Back to Black


A Bay Area mid-century ranch house is grounded by color and form with the help of Tierney Conner

A cozy window seat in the kitchen features Fenix HPL and oak built by Bartlett Cabinets. Photos by Adam Potts.

“Our projects are deeply collaborative and are enlivened by the people who live in them,” says Anne Tierney, co-founder and principal designer of architecture, interior and landscape design firm Tierney Conner. Based in Oakland, the multidisciplinary firm was enlisted for their modern approach to rethink a 3,700-square-foot ranch-style house in Lafayette for a young family of four. Built in 1951, the home needed an interior overhaul, exterior updates and a deeper connection to the outdoors.

“As with many of our projects, the initial goal was to improve the existing kitchen,” says Tierney. “This became an exercise in introducing modern touches into an older home while respecting and finding inspiration within the existing architecture.” While considering the entirety the team focused on honoring the soul of the structure. “The home had qualities that the owners were fond of but overall, it was stylistically confused—it lacked cohesion and a point of view that reflected their individual style,” Tierney says. “Also, there were some areas in the home that were functionally frustrating.”

In the dining room, vanilla onyx from All Natural Stone illuminates the wet bar that features a sink and faucet from Kohler.
Photos by Adam Potts.

With the help of Kuhlmann and Cheyne Builders, the goal was to transform the once-isolated kitchen into the hub of the home by removing barriers and using cohesive materials that would connect it to the other main spaces. J. Conner remarks, “This also involved a deep consideration of the adjacent outdoor spaces—opening walls and aligning views and features to create spaces that function and flow with ease.”

The team embraced the original honey-oak paneling throughout—common to mid-century homes in the area—and installed deeper-hued accents to complement and ground the warmth. “The black cabinets in the kitchen are punctuated by oak accents to break down the scale and reconnect to the existing home,” Erin Conner notes. “The dining room is enriched with a graphic wallpaper that reflects the color of the kitchen island and a backlit onyx bar that enlivens the space with an expressive, organic quality.” Black accents were introduced throughout, forming a strong visual connection to the new kitchen to the original house while enhancing the modern take on mid-century design. “We intended to create a space that will evolve over time by reflecting the patina of everyday life and the uniqueness of the family who resides here,” Erin Conner boasts. “We have been told that they wake up every day amazed that this is their home!”