Tucked behind a ficus hedge in Los Angeles is a half-acre oasis where Southern California and Southern France meet. Here, sunlight shimmers on antique French terracotta roof tiles and filters through pergolas draped with white climbing roses. Large wooden shutters, painted bleached gray, are set against walls of honey-colored rustic limestone. Green plantings of citrus, slender cypress and bulbous boxwood are joined by gurgling stone fountains and a golden gravel parking lot to round out the transporting story.
Created for an entertainment industry executive, his wife and their two teenage children, this French-American villa is the handiwork of Brooke and Steve Giannetti, the married duo behind architecture-design-lifestyle firm Giannetti Home. Steve, the architect, and Brooke, who focuses on interiors, note that while the house is strikingly based on a classic Provençal aesthetic, it contains numerous spaces that exude more of a modern sensibility, a balance they’ve found to suit to both the traditional taste of the woman and the man’s appreciation for the contemporary. “What I’m trying to do is use the best of the modern world with the best of the old world,” Steve says, “combining styles in a way that feels authentic and celebrates the indoor-outdoor experience.”
They designed the approximately 13,000-square-foot, two-story, four-bedroom home (there is also a detached pool house with guest quarters) to maximize connections to the gardens and allow for business entertainment – all with the clients’ casual, everyday lifestyle. in mind. They situated the formal living and dining rooms at the front – the most traditional part of the house – with multiple French doors opening onto terraces and a shady sycamore garden, a perfect setting for a private cocktail party. To the rear of the house they have placed the kitchen, breakfast area and relaxed family room, which features a steel-and-glass wall that can be fully retracted to create one continuous volume with the adjacent covered terrace. Steve installed the same unfinished oak ceiling beams in both rooms to enhance the effect.
There are additional shaded terraces adjacent to the breakfast room and the primary upstairs bedroom, and the pool house living room has folding glass doors that can be pulled back to give it an open-air feel. “It’s like the house really expands with all that flow from the inside out,” Brooke says.
The overarching goal, she notes, was to cultivate a sense of tranquility “through the senses—with the sound of water, the scent of roses, the soft, dappled shade of the trees, all that.” And there are unmistakable echoes of the Giannettis’ Patina Farm, their Ojai residence. Patina Farm is more than just their home, it serves as a sort of case study of their key design philosophies. In addition to the couple’s fondness for a focused array of materials—particularly plaster, limestone, pale-washed or unfinished wood, linen, and leather upholstery—the hallmarks of their work are a muted color palette dominated by warm neutrals and a general penchant for the character, or patina, that comes with age. Everything their customers wanted for their home.
“They came to Patina Farm and loved our use of antique building materials, such as the French roof tiles, and were really drawn to our palette of creams and light oaks,” says Brooke. Both houses are included in the most recent book by the Giannettis, Patina Housespublished last year by Gibbs Smith.
A distinctly original feature is the central staircase, which “was designed to conjure up an old French courtyard,” says Steve. Flooded with sunlight, thanks to a two-storey glass enclosure on one side, it has walls of the same stucco and rough limestone on the outside and landings with limestone pavers identical to those outside. The Giannettis installed outdoor lanterns and an antique fountain, and they even planted ivy along the stairs and a ficus tree growing up through the center.
They also strengthened connections to the outdoors in more subtle ways. Take the dining room, where decorative painter Maria Trimbell’s Impressionist woodland mural sets a rural tone that is complemented by garden ornaments, antique stone garden planters and chairs covered in a mossy velvet. That color is carried through to multiple spaces, including the living room, which has elegant nods to nature like a cloche lantern with branch-like elements and leaf-shaped sconces above the fireplace.
While the living and dining rooms match the woman’s preferences, the basement is tailored to the man’s. There is a bar with warm light oak panelling and industrial lamps, a billiards table and cozy seating by the fireplace. Next to the small granite-topped bar, a sliding glass panel (the space can be closed off for privacy and tranquility) is printed with a favorite text from the band Metallica, who are friends of the customers.
This, along with a Zoom-ready home office and plenty of outdoor meeting spaces, was especially helpful to the man in the time of COVID-19, as the project was completed just before the first lockdowns went into effect. “It’s really about how architecture can make life easy,” Brooke says. “How can a house support your dream life?” As routines slowly get closer to normal, the family can begin to enjoy — and share that dream a little more freely.
Featured in our March/April 2022 issue. Interior, architectural and landscape design by Giannetti Home; Photography by Lisa Romerein; Written by Stephen Wallis.