Urbanite Family Finds Room To Grow in Portola Valley Ranch House
The Axe family has a familiar story: An urban-dwelling couple with young children can no longer resist the urge to flee the city for greener pastures (or simply a fabulous backyard). “We loved living in San Francisco, but with two kids and a third on the way, we knew it was time to move on and give ourselves some room to grow,” says Cindy Axe. She and her husband, Brian, found a nondescript 1960s ranch house set on a ridge in Portola Valley.
Although the woodsy one-acre lot was beguiling, the house itself felt like an afterthought. “It was very dark and was rimmed with heavy eaves, which obstructed the views,” says Cindy. A family friend recommended architect Thayer Hopkins.
After a few inspirational meetings, the scope of the project quickly grew from minor renovation to total teardown. “It’s our goal to save the existing structure when possible,” says Hopkins. “But due to the house’s poor orientation and cookie-cutter construction, there was really nothing worth saving.” The plan called for a series of linked pavilions, which maximized the views and emphasized the relationship between the house’s interiors and its pastoral setting.
With fresh blueprints drawn, the Axes felt it wise to bring in an interior designer before the wrecking ball was lowered. Hopkins recommended Martha Angus. Before even a stitch of fabric was selected, Angus led the Axes on a tour of some of SF’s top galleries. “Selecting art is a wonderful way to start a project,” says Angus. “Cindy and Brian were drawn to bold and colorful works, which informed the entire design.”
The summery shades of Isca Greenfield-Sanders’ prints (selected for the family room) and the graphic pop of Andy Warhol’s “Flowers” series (hung in the living room) were the inspiration for the jewel-toned fabrics that cover most of the home’s furniture.