This home, in the San Francisco Bay area, is a mid-century modern aficionado’s dream. When Carolyn Piotroski and her husband Joseph found this 1964 custom Eichler, it was so neglected that Carolyn didn’t even want to get out of the car. But when Joseph persuaded her, and she found herself entering the home through a private front courtyard, she fell in love. The couple moved in four years ago, following an extensive two-year restoration and renovation. Throughout the project, their goal was to remain true to the house – using natural materials and keeping the furniture choices subdued so as to highlight the architecture and home’s fantastic views. Today, that private courtyard that initially captured Carolyn’s imagination has become their outdoor living room and a favorite place to entertain guests. Thanks, Carolyn and Joseph! –Amy Azzarito
All photographs by Carolyn Piotroski
Image above: When asked to describe myself, I’m often tempted to sing (to the tune of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”) my hair is kinda red and I like to read in bed. A velvet-upholstered headboard and cotton sheets make this pastime sinfully luxurious. The bed, walnut nightstand and rug are all from Room & Board (the rug was a sample sale bargain). The lamp is IKEA. Our water glasses are old jam jars – a cliché, I know. The postcard (purchased at Watson Kennedy in Seattle) reads, “Where’s your mountain, and are you climbing it?” I purchased my slippers at a street market in the Turkish countryside. The woman who made them had a beautiful smile.
The floors are polished concrete with in-slab copper tube radiant heating. After bead blasting (a process that roughs up the surface), the floors were coated with a hand-troweled cementitious overlay and then polished. The look is clean and seamless; best of all, the floors stay warm in the winter and delightfully cool in the summer. The wall color is Winter White by Benjamin Moore.
Image above: Our south-west facing living room is 26 feet long by 19 feet wide, the ceiling is just shy of ten feet tall and two walls (those on the right and left of the image) are composed of floor-to-ceiling glass – to say this space feels light and airy is a bit of an understatement. I love our restored redwood ceiling and the way it makes the entire space feel warm and inviting. I purchased the vintage walnut desk at a nearby estate sale for fifty bucks. All it needed was some tender loving care and a little elbow grease (a good cleaning followed by a rub down with Howard Feed-N-Wax wood conditioner). The wall color is Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore.
See more of Carolyn’s mid-century home after the jump!
Image above: The fireplace is original and makes a spectacular focal point when you enter the house. I’ve had the coffee table, a gift from one of my sisters, my entire adult life. It’s had pride of place in every apartment and house I’ve called home – seven in all. The kilim hanging above the fireplace is by dhoku; it’s made of 100% organic handspun wool. We’re fortunate to have several, but this one was given to us on our most recent trip to Istanbul. It never fails to make me smile. Outside you can see the bright red flowers on our lemon bottlebrush shrubs (Callistemon lanceolatus) – they’re hummingbird magnets.
Image above: The original kitchen was dark and claustrophobic, but removing two interior walls and two pocket doors made the kitchen feel larger and brighter without changing the actual footprint. A leak in the original water supply pipes forced us to gut the kitchen and both bathrooms. We also added a laundry room – visible in the background (with white IKEA cabinets), but normally hidden behind drapes. I designed the post cladding made of natural black walnut and painted MDF (fabricated and installed by a local carpenter); it conceals the new water supply pipes for the kitchen sink. The post color is Zorro by C2 Paint; the paint is magnetized. The wall color is Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. The globe pendant lights are original.
Our bar niche features natural American black walnut cabinets and an obsidian PaperStone backsplash with an integrated floating walnut shelf – all by Henrybuilt. We especially love the way unstained wood ages so gracefully; scratches and nicks disappear with just a little Danish oil. We purchased the painting in Amsterdam and grew the Australian blue pumpkins (delicious roasted!) in our garden.
Image above: Both my husband and I love to cook – everything from classic Bolognese sauce (his) and fork-tender pot roast (mine) to strawberry jam on biscuits (my mom’s recipe) – so we wanted a kitchen that would stand up to daily use and look good for many years to come. Our Henrybuilt cabinets feature natural American black walnut doors and high pressure laminate drawer fronts – a practical choice for the core work zone that’s beautiful, durable and easy to clean. The countertops are honed black granite, the cooktop is induction by Gaggenau and the backsplash is simply painted. I don’t care for busy backsplashes; washable paint is a breeze to keep clean and allows the beauty of the natural walnut to shine. The reproduction Vernor’s ginger ale sign was a must-have for this proud daughter of Michigan. The Meyer lemons are homegrown.
Image above: The dining room has views of our backyard, front courtyard, nearby foothills and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Of our four Ficus lyratas, this one is the happiest; it gets morning light and grows like a weed. I’ve had to cut it back from the ceiling on three occasions and soon I’ll have to trim it again (the cuttings root quite easily in a glass of water). I found the Gainey cylinder on Craigslist. I’m so sad these are no longer being produced. I purchased the table and bench at a Crate & Barrel floor sample sale; I had my eye on them for almost an entire year. My mother, a woman who had champagne taste but a soda pop budget, taught me to wait for sales. I almost broke her rule when I splurged on Bertjan Pot’s beautiful Random Light (our nephews love it as much as we do; they say it looks like the Death Star). The wall color is Distant Gray by Benjamin Moore. The clerestory windows make this room sing.
Image above: Our entry foyer, as seen from the living room. The original architect extended the plane of one exterior wall (painted a dark chocolate hue) inside the house and used the same exposed aggregate for the exterior hardscape and entry floor. Unfortunately, when we purchased the house, this floor was permanently stained and unpleasant to walk on in bare feet. My solution was to have it polished smooth. Now our floor is not only beautiful, it’s also easy to clean and easy on our feet. We stash our shoes in the storage cube from Crate & Barrel – one of our two cats loves to chew shoelaces. The doorway in the center of the image leads to our bedroom.
Image above: I found this piece of driftwood at the beach. Uncanny, isn’t it?
Image above: The sliver window in our guest bedroom is one of my favorite features.
Image above: We chose made-to-order tile from Heath Ceramics for our master bathroom. The wall tile is new crystal blue (G36.2) and the shower floor is matte brown (M39.2). The shower curtain is from West Elm. The ceiling is natural redwood.
Image above: Our bed faces an entire wall of glass that looks out onto a private garden that gets lovely afternoon light. My husband and I, along with our two cats, enjoy watching the birds, lizards and butterflies that call this garden home. I’ve intentionally left the walls bare; we love to watch the play of light and shadows – especially those cast by the potted bamboo as it sways in the breeze. The organic cotton wave quilt is from Coyuchi. We purchased the vintage walnut dresser at a local resale shop (it’s marked “Made in California”) and the lamp is by KleinReid.
Image above: A few cherished pieces that remind us of where we’re from and where we’ve been. We purchased the large covered vessel at the 57th Street Art Fair in Chicago – my husband’s hometown. My dad’s best friend made the little wood duck and the Heath bud vase was a birthday gift from my husband. The blue and white Talavera piece is from Mexico and we brought the photo albums – bound in handmade Florentine paper and hand tooled leather – home from Fiesole, Italy. The little anvil belonged to my dad; Grandpa was a blacksmith. I purchased the Frederick Cooper lamp when the Chicago factory sadly closed in 2005. The walnut credenza is from Room & Board.
Image above: Mimi on our bed. It’s her favorite place to nap and watch kitty TV.
Image above: Our study. The photograph in the lower right hand corner is of my dad and his medical training battalion prior to being shipped overseas in WWII. My husband has had the Pissarro print since graduate school; he framed it himself. Also on display are two of my silver gelatin prints along with a silhouette portrait my husband took of me at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. I picked up the leather lounge chair at a local estate sale a week before we moved into this house and the Tulipwood sideboard belonged to my parents. The solid mahogany bookshelves are original to the house. We found the vintage Schlage doorknobs (in their original boxes) at Designer’s Brass, a family owned hardware shop in San Bruno, California. The shop owner purchased Schlage’s remaining inventory when they closed their California production facilities. The wall color is Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. The rug and lamp came with us from our previous home, an American Foursquare, in Evanston, Illinois. The Steinlen print is pure serendipity – we bought it before we rescued, socialized and adopted our own two cats.
Image above: This nutcracker (a German design we purchased in Amsterdam) is the only thing that stands between Cleo, our mischievous shoelace thief, and her second favorite toy – unshelled nuts.
Image above: The antique porcelain garden seat was a wedding gift from a dear friend. We build Lego models and the cats knock them down. Also, Mimi loves to be the center of attention.
Image above: Our front courtyard, as seen from the living room. After the winter rains, the nearby foothills are covered in green grass that sways in the breeze, but in the heat of summer the grass goes dormant and results in the equally beautiful combination of blue sky against golden hills. The majestic evergreen California Oaks (Quercus agrifolia) that dot the hillside provide year round interest. We often see red-tailed hawks gliding over of these hills. The dark brown fence shields our courtyard from the street and provides the perfect background for the blue agapanthus.
Image above: Another view of our courtyard and a glimpse of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the distance. Originally, there were two large rectangular patios made of exposed aggregate concrete, but one was terribly cracked. I salvaged the broken slab by having it saw-cut into smaller rectangles and squares; I planted Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ in the spaces in between. We also rebuilt the original curved redwood screen and planted the dwarf Persian lime and Meyer lemon trees.
Image above: When we purchased our 1964 custom Eichler (designed by John Brooks Boyd, A.I.A.) from the estate of the original owners, it was a complete wreck – so much so that on my first visit I didn’t even want to get out of the car. Thankfully, my husband persuaded me to step inside for a quick peek and I fell head over heels. It’s been a labor of love ever since. Most recently, we restored the original slope to our hill, planted a wildlife-friendly, drought tolerant garden in the front yard and replaced the backyard lawn with a vegetable garden.
We retained the original exterior colors of the house (white beams, orange door and dark brown body) and added the chartreuse green to the fascia. We think the orange front door color was inspired by the clivias we found planted in the backyard. The fascia color is Outback by C2 Paint and the front door color is Mojo, also by C2. The deep brown is a custom mix.