass doors in the back, there’s “a completely open line of living from front garden to outdoor deck,” says Stéphanie. “The house went from feeling super constrained to light and connected with the landscape,” adds Kristen. “The Frenchness is revealed through the subtle yet rich materials and colors.” Above: Thanks to the French doors in the front and new folding glass doors in the back, there’s “a completely open line of living from front garden to outdoor deck,” says Stéphanie. “The house went from feeling super constrained to light and connected with the landscape,” adds Kristen. “The Frenchness is revealed through the subtle yet rich materials and colors.”

Suzanne Rasic, an interior designer friend of hers, helped with the furniture placement. The pair of white leather sofas are the Como from DWR.

The dining area is set off by a feature wall and NanaWall doors, an accordion design that Kirsten says “allows an entire exterior wall to open up—we get a 14-foot opening.” It leads to a cantilevered deck.  Stéphanie came across the Closet Stripe wallpaper while picking paint colors at Farrow  & Ball. Above: The dining area is set off by a feature wall and NanaWall doors, an accordion design that Kirsten says “allows an entire exterior wall to open up—we get a 14-foot opening.” It leads to a cantilevered deck.  Stéphanie came across the Closet Stripe wallpaper while picking paint colors at Farrow  & Ball.

When Stéphanie has trunk shows and other big gatherings, the dining table gets moved against a wall and the Laclasica Chairs can be stacked.

The existing midcentury kitchen was replaced by a minimalist birch U-shaoped design by Henrybuilt, which Stéphanie selected for its clean-lined workmanship, and “because it’s American made.” (At a time when so many boutique European kitchen companies are setting up shop in the States, it’s nice to remember that Henrybuilt has been here since 2001.)  The wide oak flooring is original. Photograph courtesy of Henrybuilt. Above: The existing midcentury kitchen was replaced by a minimalist birch U-shaoped design by Henrybuilt, which Stéphanie selected for its clean-lined workmanship, and “because it’s American made.” (At a time when so many boutique European kitchen companies are setting up shop in the States, it’s nice to remember that Henrybuilt has been here since 2001.)  The wide oak flooring is original. Photograph courtesy of Henrybuilt. Each room is defined by one attention-grabbing detail; in the kitchen it’s the locally made Heath Bowtie and Diamond-shaped dimensional tiles in a glaze called frost that allows the clay to subtly show through. “I wanted a wall with no upper cabinets, just a dramatic backsplash that you can see from the living room,” says Stéphanie. “It’s a backdrop to the openness of the general living space,” adds Kristen. Above: Each room is defined by one attention-grabbing detail; in the kitchen it’s the locally made Heath Bowtie and Diamond-shaped dimensional tiles in a glaze called frost that allows the clay to subtly show through. “I wanted a wall with no upper cabinets, just a dramatic backsplash that you can see from the living room,” says Stéphanie. “It’s a backdrop to the openness of the general living space,” adds Kristen.

The oven, cooktop, and hood are all by Miele. The cabinets have Henrybuilt’s integrated metal pulls and are finished with durable—and nearly invisible—Corian-style counters. Photograph courtesy of Henrybuilt.

As a “rustic contrast,” Stéphanie chose a wooden table and metal chairs from The Gardener in Berkeley. Photograph courtesy of Henrybuilt. Above: As a “rustic contrast,” Stéphanie chose a wooden table and metal chairs from The Gardener in Berkeley. Photograph courtesy of Henrybuilt. The powder room’s slim, wall-mounted sink with towel bar is an Alape design sourced from Jack London, and the faucet is by Fantini. Above: The powder room’s slim, wall-mounted sink with towel bar is an Alape design sourced from Jack London, and the faucet is by Fantini.  Kristen replaced a central cluster of closets with an architectural stair to the lower level. “The openness of the design allows light to extend between the spaces,” she says, “and the enclosing low walls are painted white to increase the luminosity.” Above: Kristen replaced a central cluster of closets with an architectural stair to the lower level. “The openness of the design allows light to extend between the spaces,” she says, “and the enclosing low walls are painted white to increase the luminosity.”

The space right off the stair is used as a music and rec room—”drums, piano, and guitar are all present, as is a ping-pong table.”

Above L: Joseph’s bathroom has an integrated sink and vanity from Blu Bath Works’s 51 Collection. The mirror is from DWR. Above R: “My son wanted a red bath, so I decided to tile everything white other than the shower,” says Stéphanie, “I didn’t want anything to compete with that.” The tiles are from Heath’s Classic Field collection in Stone White and Paprika. The dressy black-and-white master bath is lit by Michael Anastasiades’s IC Lights S2 for Flos. The sink vanity and wall-hung toilet are from Blu Bath Works (“suspended toilets were a must for a light and airy line,” says Stéphanie, “the cabinets and countertops are minimalist and echo the kitchen design”).  The unglazed white backsplash tiles and square black floor tiles are from Heath. The mirror is by Egg Collective. Above: The dressy black-and-white master bath is lit by Michael Anastasiades’s IC Lights S2 for Flos. The sink vanity and wall-hung toilet are from Blu Bath Works (“suspended toilets were a must for a light and airy line,” says Stéphanie, “the cabinets and countertops are minimalist and echo the kitchen design”).  The unglazed white backsplash tiles and square black floor tiles are from Heath. The mirror is by Egg Collective. The organically-shaped freestanding tub is the Allisa from MTI. Above: The organically-shaped freestanding tub is the Allisa from MTI. Sidell Pakravan Architects created an open-plan living room and kitchen with direct links to the outdoors. “The biggest challenge was bringing a modern aesthetic to a very staid, traditional home,” says Kristen Sidell. Above: Sidell Pakravan Architects created an open-plan living room and kitchen with direct links to the outdoors. “The biggest challenge was bringing a modern aesthetic to a very staid, traditional home,” says Kristen Sidell. Linked to the main floor by a new stair, the lower level was expanded to include a family room and bedrooms. Above: Linked to the main floor by a new stair, the lower level was expanded to include a family room and bedrooms. Before The living room as it looked in the real estate listing when the Rosses bought the house. Note the traditional moldings and fireplace, now all gone. The room’s new windows were modeled after the existing multi-light, aluminum-framed designs. Above: The living room as it looked in the real estate listing when the Rosses bought the house. Note the traditional moldings and fireplace, now all gone. The room’s new windows were modeled after the existing multi-light, aluminum-framed designs. Not only the shag carpeting but the small, enclosed stair were replaced. Above: Not only the shag carpeting but the small, enclosed stair were replaced. Joseph’s bathroom as it was. “A lot of people liked the midcentury details in the baths and kitchen,” says Stéphanie, “but we wanted a clean, modern look.” Above: Joseph’s bathroom as it was. “A lot of people liked the midcentury details in the baths and kitchen,” says Stéphanie, “but we wanted a clean, modern look.”

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Tags: Books, California, France, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Paris, States, Oakland, MTI, Kristen, Anthropologie, House Tour, Miele, Piedmont, Joseph, Stephanie, Aaron Ross, Heath, Jack London, Kirsten, Dunkirk France, Remodel & Renovation, Architecture & Interiors, Kitchen Design, Fantini, Farrow Ball, House Call, Rosses, Bay area House, Farrow Ball Above, Sierra Pacific, Henrybuilt, Michael Anastasiades, Stéphanie Ross, Remodelista 's San Francisco Market, Kristen Sidell, Sidell Pakravan Architects, Jean Bai, Sidell Pakravan Architects Above, Rug Company Note Stéphanie, Suzanne Rasic, Farrow Ball When Stéphanie, Heath Bowtie, Berkeley Photograph, Blu Bath Works

Source:  https://www.remodelista.com/posts/midcentury-suburban-house-remodel-california-french-style/



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