Art & Soul


A home tailored to an active young family bursts with exuberance and individuality

In the living room, a Stahl + Band cocktail table is surrounded by the clients’ existing George Smith sofas, Gareth Neal’s Ease chairs for Amura and blush pink poufs from Etsy. Photos by David Duncan Livingston.
Color abounds inside this Bay Area home designed by Atelier Davis and Gustave Carlson. Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

This is a home that literally and figuratively imparts the story of its inhabitants—an art-collecting couple and their four daughters, all ages 10 and under. In what has been dubbed the “girls’ wing,” a mural by Mariel Capanna depicts yellow cupcakes (baked by the kids for their mother’s birthday), gym mats (a nod to one of the daughters’ competitive pursuits) and cascading strawberries (which grow in the backyard). The canvas? The walls of the 21-foot-long corridor just outside the two bedrooms shared by the siblings.

The position of the ceiling beam above the Luteca table—mated with Bruno Rey chairs—created a lighting challenge, which Jessica Davis addressed with a custom fixture by Schneid Studio. The artwork in the dining room is Check Side, by Caragh Thuring, while the adjacent living room features Katja Seib’s 7 lifes (I been different people many times). Photos by David Duncan Livingston.
The yellow in Laeh Glenn’s Night Birds painting informed the color of the BlueStar oven. The cabinetry is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue, which is combined with walnut to warm up the space. Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

“Mariel’s practice is so site-responsive that she wanted to get to know us, our rhythms, surroundings, environment and cadence of life firsthand,” says homeowner Florie Hutchinson. So the arts publicist essentially established an artist-in-residency for Capanna, who created her fresco over the course
of three stays in the family’s Palo Alto abode. “We watched her transform the main artery of our home into a walkable immersive painting, reflecting our life back at us,” Hutchinson adds.

“Because it’s a traditional fresco,” says homeowner Florie Hutchinson of the mural that Mariel Capanna painted on both sides of a 21-foot-long corridor, “each giornata [meaning a day’s work] and a day in which Mariel was part of our life.” Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

The work is part of an art collection that numbers about 100—and that greatly influenced the architectural and aesthetic vision for the house. Built by developer Joseph Eichler in 1971 for his friend, architect John Lynd, it exhibits many Eichler hallmarks (an atrium, a center spine flanked by
public and private wings) along with some departures (the floor-plan dimensions were larger than usual, including a generous primary bedroom). About a year after its completion, the atrium—initially a landscaped area, akin to a courtyard—was enclosed.

In 2018, Hutchinson and husband Ben, a tech entrepreneur, asked architect Gustave Carlson to come see the property when it was still on the market to assess whether it could be updated to suit their needs and wants. “It’s such an amazing location and piece of architecture,” recalls the founder of Berkeley-based Gustave Carlson Design. “It was remarkable. It had been pretty much untouched.” The structure was ultimately expanded by 600 square feet to nearly 4,600, containing five bedrooms and four bathrooms.

A Clad Home sofa upholstered in Bart Halpern velveteen, a CB2 chair and a Crate & Barrel ottoman beckon in the primary bedroom’s sitting area. Eamon Ore-Giron’s and Shara Hughes’ artworks, plus Kelly Wearstler sconces, are set against a Phillip Jeffries hemp wallcovering. Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

The exterior is clad in Accoya barn wood vertical siding, charred in the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban—its darkness punctuated by a Dutch door in teal. The interior now features walls lined in Western red cedar paneling. The flooring materials include terrazzo with mustard and terra-cotta specks, plus cork and porcelain tiles. The tongue-and-groove ceiling is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon, while the exposed beams, columns and doors are uniform in Benjamin Moore’s Black Ink.

For the interior design, Florie Hutchinson called on longtime friend Jessica Davis; the two were in the same a cappella group as undergrads at Princeton. Davis, founder of design firm Atelier Davis and hardware brand Nest Studio, currently lives in Atlanta, where she purchased and renovated a mid- century modern dwelling a few years ago.

A bed designed by Jessica Davis and fabricated by Hancock Surface Studio anchors the primary bedroom, along with Dowel Furniture tables and Lostine sconces. A Western red cedar barn door distinguishes the sleeping quarters from a nook with an Eames lounge chair and Phillip Jeffries grasscloth. Photos by David Duncan Livingston.
Gustave Carlson designed the primary bathroom’s vanity and cabinetry, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Calke Green and adorned with Nest Studio hardware. The blue wall tiles are offset by pale yellow grout and the white floor tiles by navy grout.
Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

Carlson’s and Davis’s efforts yielded rooms bursting with vibrancy that complement the Hutchinsons’ art collection, which is composed of more than 80 percent women artists. “One of the things that Florie told me is that she and Ben love pattern and they love color,” says Carlson of the early conversations that informed the cabinetry, flooring and tile choices throughout the house.

In some instances, colors were pulled from the art, with certain hues selected before the architect and clients knew how and where they would be incorporated. For example, the couple was drawn to Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue, which was used in the mudroom and the kitchen. Another favorite, Farrow & Ball’s Calke Green, appears in the primary suite’s bathroom as well as in his and her closets.

In the older daughters’ bedroom—sheathed in Schumacher wallpaper—a Made Goods table sits between Crate & Barrel beds, opposite Ethnicraft desks and Big Game chairs. The private courtyard includes a concrete wall with a Western red cedar floating bench.
Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

“Jess brought color into the fabric and furniture,” Carlson observes, “strengthening the backdrop, the architecture.” For Davis, “so much of the jumping-off point was the art collection because it’s so colorful,” she explains, noting that “a lot of the pieces of art even have pattern play going on within them.” (Case in point: the plaid in Caragh Thuring’s Check Side, which hangs in the dining room.) In addition to deftly combining prints—from ikats to florals—Davis harmonized different periods and styles. In the living room, a pair of traditional George Smith sofas join Gareth Neal’s leather Ease chairs for Italian brand Amura and blush pink knot-shaped poufs found on Etsy.

A Tudo & Co sconce, Nest Studio’s Geo hardware and a Room & Board mirror are among the finishes touches in a bathroom in the girls’ wing of the house. Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

Of course, given the ages of two-thirds of the home’s occupants, fun and function were part of
the programming. At the center of the house, the atrium—flooded with natural light thanks to skylights (designed by Carlson and manufactured by Royalite) that are so expansive, they had to be craned into place—serves as a play area, complete with a hanging chair by Mexa. “We used a lot of durable contract- grade indoor-outdoor fabrics and tried not to be too precious,” says Davis. The custom round daybed—which the girls refer to as “the trampoline”—was fabricated by Hancock Surface Studio and upholstered in Perennials fabrics. Davis chose the powder coat and rope colors, too.

The two younger daughters’ bedroom is outfitted with Serena & Lily beds and a McGee & Co. table. Wallpaper by A-Street Prints serves as a backdrop for a painting by Rachel Rickert, flanked by two Becky Suss pieces, as well as 3D cardboard insects by Studio Roof.
Photos by David Duncan Livingston.

Along with her personal connection to the clients, this project stood out for Davis because a significant amount was done remotely, with only two site visits. Its success is a testament to the collaborative process between Davis, Carlson and contractor Scott Flegel of Flegel’s Construction. For Carlson, this was his most colorful undertaking to date. “The more pattern and the more color that you bring to the table, the better,” he says. “That was kind of the adage, and it never seemed to stop.”